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How to fix the A14

A5 Dual Carriageway

This post will, perhaps, be of interest to me, and other people who live near the A14 in Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.  Also, maybe to people interested in road pricing strategies.  For everyone else, my apologies.

We have recently been told the A14 between Girton and Huntingdon will be improved (we’ve been told that before…)

We have been told there will be a local road between Cambridge and the Trinity Foot (sounds sane, so long as it can’t be used as a rat run)

We have been told this will be paid for by tolling (Not a terrible idea, but it needs to be done right.)

This is how to do it right:

The problem with the A14 in this area is two major roads come in (the A14 and M11) and two major roads leave (the A14 and A1(M))  But in between, what we have is essentially a two lane dual carriageway which can’t cope with the volume of traffic, and, if anyone so much as changes lane or looks out of a side window, grinds into a two-hour traffic jam.

The other problem is that this stretch of the A14 is also used as a local road bringing people into Cambridge from surrounding villages.  Specifically, almost all the people doing low paid work in cambridge have to use this route, because Cambridge house prices are affordable only by lottery winners who have also inherited sizeable trust funds.  Because Cambridge needs low paid workers to function, the toll should not be implemented in such a way as to cause them to be unable to afford to come into work.  An interesting characteristic of these workers is that they are spread far and wide across the region – so any idea of simply giving local residence a free A14 pass fails. (Though it might be a good idea to give a toll free pass to those who actually live in the villages which run alongside the A14 – I can argue both for and against this)

Lots of people think the only problem with the A14 is lorries travelling from Felixstowe.  As far as I can tell, the evidence suggests that this is a relatively minor problem.  However, if we toll the A14, we want to ensure those lorries stay on it (or other major routes) rather than rat running through unsuitable village roads.

I’m going to ignore Girton junction.  It is a dismally badly designed piece of highway engineering, which (I understand) has its origins in petty local politics.  The end results cause regular frequent accidents and delays.  Everyone involved in it’s funding, design and construction should hang their heads in shame.  It should be demolished and replace by something that works.

I’m less worried about rat running than most people – the reason is that, for a rat run to work, the cost of the time and petrol for using it must be lower than the cost of the toll.  If the toll levels are set correctly, and the position of entrances and exits managed reasonably, then rat running should be avoided – especially for lorries (which are, I guess, the major problem)

The way we toll the A14 is simple:

We use numberplate recognition systems to figure out who is using the A14.  We specifically measure where they enter and exit.  My preferred points are:

On the Cambridge side of the M11/A11 Junction

On the Cambridge side of the A14/A11 Junction

On the Cambourne side of the A14/A428 Junction

Between Lolworth and St Ives on the A14

We charge people if they travel between two of these points within a 24 hour period

This allows people to come into Cambridge and work, but to pay extra to use the A14 for long distance travel.

(You could also add road charging to Cambridge with an extension of this scheme – stick additional cameras at the park and ride boundaries, meaning people who come in from long distances outside would be better off using the par and ride – and perhaps even the guided bus – while more local people can use the roads.  Downside, cambridge residents would have to pay to leave the wider cambridge area… but if they are charging people to come into their city centre, that seems only fair)

The way you would collect tolls for this is:

Require all users of the A14 to have a prepaid account linked to their numberplate.  This will be debited every time the camera’s see someone entering, then shortly exiting the region via a different road.

This would also allow us to have a leaflet fully explaining how the charging works sent to all users (its too complicated to do via road signage)

Have extra checks at truck stops in the region – and at major docks – to ensure all lories with foreign plates are registered with the A14 scheme.

A14 improvements may never happen – and if they do, collecting tolls on it may turn out to be a political impossibility.

But if the improvements do happen, and if people follow my road pricing scheme, it might actually ally take the toll out of my A14 commute.

© Ben.Cha.lmers.co.uk
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