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Toll road plans 'to be scrapped'

Tue, 03 Dec 2013

CONTROVERSIAL plans to create the UK's first toll road for a decade are to be dropped, it was reported.

Improvements to the A14 will instead be paid for by the Government, the Financial Times said.

The proposed toll is part of a scheme to widen and improve a heavily congested 25-mile stretch in East Anglia which carries traffic from the port of Felixstowe to the Midlands.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that he "understood" strong opposition of MPs and councils to the proposal to charge motorists.

And the newspaper said Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander will announce the £1.5 billion project would go ahead with taxpayer funding.

The Treasury declined to comment on speculation about the contents of the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on Thursday.

A consultation suggested drivers could be charged between £1 and £1.50 - which would have been the first new toll route in the UK since a 27-mile stretch of the M6 between Birmingham and Wolverhampton opened in 2003.

Mr Cameron was tackled on the issue by South Suffolk Tory MP Tim Yeo at Commons question time.

"I am well aware of the strong feelings in Suffolk about this issue and I have been approached about it by many Members of Parliament," he said.

"I believe that road tolls can play an important part in providing new road capacity and it is important that we find ways to pay for road capacity, but I also understand the concerns about this individual case."

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "If this A14 news is true it is a victory for common sense. Piecemeal tolling that would raise little money but create a lot of aggravation and delay was always going to be a hard sell and not the best advert for pay-as-you-go driving.

"The irony is that if that scheme had been built when it was first proposed then it would have been a lot cheaper and simpler. What we need now is a serious debate about how we encourage private sector investment into the road network, something that all parties continue to shy away from."

By Press Association reporters