Graham Hughes Cambridgeshire’s Director Of Strategy On The A14 Proposal

a1406:55 Thursday 9th May 2015
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: We’re asking what is next for Cambridgeshire’s most troubled road. You get your problems on the A10, the A142, the A47 and the like, but it’s this road that’s the killer. Investment on it has not been forthcoming of course, and plans to upgrade it have been delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed. Well Graham Hughes is with me. He’s come down to Cambridge Services enjoying his coffee this morning. He’s Director of Strategy and Development at Cambridgeshire County Council, which means he’s responsible for the development of transport policy across the county, and also the county’s growth agenda. Graham .. how long have discussions been underway about improving what is a nightmare of a road?
GRAHAM HUGHES: Well far too long to be honest. It dates back as a scheme to 1981, and as you say it’s been in and out of the roads programme a number of times. But we think we’re on to something this time. We think it will be improved fairly shortly.
PAUL STAINTON: Now successive Governments have promised things. They’ve taken them away. You would think it’s an absolute no-brainer for the Government.
GRAHAM HUGHES: I think that is definitely the case. That’s certainly our view as a county council. The issue is it is such an expensive road to improve. But our view is that the benefits from that improvement are so great it just must be done.
PAUL STAINTON: What are the problems caused by this road, not just for surrounding villages, but for business in general?
GRAHAM HUGHES: There are many many problems, but the real issue is just the congestion, and the unreliability of the road. We’ve only got two lanes in each direction. We’ve got up to 100,000 vehicles a day running on this road, and that’s just too many vehicles. So congestion, delays, accidents, pollution etcetera, it’s all a major problem.
PAUL STAINTON: What are the options? Where are we?
GRAHAM HUGHES: Well I think really in our view the only real option is a major improvement. So little bits and pieces, minor improvements, just aren’t going to solve the problem. So what is needed is a major improvement from at least the Milton Interchange North of Cambridge right the way up to the A1. That actually is the current proposal with the Highways Agency, because it’s their road. That’s the current proposal they’re bringing forward.
PAUL STAINTON: And tolling of course, the dreaded tolling that the public won’t like, but is there another way? Is there any way other than that?
GRAHAM HUGHES: Well I think you’re right. Tolling is not popular. But the conversations we’ve been having with Government are very clear, and they are that without tolling, there will not be enough money to improve the scheme. So the position the County Council has taken is, unpopular though it may be, the need to improve the road is so great that tolling, as long as it’s reasonable, and as long as there’s a good alternative that’s free for local people, which there will be, then it’s acceptable. So that’s the route we’re going down.
PAUL STAINTON: And time frames-wise? How long before we see a change?
GRAHAM HUGHES: We’re working very hard. The Highways Agency and the Department of Transport are working very hard, and we’re looking to get on site at least by 2018. And there’s a lot of work to try and bring that forward. So it’s certainly within not too long at this rate should be substantially improved, and all the benefits will be seen.
PAUL STAINTON: The Guided Bus, that’s no doubt taken a few people off the road. Are there any other public transport schemes, any other schemes we can bring in to try and ease the strain on this creaking road?
GRAHAM HUGHES: That’s a really important point actually, and a lot of the traffic, over 20% of the traffic, is lorries, quite a few of which come from the ports. So one of the other major schemes that’s going forward is an improvement to what’s called the Felixstowe to Nuneaton Line , and that links Felixstowe up into the Midlands. And when that’s done, (it) will take a lot of heavy traffic off the road onto the rails. And there is another minor improvement. So all of that is important. But the real focus is getting this road improved and the capacity increased to ease the flow of traffic.
PAUL STAINTON: Many people love blaming a lorry for the congestion on this road, and you’re saying we’ll have less of them. People will be happy.
GRAHAM HUGHES: Well I think they will. Lorries are a major problem. They’re not the only problem. But if we can get some of those lorries onto the railways, and we can get more capacity, an extra lane at least in each direction on this road, then we think the problem will be solved.
PAUL STAINTON: Graham, thank you for coming down.