A14 Upgrade A Mixed Blessing For Cambridge

a1407:07 Friday 29th March 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[R]ONNIE BARBOUR: We won’t give you any money for the A14 upgrade. That’s the message from Cambridge City Council. Councillors say they won’t receive financial benefit from it. Liberal Democrat Councillor Tim Bick is Leader of Cambridge City Council. Tim, good morning to you.
TIM BICK: Good morning.
RONNIE BARBOUR: So you’re not going to give any money towards this.
TIM BICK: That’s what we’ve said. But I think there’s a bit more to it that that. We are going to be giving money for something else that’s a very important part of the picture in keeping the area moving.
RONNIE BARBOUR: What are you going to do?
TIM BICK: Well, from our point of view we need both things. We need an improved A14, and we’ve been arguing for that for a long time. And we also need to make sure that the effect of that doesn’t seize up the city itself. Because the improved A14 is very very likely to increase the attractiveness of commuting into the city. And so we have the dual problem, the problem of the A14, people travelling from a distance outside Cambridge, and we also have the problem of people getting around inside the city. I think people will agree that neither of those things are easy at the moment. Both of them are a problem, and we need to fix both of them.
RONNIE BARBOUR: The County Council are saying that.. the people who want to upgrade the road anyway are saying if you don’t help out with it, how can they go to the other parts of the A14 and other councils there are say if you don’t contribute .. surely we want a better network of roads for the county, even though there may be a problem because it’s Cambridge city centre itself and people coming in, that that could be built into the cost, couldn’t it?
TIM BICK: But it doesn’t appear to be. The point about the funding for the A14 is an interesting one. Bear with me a moment while I explain it. The councils that are being asked for contributions for this aren’t transport authorities. They don’t .. they aren’t funded to put money into major national infrastructure, like the A14. So the only case for them to cough up money into that sort of scheme is that they’re going to be the beneficiaries of money that comes into their council because of extra development that is enabled by the A14. And unfortunately for the formula, in this case Cambridge doesn’t receive any of those financial benefits. The boundary around Cambridge is already very very tight, and some of the big developments that are enabled by the improved road would be Northstowe or Alconbury, which are outside the City Council. And therefore our coffers aren’t enlarged at all by those kinds of development. The councils that do have those developments in their area of course, it’s a very valid invitation for them to put some money back into the A14.
RONNIE BARBOUR: So you’re not disputing the fact that Cambridge would benefit from an upgrade? You’re not saying that. There’s no grey area in your mind there. Cambridge would benefit from the A14 being better.
TIM BICK: There would be an undoubted benefit to Cambridge from the problems of the A14 being fixed. But the A14 itself and improving it also is a mixed blessing for the city, the mixed blessing being that an improved A14 on its own is very likely to seize up the city itself, and we have to fix that too. And that is what we are going to pout our resources into. We have been putting our resources into that for a long time, and we’re going to continue to do it.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Is there a compromise to be had here Tim do you think?
TIM BICK: Well I think you’re looking at it really. because there are a number of councils that benefit from the A14 financially, and perhaps should put their money back into the project. And there is a problem in the city which the City Council is offering to put its money into. So it’s really a kind of jigsaw that’s emerging, which should enable all aspects of the problem to be fixed.
RONNIE BARBOUR: If there is reluctance from other councils as well to offer any money, it could hold up plans and cause problems for the upgrade in any case. Are you holding a gun to the head of the Government and saying actually Government, you have to step forward with more money?
TIM BICK: We’re not doing that. It’s a very unusual situation that the Government’s presented us all with really. National infrastructure is normally funded out of national taxation. And so this is a bit of a departure for everyone. But we\re not holding a gun to anyone’s head, because there are councils within Cambridgeshire that get this financial benefit, and it’s a very valid question to them. Will you put some of the benefit back into the road? We’re not in that category. We’re not opposing the people who have that benefit from putting it back in. We’re just saying that we will be putting any money we can muster into the problems inside the city, which are likely to be aggravated by the more attractive possibility of commuting longer distance.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Liberal Democrat Councillor Tim Bick, Leader of Cambridge City Council.