Guy’s Latest Cabinet Member’s Report

Transport & Highways Report, December 2012.

 

A14 Study And Challenge

 

  • Further to previous reports, the following summarises the current position:

 

  • The A14 Ellington to Milton project is included in the DfT roads programme and the Highways Agency has began the process of developing the project through detailed design and the statutory processes;

 

  • Although the Government has identified the components of the trunk road improvement between Ellington and Milton, related decisions affecting the local road network, including the status of the A14 around Huntingdon and the future of the Huntingdon Viaduct and measures to encourage long distance traffic to use the new trunk road have not been determined;

 

  • The final report of the A14 Study is due to be published in December 2012.

 

  • The Government has indicated that it will commit funds for this project subject to income from tolling and local funding being confirmed;

 

  • Cambridgeshire County Council and Local Partnerships (owned jointly by HM Treasury and the Local Government Association) were tasked to help develop a local funding proposition in discussion with local authorities based on the assumption that the improvement will boost economic growth and therefore increase business rates. The County Council has indicated that there would need to be considerable work undertaken to demonstrate the impact of the A14 improvement on business growth outside Cambridgeshire and hence justify funding contributions;

 

  • Initial consultations have taken place with the Suffolk Chief Executive Group (SCEG) and business representatives in the county. The overall view was that local authorities in Suffolk were unlikely to provide financial support given other local priorities for use of revenues and the disadvantages to Suffolk of the proposed tolls.  The need to consider the competitive position of the Port of Felixstowe was also stressed.  Local Partnerships have been tasked to submit their report in early December 2012 and the Suffolk views will be fed back to the Treasury;

 

  • I attended the final A14 Challenge Steering Group meeting on Thursday, 1 November 2012.  The key points were that measures to alleviate traffic congestion on the Cambridge Northern By-pass are to be implemented.  For example, work has already begun to double the capacity of St. Ives Park and Ride site to 1000 spaces.  Work is also due to commence in 2013 and 2014 to implement improvements of the physical layout of the Girton and Spittals Interchanges.

 

A14 Corridor Consortium

 

A meeting of the Consortium, which involves representatives from Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk County Councils, the Highways Agency and businesses, was held on the 27 September 2012. The following issues were discussed:

 

  • A Memorandum of Understanding between the interested parties;

 

  • An update on the A14 Challenge and Study, including potential financial contributions from Local Authorities.  Cambridgeshire and Suffolk County Councils indicated that the A14 Steering Group should continue as the A14 Ellington to Milton project is developed;

 

  • The East of England Traffic Information Project, including measures to improve traffic flow on the A14 by getting better information to Hauliers to enable them to plan their journeys and also improving procedures and infrastructure to enable the emergency services to speed up the task of clearing up accidents on the A14.

 

 A12 Route Based Strategy

 

In May 2012, the Secretary of State for Transport responded formally to the Cook Report, an independent review into the management of England’s motorways and trunk roads published in November 2011.  Many of the actions proposed were accepted in detail or in principle and a number of policy recommendations were welcomed by the Secretary of State including:

 

  • developing a long-term strategy for motorways and trunk roads;
  • setting out an outcome based performance specification for the network.

 

The route-based strategies will set out the operational, maintenance and improvement investment necessary to deliver the outcome based performance specification.  Each high-level strategy will seek to address road based issues on the network, provide a mechanism to engage with local partners, and ultimately bring together national and local priorities to agree the needs of each route.

 

The County Council had preliminary discussions with the Highways Agency in early October and has involved business representatives in Suffolk including the New Anglia LEP, the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, the Port of Felixstowe and Haven Gateway.

 

A workshop was held on the 31 October.  Key issues for Suffolk include:

 

  • the importance of involving Babergh District, Ipswich Borough and Suffolk Coastal District Councils;

 

  • planned growth in Babergh, Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal and at the Port of Felixstowe;

 

  • improvements to Copdock Interchange;

 

  • the substandard layout of the A12 and junctions and access/egress onto the trunk road between Capel St Mary and the Essex County boundary and in particular Four Sisters and Stratford St Mary junctions;

 

  • investigate high accident rate and introduce measures to improve safety, including the closure of the openings in the central reserve of the dual carriageway and introduction of average speed cameras;

 

Great Eastern Mainline (GEML) Capacity Study

 

In October 2012, W.S Atkins produced the version of a report commissioned by the Great Eastern Mainline Visioning Group, of which Suffolk County Council is a member organisation about which improvements must be made to the GEML over the next 20 years and what the economic benefits of these improvements might be.

The final version of the study has concluded that the two most important interventions to improve line speed and capacity were the remodelling of Bow Junction to allow a maximum of 28 trains out of London Liverpool Street at peak times, and the implementation of a three-lined section of the track at Boreham, north of Chelmsford. This would allow faster intercity services to pass more local ones more easily on the line and should therefore reduce journey times.  It also recommended that we made the case to Network Rail to conduct a review signalling infrastructure, power supply, and platform clearance issues with a view to making further improvements to improve journey times as well as service resilience.

The report also recommended that the current rolling stock is replaced within the period of the next franchise with electric locomotive trains with modern power control systems. The current Mark 3 carriages should be fully refurbished to include DDA-compliant toilets, more space for wheelchairs and bike storage, and a better seating layout. Atkins calculated that, added together, these changes could generate direct economic benefits of between £2.5 and £2.8 billion over a 60-year period.

Suffolk County Council intends to use the findings of this study to help make the case for improvements to the GEML in the representations to the Secretary of State for Transport.

 

Ipswich Fit For The 21st Century

 

I am pleased with the progress our contractors are making in this scheme.  This is part of the transformation of our county town that Suffolk County Council is committed to.

 

Rail Conference 26 October And Draft Suffolk Rail Strategy 2012-2032

 

On Friday, 26 October 2012, I hosted the Suffolk Rail Conference. This was attended by over 80 people from local and central government and businesses across the transport industry.  It included presentations from Ben Gummer MP, Christian Wolmar a well-renowned rail expert and transport journalist, The Greater Anglia Rail Franchise, Network Rail and Porterbrook Leasing.  Two sessions of 5 workshops were then held to discuss rail franchising, infrastructure, local rail partnerships and the role they should play in the future of services, rail links to bus services, and how to move more freight on to rail.

 

The final conclusion of the day was that, although there are clearly problems with the current franchising process and financial constraints, attendees at the conference needed to work together to send a clear message to the DfT that the Greater Anglia franchise is one of 2 franchises that are net contributors to the UK Exchequer and badly needs long overdue investment in rail to support its potential for economic growth.