The Highways Agency has begun a public consultation on its plans for a major road scheme to upgrade the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon. The proposed £1.5bn scheme will add much-needed capacity on the 22-mile route, including a shiny new 12-mile bypass around Huntingdon. The A14 is a strategically-important route, which links the Midlands to the Haven Ports on the east coast, with nearly 85,000 vehicles per day using some sections of the route in Cambridgeshire, around a quarter of which are HGVs. Work is due to get underway in late 2016 (subject to statutory processes and continued value for money), with completion expected in 2019/20, the Agency says.
Undoubtedly the most controversial aspect of the proposed road upgrade is the likely introduction of ‘pay-as-you-go’ tolling on the section of the road bypassing Huntingdon but, interestingly, the consultation document produced by the Agency seems to assume that tolling is a given, and only discusses which route the tolled road might take and how much drivers could be charged to use it. “The proposed solution involves tolling the section of the new road between the Ellington and Swavesey junctions but not the A14 to the east of Swavesey or any part of the A1,” the HA says. “Other options that were considered included tolled sections from Ellington to Girton and Ellington to Milton, as well as tolling the existing route through Huntingdon, but these were discounted as they offered neither the strategic benefits nor the potential revenue of the proposed solution.”
The planned charges could be between £1.00 and £1.50 for cars, and around double this amount for heavy goods vehicles, the HA says, adding that it is proposing to apply these charges between the hours of 0600 and 2200 seven days a week. Vehicles using the tolled section of road during charging hours would be identified using automatic number plate recognition cameras, with no toll plazas.
“Most through-traffic is expected to use the toll road, as this will provide the fastest and most economical route,” the HA suggests. “However, there exist a number of alternative routes that are likely to be used by local traffic and a small proportion of through-traffic. Light vehicles would be able to use the de-trunked route of the former A14 through Huntingdon and a short length of Brampton Road, whilst heavy traffic would have two non-tolled alternatives: either via the A1 and the A428 from St Neots to Cambridge; or via the county A-roads through St Ives and the northern outskirts of Huntingdon.”
The public consultation will run from Monday 9 September to Sunday 13 October.