This is the speech I just gave to Council on Cllrs Bick and Ward’s A14 motion.
Madam Mayor, I want to speak to the safety issues mentioned in part (a). I am not against safety improvements to the A14. I am not against work which will improve its throughput as well as its safety.
Madam Mayor, the problem I have is with us being asked to financially support a piece of large and expensive infrastructure when much cheaper things which can address some of the safety and capacity issues, which have been shown to work elsewhere in the county, and in other countries, have not been tried.
I had the misfortune of driving round the M25 near Heathrow last week, which, and this may come as a surprise to the members of the Campaign for Real Asphalt opposite, was very congested despite being 12 lanes wide. As a result, the variable speed limit system was in force. It had dropped the speed limit to 40mph and while this wasn’t perfect, it did have the effect of facilitating a throughput of traffic which would have ground the road to a halt if everyone was trying to accelerate at 70mph.
I’m also familiar with the Italian Autostrade from Bolzano up to the Brenner Pass. This is a road which, due to space constraints imposed by mountains on either side, is limited to 2 lanes in each direction. It’s substantially longer than the A14 within Cambridgeshire, and like the A14 it carries a very high number of heavy goods vehicles as well as a lots of private traffic, which is trying to go faster. The road is extremely twisty and has dreadful sight lines for a motorway. It is, in my experience, a much more challenging problem than the A14.
The Italian government has taken the simple and inexpensive step of forbidding HGVs from the overtaking lane. This is used on roads elsewhere in the UK. Indeed, it’s also used on the A14 much further west.
Madam Mayor, before jumping up and down and demanding money this authority would struggle to afford to fund the Nick Clarke Memorial Turnpike, I wonder why the leader of the County Council has not pressed for considerably less expensive measures first. Madam Mayor, I will admit that they might not work, but if the last few decades have taught us anything about road building it’s that trying to build our way out of congestion doesn’t work, is harmful to public transport, and is harmful to the environment.