Plans to charge hauliers up to £3 for using the A14 amount to a “toll tax”, leaving the region’s haulage operators at a competitive disadvantage, according to business leaders.
The warning from Suffolk Chambers of Commerce came as it launched a campaign against the plans to construct a toll road in Cambridgeshire.
This is in addition to a campaign recently launched by the Road Haulage Association (pictured) and an e-Petition by Suffolk businessman Tim Meadows-Smith.
The charging proposals were also dealt a blow by Labour’s transport minister, who cast doubt on whether it would pursue the project if it gained power in 2015.
Suffolk county council’s cabinet member for transport Graham Newman said the toll was “a tax on Suffolk and Suffolk businesses, especially our ports and logistics businesses” and that the county stood to be harmed the most: “In Norfolk you can use the A47 and in Essex you can go a bit further round the M25 and up the A1 to avoid it,” he said.
“The argument is that you will save half an hour in traffic jams, which is costing logistics operators £30-£40, so a £3 toll is much cheaper. But the issue is that the others haven’t got to pay for it.”
Maria Eagle, shadow transport minister, said Labour would look at whether tolling was the right way forward if it won the General Election in two years’ time: “I don't think they are going to have got very far with it by the time we get to an election, so it gives us an opportunity to have a close look at what the right way forward is,” she said.
Deben Transport’s MD Paul Dawson has already complained that the toll could cost his business more than £144,000: “With the amount of journeys we do, at £3 a time, 60 to 100 journeys a day, multiply it up to 240 working days a year; that’s a fortune.”