UK planning toll on existing road

The UK government has unveiled plans to introduce a tolled road section on the A14 linking the Midlands with East Anglia. Tolling is highly controversial in the UK, where the only tolled stretch of motorway – on the M6 – has received much criticism.

The UK’s Department of Transport has revealed plans to introduce tolling on an upgrade to an existing road, the A14 linking the Midlands with East Anglia. Moves towards tolling would interest the private sector but prove controversial with the general public.

As part of its plans for much needed investment in infrastructure, the UK coalition government has notably refused to rule out the option of tolling upgrades to existing routes – while apparently ruling out new toll roads. In the case of the A14, it is understood that 20 miles of new or widened road in Cambridgeshire is under consideration – and it’s this stretch to which the toll would be applied.

The only current toll on an existing UK motorway is a 27-mile stretch of the M6 in the West Midlands, and it has proved controversial since opening in 2003. In a recent Telegraph report, it was described as “among the most expensive stretches of toll road in Europe” which has done little to ease congestion in the area. Last year, 34,000 motorists used the toll, compared with a peak of 54,700 in 2006.

Discussion over plans for the A14 is likely to rumble on for a while yet, with any work on the road – with a likely cost estimate of between £1 billion (€1.3 billion; $1.6 billion) and £1.5 billion – not expected to commence until 2018. A recent government-commissioned report by consultants Atkins suggested that private sector finance would likely account for around £370 million of the project cost.   

A government review on how to finance the country’s road network is due to report back in the autumn. 

The government last week announced a plan to underwrite up to £40 billion of private funding for UK infrastructure with the intention of kick-starting projects that have been put on hold for a lack of funding.