“The A14 is a crucial link to the Haven ports – which are predicting a three-fold increase in throughput by 2030,” said Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander. “We’ve listened to the consultation responses, and we’ve come to the decision that when this road goes ahead in three years’ time there will be no toll. This will not lead to any delay in delivery and the cost will be covered by government.”
The proposed £1.5bn scheme was announced by the Highways Agency in September 2013, when the proposed new 12-mile Huntingdon bypass was unveiled as part of a package of improvements to the heavily congested stretch in East Anglia, which carries traffic from the port of Felixstowe to the Midlands on the 22-mile route. The plan had been to raise 20% of the cost from tolls.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said that “common sense has at last prevailed”.
FTA head of road network management policy Malcolm Bingham said: “This can only be good news for businesses in the area by improving vital infrastructure which supports the local economy and provides a vital strategic national link.”
Katja Hall, chief policy director of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “After so much uncertainty, the news that a decision has been finally made on funding for the A14 means this essential upgrade will get off the ground sooner. This will come as nothing short of a relief for businesses given the importance of this trade route to link the port of Felixstowe to the rest of the country.”
South East Cambridgeshire MP Jim Paice said: “A number of my constituents and local businesses have raised concerns about the tolling proposal. I am glad that the government has listened to these concerns. Funding arrangements for the bypass now need to be finalised to ensure that this important scheme is not delayed.”
Grahame Nix, Chief Executive of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “The news that government has committed to upgrading the A14 without tolling is welcome news for our area and the rest of the East. We have always said that upgrading the road is our number one infrastructure priority, and to receive the commitment that the road will be delivered without tolling is very welcome news. We now look forward to seeing the plans continue to move forward and work commencing on this much-needed upgrade.”
Huntingdonshire District Council leader Jason Ablewhite said: “I am delighted that the proposal to make the A14 a toll road has been scrapped. It is right that the road should be financed by the government, and not by the motorist, and we have worked hard to lobby ministers on this issue. This decision will ensure that the road will do what it is intended to do – to take traffic away from the local roads throughout our district. This is welcome news. We will now be working with local partners to positively ensure that we can all make an appropriate contribution to the scheme, and will continue to campaign for the project to commence as soon as possible.”