Toll road faces the axe in U-turn

Toll road faces the axe in U-turn

The coalition is set to ditch controversial plans to create the UK's first toll road for a decade.

A Government U-turn will instead see the taxpayer foot the bill for improvements to the A14, according to reports in the Financial Times.

The Treasury refused to comment on speculation surrounding the contents of Thursday's Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne.

But the FT said Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander will announce the £1.5 billion project to widen and improve a heavily congested 25-mile stretch of the road in East Anglia will go ahead with taxpayer funding.

Prime Minister David Cameron last week paved the way for a policy shift when he said he "understood" strong opposition of MPs and councils to the proposal to charge motorists.

The toll, which would have majorjourney planner implications for those travelling from the port of Felixstowe to the Midlands, was originally supported by a consultation document which suggested drivers could be charged between £1 and £1.50.

This would have been the first new toll route in the UK since a 27-mile stretch of the M6 between Birmingham and Wolverhampton was opened by Tony Blair's Labour administration in 2003.

The issue was raised during Prime Minister's Question Time by Tim Yeo, Conservative MP for South Suffolk.

Mr Cameron replied: "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 added: "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."

Copyright Press Association 2013