Friday, 6 July 2012

A14 Corridor Study; Recent Progress (Councillor Update)

BACKGROUND

After the original A14 scheme was withdrawn in October 2010 on the grounds of being unaffordable, the Government undertook to study the multi-modal needs of the whole A14 corridor. That A14 Corridor Study began in earnest following the 2011 Autumn Statement. In this, the Chancellor set out the Government’s commitment to “increasing capacity and improving performance on the A14”. The Government confirmed that the scope for relieving congestion by improving other modes including freight facilities and public transport would be explored

At the same time, an investment of £20m for ‘interim measures’ to reduce traffic congestion on the A14 and increase resilience was announced. Very recently the award of £2m of this was confirmed to the County Council to double the capacity of the St Ives Park and Ride site and to provide six Variable Message Signs (VMS) on county roads leading from Huntingdon and Cambridge onto the A14 to give public messages and appropriately warn of any knofwn congestion or incidents etc. The Government also launched in November 2011 its ”A14 Challenge” seeking public views on “finding solutions”, to which the County Council and four District Councils made a joint submission..

In his more recent Budget Statement, the Chancellor reaffirmed his commitment to increasing capacity and performance on the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge, some of which could be part funded by tolling. Government is keen to develop ideas for using private money to improve the highway network, and if tolling is introduced as part of the solution, this would only apply to new capacity. This approach was later re-affirmed by the Prime Minister in a speech with a call for a “horizon shift” in infrastructure investment generally.

RECENT PROGRESS
The Council is working well with the Department for Transport (DfT) and local partners on both a Study Project Board and Study Steering Group. Good progress has been made on the Study, with the Phase 1 study report being quickly completed in December 2011. This identified the problems (congestion, safety, lack of resilience) and challenges (supporting economic growth, social and environmental impact) associated with the A14 and this brought no particular surprises.

Phase 2 of the Study is now complete and the results were published on the 14th June. This part of the Study reviewed a long list of public transport, freight and highway options for the corridor. These were combined into a series of complementary packages which addressed the transport problems and challenges. They were refined and assessed, using the Treasury’s five “case model”. This analysis includes consideration of the “strategic”, “economic”, “commercial”, “financial” and “management” cases and has produced a list of eleven packages (three public transport, two freight and six highway options) for detailed analysis in Phase 3. The potential financing of the packages, including private sector involvement, travel demand management and revenue generation through limited tolling of highway options have also been briefly considered.

THE ELEVEN PACKAGES FOR ASSESSMENT

In Phase 3 of the Study the short listed options are being appraised in more technical detail with a view to combining them into a recommended multi-modal package that tackles the problems and challenges and is affordable, deliverable and value for money.

These options include
Public Transport Packages
Three packages have been selected:
  • Provision of further Park and Ride sites to encourage a shift from car to public transport especially at peak periods. 
  • Provision of new or enhanced bus / busway services in the corridor to encourage a shift especially in the peak period. 
  • A combination of all enhancements of Park and Ride and bus services in the corridor. 
Freight Packages
 Much public and private investment in upgrading the Felixstowe to Nuneaton Rail Route has been and is being made with planned provision to continue up to 2019. Those measures will improve the economics of rail versus road freight operation. The freight options being considered are:
  • In addition to outstanding planned works, the provision of double tracking of the Felixstowe branch line, providing the March bi-directional freight loop and the private provision of Strategic Freight Interchanges. Additionally, measures to shift freight away from the peak periods would be encouraged. 
  • Staying with the planned programme of works but introducing the measures to shift freight away from the peak periods would be encouraged, ie without the three enhancements in the first freight option 
Highway Packages
Six highway packages have been identified:
  • A limited scheme which would provide parallel local access roads between Trinity Foot and Girton, with the full improvement of Girton Interchange as in the erstwhile Ellington to Fen Ditton Scheme. 
  • Two options which are variants, include the provision of a Huntingdon Southern Bypass either as a three or two lane dual carriageway. The three lane option would allow for the de-trunking of the current A14 from Fen Drayton to Alconbury/ Brampton, with the consequential removal of the Huntingdon Viaduct. The two lane option would retain the A14 route through Huntingdon with presumably the re-building of the Huntingdon Viaduct. There would be on line widening of the A14 from Fen Drayton to Girton and only a limited improvements to Girton Interchange. 
  • The provision of a two lane dual carriageway Huntingdon Southern Bypass, with parallel local access roads from Trinity Foot to Girton, and full enhancement of Girton Interchange. The existing A14 to Alconbury and Brampton would be maintained and this would need the re-building of the Huntingdon Viaduct. This option would include the enhancement of the Girton Interchange. 
  • Finally two options which are variants, include the construction of the western part of the Huntingdon Southern Bypass either as three or two lane dual carriageway and the use of an upgraded A1198 to the A428 at Caxton Common and use an upgraded A428 to Girton. With the three lane Huntingdon Southern Bypass option, all strategic traffic would use this new route, whilst with the two lane option the north south traffic would continue to use the existing A14. This would remain running through Huntingdon and in the latter case presumably the Huntingdon Viaduct would need to be re-built. 

It is recognised by the study that the future of the Huntingdon Viaduct is indeterminate and that short term works are pressingly required to extend its life. The costing of a long term rebuilding and its impact on the economics of any relevant option will be further considered in Phase 3.

In Phase 2 of the Study, only limited consideration was given to the potential of tolling or the implications of other funding sources. In Phrase 3, these matters will have to be considered in much more detail as they are key to eventual delivery.

It can be seen that the packages that are moving into Phase 3 are varied and range from relatively small interventions to very substantial schemes. However, the study has demonstrated that to address the wide range of problems both locally and further afield, a major package of works is required.

More details of the eleven packages moving to Phase 3 and the background support work can be found on the following DfT website

http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/dft-20111212/

Details of the eleven package options described above can be found on pages 8-16 in the penultimate Output 2 “Adobe” file – “Strategic Outline Case” listed on the site.

MOVING FORWARD

The following are seen as next steps
  • The completion of the study with the recommended transport package which is to be reported to the Secretary of State for hopefully, approval and for an announcement during the Summer recess. 
  • The intention is also to develop an outline proposal for a funding package for the scheme for discussions with DfT in the near future. Such a package could include national, local public authority, private and EU funding sources. 
  • Further consideration will be needed regarding the most appropriate form of delivery vehicle to take the chosen highway scheme forward, including what the County Council’s role may be in the delivery of the scheme. 
  • It is hoped to complete the enlargement of the St Ives Park and Ride site, and the provision of the County VMS signs by the end of 2012.