17:23 Tuesday 4th February 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: The U-turn on the proposed improvements to the notorious Spittals Interchange, Junction 23 of the A14 at Huntingdon, has been branded ludicrous by local businesses. The Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce say excuses for cancelled works no longer hold water with them. Well I’ll be talking to them in just a moment or two, but first of all let’s see what reason the Highways Agency has given for this latest decision. The Asset Development Manager, the man who made the decision, is called Alan Kirkdale.
ALAN KIRKDALE: In 2011 Autumn Statement the Government announced that there was going to be a programme of measures on the A14, in recognition that a solution from the A14 Study might take several years to implement. And we were planning to carry out measures at a number of locations along the A14 between Girton and Histon, at also the Spittals Junction, and we were going to put some electronic signs along the route. We are about to start works between Girton and Histon adding another lane in each direction, but when we’d done some further work looking at the improvements that we were going to carry out at Spittals, because of the plans for the Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme that were consulted on in the autumn, the Junction would carry considerably less traffic once the new southern route around Huntingdon is open. And it means that the improvements would not .. would offer poor value for money, because they’d only be in place and used by lots of vehicles for a relatively short time. So it’s not a good use of public money to spend doing that work.
CHRIS MANN: So this is the A14 Junction 23. It would have been widenened and lengthened to provide two lanes. It would certainly ease congestion.
ALAN KIRKDALE: It would, but that is while the traffic that currently uses the junction, and the volume of traffic that currently uses it. But it would only be used by that number of traffic in a fairly short period of time.
CHRIS MANN: What do you call a short period of time? The A14 won’t be fully functional until 2020 at the earliest, will it?
ALAN KIRKDALE: Yes, but even that sort of timescale that we would normally value .. normally would .. for those periods of time, four or five years of benefits, we would normally look to see thirty years of benefits. And that then enables the economic case for such a scheme. And also it takes account of increasing traffic volumes over that thirty year period. But in a short period of time, four or five years time, the cost of the scheme outweighs the benefits that you would get from it.
CHRIS MANN: Maybe to you sitting in London, but to the people who have to sit in the queues every day there …
ALAN KIRKDALE: I appreciate that, but the improvements that are going to be carried out on the A14 between Girton and Histon, where there’s an additional lane to be added in each direction, they will provide benefits and an additional lane of traffic there in each direction.
CHRIS MANN: Alan Kirkdale of the Highways Agency. Well let’s bring in John Bridge, who’s Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, who I imagine is probably boiling at this point. John.
JOHN BRIDGE: Well I feel that having listened to the Highways Agency, they’ve let us down yet again very regretfully, because I find it very difficult to understand them looking at a thirty year period to get a payback on a very small upgrade that was proposed at Junction 23 of the A14.
CHRIS MANN: Well you heard him John. People have only got to wait for five more years. he said. It’s not much of a queue, five years, is it? (LAUGHS)
JOHN BRIDGE: Well the key thing is this. That I would very much have appreciated him giving that absolute guarantee the A14 is going to be upgrade. But as he knows, and we all know, the final decision has not yet been signed off. And that won’t be signed off until the beginning of 2016. If that doesn’t happen then, we will continue to have the problems we’ve got now at Junction 23.
CHRIS MANN: That bit’s costing £2 million. He says they can’t waste public money on it. Has he got a point?
JOHN BRIDGE: I don’t think he has, because the key thing is what we have to do and understand is that people are suffering now, and have suffered for many years, because of the problems there. And what people may not realise , it was previously delayed and not implemented by the Highways Agency, because the road was going to be upgraded before. And then they cancelled it. And we’re going back some ten to twelve years that they could have done it, but didn’t, because they said the road was going to be upgraded. And the one thing that I don’t want to happen is for that kind of time span to continue with no upgrade at Junction 23.
CHRIS MANN: John, we’ll have to leave it there. But thank you. John Bridge, OBE, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce. there. Thank you for that comment. It’s only another five years everybody. Goodness me.