Today’s news that the proposed A14 toll charging is to be abandoned has been resoundly welcomed by the Freight Trasnport Association (FTA), which declared that “common sense has at last prevailed.”
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Danny Alexander MP said: “The A14 is a crucial link to the Haven ports – which are predicting a three-fold increase in throughput by 2030. 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 Association had challenged the planned fundamental changes to the road including toll charging (the first for a decade since the M6 Toll was introduced), and voiced its concern to the Highways Agency (HA) through consultation, saying that the financial shortfall would have to be picked up by those using the route, including the transport and logistics industry.
“At last, common sense has prevailed regarding the A14 tolls,” commented Malcolm Bingham, FTA head of road network management policy. “FTA believes that 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.”
The HA consultation had suggested that tolls could be set between £1 and £1.50 for cars and double that for larger vehicles, but there were no ‘firm’ tariffs which FTA members could take and use to see if there was any benefit or cost to their operation. In addition FTA also said that it was vitally important that freight operators know what the administration arrangements would be for such a toll, and if any ‘offers’ were likely to be available for fleet schemes.
Mr Bingham added: “FTA is pleased to hear Danny Alexander’s statement in Parliament today, which acknowledges that the Government has taken into account the concerns of our members. The result is the right decision - that the road will not be tolled and that there will be no delays to the project.”
The proposed £1.5 billion scheme was announced by the Highways Agency in September 2013, when the proposed new 12-mile Huntingdon bypass were 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 overall £1.5bn cost from tolls.
Bingham concluded: “FTA members have been concerned about the proposed tolling of that stretch of the A14, due to the lack of a suitable free alternative route to the proposed tolled section; this would inevitably have forced motorists on to the tolled section of the route.”