Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats

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Policy Paper: A14

Approved by County Council Liberal Democrat Group, 13.3.09

The Project

The Highways Agency A14 improvement project comprises:

a. A new dual carriageway to the south of Huntingdon between Ellington and Fen Drayton.
b. Widening of the existing A14 to three lanes in each direction between Fen Drayton and Fen Ditton.
c. Four additional lanes alongside the widened A14 to separate local and strategic traffic.
d. Major interchanges with the A1 at Brampton, the existing A14 at Fen Drayton and the M11/A428 at Girton.

The projected cost of the project has risen from £490m in 2005 to £1.2bn in 2009.

The Liberal Democrat Strategy

The Liberal Democrats’ national transport strategy. ‘Fast Track Britain’, was published in June 2008. Its aim is to reduce CO2 emissions, whilst ensuring there is fair access to an improved transport system for all. The strategy includes national lorry road user charging, motorway and trunk road pricing within ten years, investment in an extensive new high speed rail network, and full electrification of the railway network by 2050. The emphasis is upon more efficient and safer use of the existing road network, with most new investment going into the improvement and expansion of the rail network. There would be a presumption against major road-building projects unless they meet stringent environmental, social and safety criteria.

The Liberal Democrats accept that urgent and drastic action is needed to improve the A14. but they believe that action should be focused on environmental and safety improvements, rather than on increasing capacity. By increasing capacity, we will simply make it quicker and more convenient to travel by road, and will discourage use of public transport. And the implication of the capacity-increasing approach is that, once the big new roads fill up with traffic, yet more big new roads will need to be built. This upward spiral of road-building will cause noise and pollution nuisance to neighbouring communities, will create congestion in towns and cities, and will exacerbate rather than address the critical issue of climate change.

On this last point, there is a view that the A14 improvement scheme will reduce CO2 emissions by enabling traffic to flow more freely. We do not agree with that, and neither does the County Council. To quote from a recent paper to the Growth & Environment Policy Development Group: ‘There is evidence from studies looking a improved traffic flow (such as a recent study conducted on the M42) to suggest that any reductions in emissions from the avoidance of stationary and stop/start traffic are outweighed by the additional emissions from travelling at higher speeds, and any extra induced traffic occurring as a result of the improved capacity’.

The Liberal Democrat Alternative

Against this background, the Liberal Democrats argue for a quicker, cheaper, A14 improvement project:

a. Ellington to Fen Drayton. The Liberal Democrats support, on environmental grounds, the construction of this new section of road, which is effectively a southern by-pass for Huntingdon and Godmanchester, and which will enable the Huntingdon Viaduct to be removed. We do, however, question whether this road needs to be of six lanes. We believe that if energetic efforts were made to divert freight from road to rail, four lanes could be sufficient. We also question the need to enlarge the A1 from four lanes to six as it passes west of Brampton.

b. Fen Drayton to Girton. We do not believe the four additional lanes proposed for local traffic into Cambridge are required. The planning of the A14 project seems to have ignored the County Council’s Long Term Transport Strategy, and its proposals to the Transport Innovation Fund, both of which seek to reduce rather than increase the number of cars driving into Cambridge.

c. Girton to Fen Ditton. We do not believe it is necessary to increase the capacity of this section of road from four lanes to six lanes.

Quicker and Cheaper

These reductions in the scope of the scheme would enable it to be undertaken more quickly, and much more cheaply. We would like to see the money released being re-directed to investment in rail, particularly in rail freight to reduce the volume of lorries on the A14. We would also like to see energetic traffic management measures applied to the A14 to improve safety. Specifically, we believe there is a strong case on safety and environmental grounds for reducing the maximum speed limit (to say 60mph for cars and 50mph for larger vehicles). We would also like to see all lorry parking removed from the roadside to off-road lorry parks.

The Liberal Democrats believe that a quicker and cheaper approach to the A14 improvement will benefit everyone. It will benefit road users because it will more quickly address the urgent safety issues. It will benefit neighbouring communities because there will be less land take, less construction and less noise and pollution in the future. And it will benefit the environment, because it will generate less CO2 emissions.