MP warns of knock-on effects of tolling the A14

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey. - Credit: Archant

The roads minister has been warned that a controversial plan to toll the A14 would spark a double-whammy blow to drivers who would face increased congestion and rising business costs.

In a defiant call to scrap the tax, campaigners have urged Robert Goodwill to consider the pressure it could heap on west Norfolk A-roads as motorists looked to escape the proposed charge.

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The outcry came yesterday as Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said that the region's MPs were looking to bring forward a crunch meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin over the government's proposals for funding the A14's £1.5billion improvements.

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The plans would include improvements to the Cambridge section of the A14, which would remain toll free, and the construction of a new section of road south of Huntingdon which would be the subject of tolls between 6am-10pm.

But it remains unclear as to whether the government would keep the toll at a fixed rate, or look to up the charge if the project became more expensive to fund.

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Ms Coffey said campaigners would continue to fight the proposal. She said: 'I wouldn't expect the roads minister to say anything else at this stage. We are not trying to do an aggressive lobby, but we are making key points about the economic impact.

'The Norfolk MPs are putting across a strong case for making improvements to the A47, but an A14 toll will have an impact on Norfolk as well. The offshoot could be that people will seek out other routes and could increase traffic on A-roads in west Norfolk. The impact on business and tourism is one of the issues that we put to the Prime Minister.

'It is not just about hauliers and the Port of Felixstowe, but the impact the toll will have on Norfolk and Suffolk – two of the most wonderful tourist counties in the country.

'We will now keep pressing on with this. We have already had a meeting with the prime minister. Now we want a meeting with the chancellor, and we are trying to bring our meeting forward with the Secretary of State for Transport.'

Peter Holden, sales director for Anglia Freight, which has a 30-strong fleet of lorries and employs 70 people at Eye in Suffolk, said a toll would force him to pass on extra costs to his customers.

He said: 'It is going to severely impact everybody that we work with. We would be making somewhere in the region of 20 or 30 passes of the toll a day because we are running a 24-hour operation with vehicles going up to Birmingham. It will force us to increase our rates, which will affect our customers.

'It is going to hit businesses' revenues streams just when the country is coming out the recession – it is an absolute farce.'

Chris Starkie, managing director of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, was concerned the government could move to increase the charge if people did not use the toll road.

He said: 'We will continue lobbying against the toll which is a tax on business, on growth and on jobs. The east of England is leading the country out of recession and the evidence shows that. There are other parts of the UK where road schemes are being funded without tolls and it seems entirely arbitrary that in our part of the country we are being singled out just as we discover that we will not benefit economically from high speed rail.

He added: 'This will impact the haulage companies, tourists, people wanting to go and visit their relatives and university students. And we would fear that the charge would start at £1 or £2, but would go up by more money if people do not use the toll road.

'The government wants to experiment with other ways of raising money for roads – and they want to use us as an experimental lab.'

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