A dual carriageway upgrade of the A120 is vital to establish a post-Brexit gateway between the UK and the rest of the world.
With the road serving the international port of Harwich as well as Stansted Airport, Essex County Council says there must be no delay in starting the improvement scheme, from Braintree to the A12, which would bring huge economic benefit to the county.
Current estimates put this at £2.2 billion in gross value through new jobs, business and housing with the dual carriageway dramatically improving journey times and road safety.
Cllr Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader at Essex County Council and Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, said: “An improved A120 has the potential to serve as a post-Brexit gateway between Britain and the rest of the world by providing a fit-for-purpose road to and from Harwich and Stansted as well as improved links to and from Felixstowe port.
“But at present the road is the only stretch of single carriageway in the country with an international port at one end and an international airport at the other.
“Every day businesses have to endure costly delays and deal with unreliable journey times caused by congestion and accidents.
“This is a significant barrier to economic growth, including the potential creation of up to 20,000 new jobs, and we cannot allow that to continue.”
The A120, one of just three east-west routes in the east of England, is seen as a key economic growth corridor in Essex with seven out of ten local businesses expecting to benefit from an upgrade of the road.
Cllr Bentley said: “We must deliver the planned improvements to ensure we can take full advantage of the opportunities that Brexit brings via our ports and airport, particularly as we also look to recover from the economic effects of Covid-19.
“Many of our businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and we must do all we can to help them, including investing in new and upgraded transport infrastructure so they can build for the future.”
The council itself drew up plans for the upgrade of the A120 between Braintree and the A12 with a favoured route from Galleys Corner, near Braintree, joining the A12 just south of Kelvedon.
Highways England is now progressing the proposals after a campaign by MPs, politicians, businesses and road users successfully secured Government funding to fully develop the project.
The campaign saw overwhelming public support for an improvement scheme with four out of five of the 2,795 responses to public consultation agreeing that there was a need to upgrade the A120 to a dual carriageway.
Cllr Bentley said: “I am pleased that there is now a dedicated team at Highways England working towards announcing a preferred route for the road at the end of 2021/early 2022.
“We are giving that team all the support we can, including handing over our work to date, so it can be validated and then progressed as quickly as possible.
“Post-Brexit, it is even more important that we make sure the scheme is in the strongest possible position ahead of a recommendation to the Department for Transport and Transport Minister to move towards actual construction of a fit-for-purpose A120 between Braintree and the A12.”
Meanwhile, Brexit has also re-highlighted the need to upgrade the A120 heading into Harwich from Hare Green with Cllr Bentley calling for early planning of a dual carriageway for this section of the road.
He said: “While I welcome the detailed planning and progress towards implementation of a dual carriageway between Braintree and the A12, we must not forget about the longer term need to upgrade the final stretch of the A120 into Harwich. I hope Brexit and the opportunities it brings will prompt moves towards re-igniting this scheme.”
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
Although Highways England is now progressing the A120 upgrade, Essex County Council continues to provide regular updates. To receive these please register your email address