MPs, the Highways Agency, Local Enterprise Partnerships and the Councils of Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Bedford Borough, Milton Keynes, Norfolk and Suffolk will meet today (3rd October) to establish an alliance to champion much needed improvements to the A428 and A421 and its approaches.
The group is joining forces to press for investment from central government to create a high quality reliable route between Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes and the Midlands.
The nationally important corridor is a key route from the South Midlands to the East Coast ports, and is also essential to support the significant housing and economic growth planned in the area.
Major growth is planned with some 200,000 new homes and almost a quarter of a million new jobs expected to be created in the areas traversed by this route in the next decade. Down the years, the route has seen some real improvements with the dualling of the A421 and A428 between Caxton and Cambridge, and the Bedford Western Bypass.
However, a key middle section, which is the only remaining single carriageway section from Caxton Gibbet to St Neot's and the notorious Black Cat roundabout, regularly experiences severe traffic delays, and rat running through neighbouring towns and villages . With the significant growth planned on this stretch from Cambridge through to St Neots, without comprehensive improvements soon, this route could become a real barrier to the future growth and prosperity of the area.
The A421 on the southern edge of Bedford also experiences increasing congestion at its business and retail hub, at the junction with the A6 during peak times and the interchanges at Milton and Copdock on the A14 are additional areas of concern.
The Highways Agency has published a Route Strategy to identify options for improvements for the corridor and is now working towards producing potential solutions, which are due to be published in March 2015.
The alliance partners want to work with the Highways Agency to press for improvements to ensure that this route can function more effectively as a strategic east west link and support the significant housing and jobs growth planned along the corridor.
Jonathan Djanogly MP for Huntingdon said "An improved A428 is vital to unlocking growth in this area and assisting businesses in the Eastern region between Cambridge and Bedford. This road is becoming an imperative issue for Cambridgeshire, Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.
Alistair Burt MP for North East Bedfordshire said "˜Not only will an improved A428/421 have a regional impact good for business and development, but it will help relieve existing blight to villages and small towns affected by drivers of vehicles large and small seeking alternative routes throughout the area.'
Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council's Economy and Environment Committee, Ian Bates said: "This is an important first step towards improving the situation on the A428 and making it a sustainable route for the future. Large scale development is planned for the areas of St Neots, Cambourne and Bourn and we need to ensure that the transport network can deal with the increased demand.
"We are delighted that work on the A14 is progressing, but with the help of our partners and neighbouring authorities, we must now demonstrate to Central Government that this is not the only strategic route in Cambridgeshire that is in need of improvement."
Nigel Young, Executive Member for Strategic Planning at Central Bedfordshire Council, added; "We are delighted that key routes in our areas are progressing, such as the M1 "“ A 5 link road in the west of our patch. Now, with the help of our partners and neighbouring authorities, we must demonstrate to Central Government that there are other key strategic routes in desperate need of revision."
Mayor of Bedford Borough Council Dave Hodgson said: "Traffic on the A421 and A428 is stationary or delayed for too long too often. Planned growth will only worsen the situation and attracting further growth needs essential infrastructure to be guaranteed. Black Cat to Caxton is an obvious case for improvement, as I am regularly reminded by local businesses. I therefore fully support the aims of the Alliance."