Plans to enhance travel, improve the environment, boost the economy, create jobs and allow good quality housing have moved a giant step closer after a top level meeting about the A120.
A major upgrade of this important road between Colchester and Braintree is now in the critical stages of preparation for Government to make a final decision.
The long-awaited improvement scheme, which is predicted to bring a £2.2 billion economic boost to the region, is being taken forward by Highways England after the Government announced funding to progress the project earlier this year.
Priti Patel, MP for Witham, who is at the forefront of the campaign for the new road, said: “It is good news that the Government is aware of the importance of dualling the A120 but there is more work to do to ensure a fully-funded scheme can be delivered this decade.
“The overwhelming support for the A120 has helped get the proposals this far and we need to continue to work together and collectively to push the A120 even higher up the Government’s agenda.”
The virtual meeting of MPs, local politicians, business and community representatives heard a preferred route for the dual carriageway could be announced at the end of next year.
Cllr Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader of Essex County Council, who hosted the progress meeting, said: “I am pleased we now have the combined weight of the Department for Transport and Highways England progressing delivery of this much-needed scheme, which I now very much hope will become a reality in the next three or four years.
“The A120 upgrade is vital to solve issues from congestion, delays, poor resilience and safety to poor air quality and noise from lorries in local villages. Plus, the scheme is equally important to bring about business expansion, new jobs and housing.”
The proposed dual carriageway, from Braintree to the A12, is predicted to trigger 20,000 new jobs, a £350 million benefit to freight traffic and journey time savings running to a value of approximately £1.2 billion.
Businesses, attending the meeting, re-emphasised the importance of the new road, particularly as part of their recovery from Covid-19 and post-Brexit.
Trevor Scott, Managing Director of local worldwide logistics company Simarco and a Director of Success Essex Connected Economy, said: “The business benefits of an upgraded A120 are widely known and we must do all we can to bring them about.
“In Essex businesses have been hit hard by Covid-19 and the younger generation has been particularly badly affected by job losses. It is essential to build back economic resilience and the A120 can be a key part of that.”
David Burch, Director of Policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce, said the importance of the A120 for businesses could not be understated. He said: “The road network is good if you are travelling north-south but heading east-west it is dire. We know the hold-ups our members experience and the effect it has, not just in terms of time but also money and business lost.
“We want to build back after Covid-19 and Brexit and we need to have a modern efficient road network across the county to do that.”
In March 2020, the government announced details of its latest Road Investment Strategy (RIS2), covering April 2020 to March 2025.
The strategy outlines how the government will be investing £27.4 billion in maintaining, improving and building capacity in the strategic road network during the 2020-25 period, including £2.2 billion for the east of England.
The document also looks further ahead and includes a list of ‘pipeline projects’ which will undergo more analysis and design work ahead of being considered for potential future investment.
The A120 Braintree to A12 was identified as a pipeline project and will now be progressed by Highways England.
For more information, email A120braintreetoA12@highwaysengland.co.uk