Today, Monday 9th February, at the Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, met with local business and political leaders to discuss plans for the A120. Mr McLoughlin also gave his response to the offer from Essex County Council to put up £5 million as a contribution to short term safety works and a study to establish once and for all a preferred route of the dualling of the A120 between Braintree and Marks Tey. Mr McLoughlin confirmed that £900m of public funds were still available for schemes such as the A120 and he would be writing to the Highways Agency to make them aware of the case being put forward by A120 campaigners.
Mr McLoughlin was keen to point out that from 1st April 2015, the Highways Agency would become an independent company and would operate on 5 year budget cycles. Nevertheless, the A120 could still bid for funds out of the £15bn that the Chancellor of the Exchequer allocated for the Roads Investment Strategy in December 2014 – specifically a £900 million pot for smaller scale schemes such as the A120 and hence a means of securing £5 million of match funding did exist to enable Essex County Council’s offer to be taken up.
Mr McLoughlin said he was particularly impressed with the business and cross party support for the campaign which had been evident at the meeting, something he said was vital in gaining support from central government. During the discussion, Mr McLoughlin heard presentations from the Haven Gateway Partnership, London Stansted Airport, Tapper Financial Services, Chaselet Ltd, Essex County Council and various local and district authorities.
George Kieffer, Chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership, reacted positively to Mr McLoughlin’s intervention this afternoon:
“The unanimous reaction from those in the room today was that the Secretary of State’s statement was to be welcomed. He confirmed that, by all means, there were funds available for schemes like ours and so the campaign goes on. From our point of view, we will continue to make the overwhelming case for the A120: £1.3bn in extra growth for our region, journey times cut by up to 56% and some of the most dangerous bits of road in the country to be made safe. Our cross party support, together with district and county council matched funding, and huge enthusiasm from the business community, will make our plea for funds incredibly difficult for the Highways Agency and the Dft to ignore.
“The Secretary of State informed us he would be writing to the Chairman of the Highways Agency to inform him of our case, and we look forward to the outcome of those discussions.”