New motorway improvement scheme could cost £1.5 billion

Tuesday 9 January 2018

In the January edition of connected, Ian MacKellar reports on the A14 improvement scheme.

When the current upgrade of the A14 in Cambridgeshire was first announced on All Fools’ Day 2003, the estimated cost was less than £500million – and the road was due to have opened to traffic in 2010.

By October 2010, not a sod had been turned and the cost had risen to £1.2billion, so it was an easy target for then Chancellor George Osborne’s axe in his ‘comprehensive spending review’ aimed at balancing the national current account in the wake of the global economic collapse of 2007 that has bequeathed us near-zero interest rates for a decade.

Even Mr Osborne came to recognise the error of shooting at easy targets, when it was pointed out to him that an economic recovery relying on the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Cambridge and Oxford was not well served when the engine of growth was idling in a traffic jam at Bar Hill.

So eventually the 21-mile improvement scheme, most of which is a brand-new six-lane southern bypass of Huntingdon and Godmanchester, was kick-started at a Treasury-limited cost of £1.5billion (at 2014 prices) – three times the 2003 estimate (give or take a GDP deflator or two).

What will it actually cost when it opens, as planned, in 2020? Well, it should cost £1.5bn plus an allowance for inflation since 2014 – at a punt, less than £1.6bn.

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