Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A14 project to have one tolled section

With the announcement of the Investing in Britain's Future programme for infrastructure investment, the UK Government has essentially decided to fund all of the prospective projects on the Highways Agency's books in the coming years, included the long mooted A14 upgrade.  That project is expected to cost £1.5 billion and involves 25 miles of upgraded and new highway, with new lanes and a new bypass.

Full A14 upgrade project, only the orange section will be tolled.
I've written previously about proposals to toll parts of that project.  It now seems that the idea of building a new expressway parallel to the existing road, and tolling it, has been dropped.  Now it is just the Huntingdon Southern bypass that will be tolled, so that only a relatively small proportion of the project's total costs will be recovered directly from road users.


proposed Huntingdon Southern Bypass toll road
So it will be a new section of road that is likely to be tolled, at fairly modest levels (£1-£3 between 0600-2200, with no tolls at other times).  The technology planned to be used is an Automatic Number Plate Recognition system, presumably with prepaid and postpaid accounts (although details have not yet been developed).

Alternative untolled routes

The new tolled route will be superior to alternatives, not least because part of the existing route is to be demolished (the bridge over the railway at Huntingdon).  This is likely to be controversial as it will mean the untolled alternatives will be substantially inferior to the current option (which will be gone).   The reason for that is entirely to ensure the new tolled route generates enough revenue to justify the toll.  I'll leave it to others to determine if that fits into the "only toll new capacity" position of the Government, when the old capacity is substantially reduced.

It looks like this will be the UK's next new toll road on the strategic road network, with construction to start in 2016.  At the moment, this final proposal is out for public consultation (the full consultation pamphlet is available here), but I expect it to proceed in full.