March 10 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
A controversial proposal to toll a stretch of the A14 looks set to be scrapped - with the Government poised to give the go-ahead to a £1.5bn project to expand the vital road
According to national reports Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander will announce plans to upgrade the route - without the need for a charge.
Speculation had been mounting that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could announce a decision on the proposed toll on the A14 during Thursday’s Autumn Statement on financial plans.
The coalition leadership had been lobbied hard by Suffolk Conservative MPs - including Suffolk Coastal’s Therese Coffey and Bury St Edmunds’ David Ruffley - and local businesses to abandon the proposal.
The route is vital for lorries carrying freight from the port of Felixstowe to the Midlands and many feared a charge would have a devastating impact on the county’s economy.
Mr Ruffley said he had detected a change in attitude from the government over the last three months.
He said: “When we first started talking about the toll, the message was pretty clear – no toll, no road.
“As we have been pressing the point and stressing the unfairness to the part of the country that is driving the recovery it is clear the Prime Minister, Chancellor and other ministers have been listening.”
Mr Ruffley said the improved economic conditions, with more money coming into the Treasury, meant the government might be able to say it could fund the road without a toll.
He said: “The toll element of this road is about a £300million. That’s a big sum, but the government spends £750billion a year and this money could be found.”
Mr Ruffley and Dr Coffey organised a meeting with business leaders from Suffolk and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin last week – after which they were further convinced that the government was listening to their concerns.
The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has been leading the calls for the toll proposals to be abandoned, and is planning to make the point again on Thursday morning as Mr Osborne is putting the final touches to his statement.
Chamber chief executive John Dugmore said: “This is an important week for the ‘No Toll Tax for Suffolk’ campaign, with the Autumn Statement providing an opportunity for the Government to show they are listening clearly to businesses in the county and around the UK.
“There is no doubt that support continues to grow to stop this tax on Suffolk.
“We have been encouraged in our discussions with the Chancellor and with the Secretary of State for Transport that they are aware of the reasons why this proposal would have a detrimental effect on our economy and it is for that reason we hope to hear an announcement later this week.”
Norfolk businesses have also warned that a toll on the A14 could hit their trade. Norfolk County Council last month agreed a motion to oppose tolling on the A14, and any suggestion that the improvement work on the A47 should be paid for through charging drivers. The EDP has been running a No Toll On The A14 campaign.