Will the Chancellor's billions transform roads in Suffolk and Essex?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 02 November 2018
Campaigners hoping to see major improvements in major roads are waiting to see if a major increase in funding announced in Budget papers will lead to big changes.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s detail announcement after the speech confirmed that £28.8bn raised from Vehicle Excise Duty between 2020-25 will be used as the basis of a National Roads Fund.
Of this £25.3bn will be used by Highways England to improve the nation’s Trunk Roads network during this period. That is a big increase on the current five-year budget of £15.2bn.
That is set to encourage campaigners seeking to get major improvements to the A14, A11, A12, and A120 roads in the region – but they only have a few months to make their final pitch to Highways England.
The final shape of the agencies Road Improvements Scheme 2020-25 (RIS2) is due to be published during the late summer or early autumn of 2019 – but the report that is based on is due to be written by the end of March.
The three major schemes that campaigners are hoping to see included are major improvements to seven “pinch point” junctions on the A14 between Newmarket and the Seven Hills junction at Ipswich.
The largest, and potentially most expensive, of these is the Copdock Mill interchange which campaigners want to see replaced with a full grade-separated junction allowing traffic from the A12 to get on to the A14 or into Ipswich without being held up on a roundabout with traffic lights.
The “No More A14 Delays in Suffolk” is co-ordinated by the county’s chamber of commerce with support from MPs through whose constituencies the road passes – and they are preparing to lobby hard to ensure most, if not all, the junction improvements are included in the next five-year plan.
Highways England has already indicated that building a third lane on the A12 between Chelmsford and Colchester is likely to be included in RIS2 – but campaigners will be working to ensure that work is confirmed.
The third major project is building a new A120 between Rivenhall End and Braintree to ensure there is a good dual carriageway link between east Essex and Suffolk and Stansted Airport. The route for that road was confirmed earlier this year and it is expected to cost £475m to complete.
Local roads could face a long wait for cash from Whitehall
As well as the £25.5bn for Highways England, the National Roads Fund also has £3.5bn it will allocate to councils to support their major road projects between 2020-25.
In Suffolk the three major road projects being prepared by the county council are the four villages’ by-pass on the A12 between Wickham Market and Saxmundham, the Sudbury Relief Road, and the Ipswich Northern Relief Road.
These are county council schemes – not Highways England – but the authority will be looking for support from central government to go ahead with them and this extra funding could help.
However the roads are still at comparatively early stages of development – and whether they are likely to be ready to be built before 2025 is unclear.
When the proposals for the Ipswich road were first outlined two years ago there was a warning that the scheme could take 15 years to complete.
Calls for firm action to ensure Suffolk’s roads are improved
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has been leading calls for improvements to the A14.
Paul Simon, Head of Campaigns for the Chamber, said: “It looks as if the headline figure for funding the strategic road building programme from 2020-2015 is 60% more than that for the current five years.
“If this is indeed the case , that is good news for the UK’s future economic capacity and potentially so for Suffolk.
“The No More A14 Delays in Suffolk campaign has provided clear up-to-date evidence that improvements to the road’s seven worst pinch points in the county will contribute significantly to boosting jobs and housing.”
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin spoke in the Budget debate, saying there was little there for the town: “My constituents will notice there is no additional funding for the north Ipswich by-pass or to improve the junctions on the A14 which is vital not only for the economy of Ipswich but also for the smooth transport of goods to the UK’s premier port of Felixstowe.”