England

A14 working party seeks funding for upgrade

A new working party has been set up to help attract more government, EU and private funding for an upgrade to the A14 across East Anglia.

A summit in Kettering looked at ways of expanding the trunk road after the government abandoned a £1.2bn plan to create a four-lane highway.

The new group will include businesses and councils from Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.

Plans could also include introducing tolls for British and foreign lorries.

Jim Harker, leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: "The road is no longer fit for purpose - it's too small, narrow and congested, it's got no services, truckstops or hard shoulder.

"This will provide us with a cohesive plan from which to move forward and give clarity when presenting our case nationally and in a European forum to bring about the improvements necessary."

Looking to Europe

The road links the Midlands with the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, which handles 40% of the UK's container traffic.

The government withdrew the £1.2bn scheme on affordability grounds, but has since announced plans to spend £130m on a three-lane section at Kettering and upgrade interchanges at Girton and Spittals in Cambridgeshire and at the M1 and M6 at Catthorpe.

The working party wants to revive the four-lane scheme or look at alternatives.

Theo de Pencier, chief executive of the Freight Transport Association, said: "The European Union will only provide up to 20% of the funding - you have to generate the initial 80% before they will top-up.

"We can generate a good plan that's got financial backing in place plus additional backing from Europe and we should be able to see something starting within two to three years' time.

"The principle of getting foreign trucks to pay for the use of our roads has been accepted by the government and should be in by the end of this parliament."

Vicky Ford, a Conservative Euro MP for East Anglia, said: "I was discussing the EU budget for the next seven years in Brussels and part of that money will be for transport, but it's more likely to be for road and rail projects, rather than just road projects, so we need to think about the road and the rail together.

"If you're going to get privately funded roads anywhere in the UK, then the A14 will be the place for it.

"It would need to be paid for through a toll whether that was a user-toll or government toll."

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