One of the largest road upgrade schemes in the UK has started on the A14 in Cambridgeshire, with the project designed to improve safety on this stretch of road, as well as to reduce congestion.
In total, £1.5 billion will be spent on upgrading a 21-mile stretch of the A14 to three lanes in each direction, as well as delivering a new bypass for Huntingdon and widening a section of the A1 between Brampton and Alconbury.
The timeline for this project will see the new three-lane A14 open to traffic by 2020, with the Huntingdon bypass also expected to be open for drivers at this stage.
Many local politicians and businesses have welcomed the upgrade, claiming it will provide a significant economic boost to the area, as well as help facilitate the development of new homes.
Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce chief executive John Bridge welcomed the start of the works, noting that the A14 has long been highlighted as the area’s biggest obstacle to growth and economic development among businesses.
And the project is expected to bring jobs and the opportunity for training within the local construction and engineering sector.
Jackie Hall, interim chief executive for West Anglia Training Association (WATA) in Huntingdon, revealed that the scheme is expected to generate 2,000 jobs in the area.
She added: “The A14 project will bring job and sustained economic growth to the region through the development of skills workers for the lifetime of the project and beyond.”
This major infrastructure project is kicking off following the chancellor’s announcement that he intends to increase spending on the UK’s transport links in the coming years.
In his Autumn Statement, Philip Hammond announced that £1.1 billion would be ploughed into reducing congestion by upgrading local roads and improving public transport. A further £220 million will be spent on improving road safety, he added.
There will also be £450 million spent on trialling digital signage on the UK’s rail network, with the aim to improve reliability and increase capacity on the railways, while £27 million has been earmarked for a new expressway between Oxford and Cambridge.
Hammond also announced a £390 million fund for future transport technology, which will primarily be made available to test the viability of driverless cars and to improve the infrastructure for low emissions vehicles.
Of the £390 million announced, £80 million will be used to install more charging points for ultra-low emission vehicles and £150 million will be spent on 550 new electric and hydrogen buses.
Neil Broadhead, head of UK infrastructure at PwC, commented that the country’s transport networks need investment, but added that this “represents only one stage on the UK’s long journey to achieve an infrastructure base fit for the 21st century”.
He went on to explain that those working in this sector need a “stable policy environment” to enable continued investment in these areas. The industry will also need to look at the skills agenda to ensure it has the necessary workers for the projects, Mr Broadhead added.
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