THE Government has given the green light for plans to introduce tolling on an existing major dual carriageway – the A14 linking the Midlands to the busy East Anglian port of Felixstowe – prompting fears that could set a precedent for more road charging in the future.
The major new £1.5 billion road scheme involving tolling on a 20-mile section of the A14 in Cambridgeshire will be added to the Department for Transport’s programme of major projects.
Subject to agreement with interested local authorities on a funding package and decisions at the next Government Spending Review construction work could begin by 2018.
The plans are designed to address congestion and long term capacity issues on and around the strategically crucial A14.
They include a new bypass to replace the existing road around Huntingdon and upgrades along the A14 as far east asMilton.
Two new roads would be built in parallel to, with one on each side of, the current A14 immediately north ofCambridgefor local use. 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.
Study work, says the Department, has confirmed that funding for these can be generated in part through tolling a length of the enhanced A14, featuring around 20 miles of new or widened road.
However, more work will be required to determine the best tolling solution, including what length the tolled section should be, how users would pay and what the tariff should be.
But, the Freight Transport Association said that while it welcomed the announcement it was concerned that by allowing tolling on existing roads – not just those which are new or enhanced – that such a decision could lead to further tolls being implemented on further routes.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA head of road network management policy, said: ‘FTA welcomed the previous announcement by the Prime Minister that he would look at private investment in our infrastructure, but we were clear that any additional costs imposed on the freight industry would be unacceptable.
‘FTA is worried that freight operators who have to use the A14 in order to get in and out of Felixstowe will be forced to pay this toll, which would be seen as an unavoidable tax if they are not offered a reasonable affordable alternative route to reach the Suffolk port.’
FTA said that it considered the tolling decision a significant policy shift by the Government, which had previously ruled out tolls except for new road schemes.