With the Department for Transport (DfT) admitting they are actively considering converting part of the A14 in Cambridgeshire into a toll road, holders of motorhome insurance policies can be forgiven for wondering when the powers that be will stop penalising motorists.
If the proposal does go ahead it will fly in the face of Government policy and promises that stated the Coalition Government would not impose tolls on roads already in public use. The get out clause being used by the DfT is that the stretch of road being considered will undergo such a massive facelift that it will in effect be a new road. It is still just a cosmetic job really and no matter what spin the DfT put on it, it will be seen by motorists as yet another U-turn by a Government who claim to be on the motorist’s side. In fact the plan for the A14 has not been received too well by motoring organisations apart from the toll issue. The plan is to create a new road for through traffic that will be tolled and for a road each side of it that will be toll free and dedicated to local use. However, many motoring organisations believe many motorists will use the side roads rather than pay to use the toll road, making congestion worse than it undoubtedly was before.
The critics do have history on their side as well. The UK’s first toll road, the M6 Toll was created in 2003 to alleviate problems in and around Birmingham. The road was designed to cope with 100,000 vehicles a day but has never had to deal with anything like that number, mainly because UK residents are just not happy about paying road tolls. In 2003 the toll charge on the M6 was just £2 but it was still enough to dissuade motorists from using it with just 36,000 using it daily. As the growth of vehicles increased so did usage and in 2006, over 50,000 vehicles a day paid the toll, about half of the predicted traffic. Last year with the toll now raised to £5.50 the average daily usage was at its lowest ever, at 34,000. It is certainly a pleasant 27 mile drive for those who pay for the privilege but it has done little to ease the congestion on the roads around it. Certainly local drivers avoid it whenever possible and this is proved by a roughly 30% drop in traffic at the weekends.
The DfT are being encouraged to think long and hard before the A14 toll goes ahead and motorists cannot be blamed for hoping for yet another U-turn!