A14 Major improvement gets green light from ministers

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CAMPAIGNERS who have long called for vital improvements to the congestion hit A14 are celebrating following a Government announcement made on Wednesday.

The Secretary of State for Transport has announced plans to improve the A14 between Milton and Huntingdon as part of a major drive on infrastructure investment.

This follows an effective campaign led by Cambridgeshire County Council which has succeeding in putting the A14 back into the Government’s committed programme of road improvements. This is a major step forward, and a real boost for business confidence across the area. The package of proposals announced today also includes further enhancements to the Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail freight line, which will help to reduce the amount of HGVs on the A14, and public transport enhancements to augment the success of the Busway and provide further alternatives to the car for local journeys.

The A14 is of national, regional and local importance and provides vital links from the east coast ports to the rest of the country. Improvement of the road is vital to support the world class Cambridgeshire economy that has the potential to create the growth that the country needs and help bring the UK out of recession.

The County Council and local MPs, working with the Local Enterprise Partnership and other local authorities along the A14 route, have campaigned hard for improvements following the cancellation, nearly two years ago of proposals to widen the road which were deemed too expensive. Improvement is vital for the local and national economies and to improve safety.

The A14 is one of the most frequent issues raised by businesses as needing improvement to facilitate economic growth and attract investment. It is a key corridor for housing and jobs growth, with Alconbury and Northstowe along its length - developments which are vital for the economic future of our area and will contribute significantly to the wider national economy.

The County Council has worked as part of the team with Government on the A14 Challenge and it is this hard work that has brought these proposals forward. The plans will deliver enhancements along the route of the A14 from Milton through to the A1 junctions, and, critically, will include a new alignment of the road to take it to the south of Huntingdon. Two new (untolled) roads are planned to be built in parallel to the current A14 immediately north of Cambridge for local use (one on each side of the current road). Meanwhile, the existing A14 carriageway will be upgraded through the removal of accesses and junctions, and improvements to junctions at the northern and southern ends. Whilst further work on the funding package is needed, it is expected that the scheme will be funded through a mixture of revenues from tolls on the road, central Government funding, and contributions from local authorities and LEPs.

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Nick Clarke, said: “We have campaigned tirelessly for the scheme and, with local councils, the LEP and local MPs we persuaded Government to set up the A14 challenge. The announcement today about the major scheme that has resulted from that work is fantastic news for our area and the country as a whole: it will unlock the improvements so desperately needed for this congestion-blighted road and help deliver major improvements to its poor safety record. The A14 is one of the most important roads in the country, providing a key link with the east coast ports. It is also vital for the Cambridgeshire economy that has unrivalled potential to grow and create jobs if the right infrastructure is provided. We will continue to work closely with Government and keep up the pressure now to see these improvements delivered on the ground. The next steps will be to refine the proposals that have been announced today and move those as quickly as possible to a point where they can be built and opened.’

Mark Reeve, Interim Chair of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Secretary of State’s announcement on the A14 is a huge boost to business confidence throughout our LEP area and beyond. The problems of delay and unreliability stemming from the current undercapacity of the road is one of the biggest barriers to achieving our growth ambitions, and the LEP has worked hard to help move this project forward. This week’s census results show that Peterborough and Cambridge are among the five fastest growing cities in the UK, with Milton Keynes and Ipswich also in that top 5. The A14 improvements will provide a critical artery linking all four of those growing cities, as well as facilitating the huge growth potential of the east coast ports. We look forward to working with our fellow LEPs, local authority partners and Government to help deliver the scheme as soon as possible.”

Cllr Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “This announcement is excellent news for local residents and everyone who uses this major strategic route. The Government has listened to local campaigning by Cambridgeshire councils and we are very committed to working with all our partners as there is still a considerable amount of detail to be completed. We have always been very clear that any option must give local residents an alternative to using a toll road, and it is welcome news that the proposals put forward include plans for local routes for our residents. The upgrade of the A14 is vital to making sure we continue to have a strong local economy and this announcement will now make it feasible for us to seriously consider plans for the new homes needed, such as the proposed new town of Northstowe, to support jobs being created in the area.”

Councillor Jason Ablewhite, Executive Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: “I am delighted that this announcement has been made today. The A14 is an extremely important route through Huntingdonshire. The measures announced by the DfT will help to make the road safer and to ease congestion. It is a vital link to aid our local economy and we have campaigned hard on this issue, I am very pleased to see that progress is being made. This is great news for the residents and businesses in our district and beyond.”