Friday, 20 July 2012

New A14 Scheme; First Comments

Cllr Tim Ward
In response to a question on the cam.transport discussion board (which is, despite Facebook, Twitter, et al still incredibly active!) Cllr Tim Ward, Cambridge City Executive Councillor for Planning and Climate Change addressed the possibility of tolling on the existing sections of the A14.

Here's the original question/ comment Tim was responding to;

Hopefully before the tolls are brought in, but given the cart before horse planning that appears to be a feature of infrastructure work in this country I wouldn't hold out too much hope.

And here's Cllr Wards' response;

There's a "no tolling on existing roads" principle, the civil servants explained to us. This is "not so much a rule as a guideline[#]", or perhaps a rule that one might choose whether or not to obey for any particular project, but it led to two options for the Girton <-> T Foot section: widening the existing road without tolling, or building local access roads, making those free, and tolling the "old" road (which bends the principle literally but not in spirit).  
The second option seems to have been decided on at some point in the last five days or so, since the last A14 steering group meeting, which is pretty bloody fast in government terms. SCDC cabinet members will no doubt claim this as a victory for their lobbying of ministers re the imminence of the Northstowe planning application, but whether ministers really take notice of such little local difficulties or whether they make their minds up on much more rarefied political calculation is beyond my pay grade. (FTAOD: that's a joke. I don't really get paid for this stuff.)  
Tolling is believed to support the financing of around £300m of capital spend, although the modelling for tolling done so far is, we're told, somewhat basic, and a considerable amount more work needs to be done (whether this is by Atkins or the DfT or both I'm not quite sure - it's a bit odd these days to go to a meeting where nothing is handed out on paper, you have to make your own notes from the PowerPoints, but that's how it was). So that's £300m plus or minus who knows what.  
This leaves, obviously, something of a funding gap between £300m and the total project cost[*], to which local authorities, as well as central government, are expected to contribute. I haven't yet decided what I'm putting on the table as the city's contribution. It's slightly scary that it's my job to come up with an answer.  
[#] Yes I know that's a favourite of Cap'n Jack Sparrow, but as far as I can tell (ie with a few minutes googling) it pre-dates him by some centuries (um ... yes, well, I can see how this could be open to debate ...) and the origins are lost in the mists of time.  
[*] I got lost in the arithmetic I'm afraid as many, but not all, of the sums are, for reasons which I failed to write down, done in 2002 prices. Without knowing which numbers are in 2002 prices, which are in today's prices, and which are in delivery date (2017/8) prices, there's not a vast amount of point in quoting any of them.