One of England’s most important transport groups has made a pitch to ministers in advance of the Autumn Statement to upgrade a single carriageway section of the A428 into an ‘expressway’ - an A road held to similar standards as a motorway.
The Strategic Transport Forum of England's Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance – a prospective sub-national transport body covering Oxfordshire to Cambridgeshire - has called for upgrades to the road to tackle the ‘congestion, maintenance and safety issues that have plagued it for years’.
The Black Cat Roundabout
It added that the issue of east-west connectivity in the region was being looked into by the National Infrastructure Commission, while Highways England has also identified the opportunities of greater highways connectivity between Cambridge and Oxford.
The forum calls on the Department for Transport to upgrade a nine-mile section between the A1, Black Cat roundabout and Caxton Gibbet, to full expressway standards - these are outlined in Highways England’s Action for Roads document and essentially mean converting A-roads to dual similar standards to motorways and fixing inconsistencies in design or capacity along the route.
Chairman of the forum and leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Heather Smith said: ‘This section is a true bottleneck in every sense of the word particularly because we have 'expressway' standard, dual carriageway sections either side. You don't need me to tell anyone who uses this section regularly just how poor and unreliable it is.
‘The A421 and A428 corridor forms one of the key east-west routes across our area, yet we have this narrow “country lane” section which is helping no one.
‘Yes, of course, we accept that this may require Government needing to find additional money, but there's no doubt that this section fully deserves it, such is the importance of this corridor to the Heartland and the rest of the UK.
‘Our message to Government is to invest once, invest sufficiently and invest soon – the payback for local people, businesses and the UK economy as a whole will be enormous.’
Cambridgeshire County Council leader, Cllr Steve Count, said: ‘The A428 is a major link road and vital for the regional and national economy. This is why it's imperative and obvious to anyone who is constantly snarled up in queues that this 'country lane' section needs to be brought up to expressway standards as soon as possible.
‘With dual carriageway sections either side, the narrow single lane section between Caxton Gibbet and the Black Cat roundabout is the missing link and threatens to strangle growth and the economy unless dealt with in the near future.’