The solution to the notorious single carriageway section of the A428 between the A1, Black Cat roundabout and Caxton Gibbet, one of the poorest standard and most congested truck roads in England, is an upgrading to 'expressway' standard.
That's the message from the Transport Forum of England's Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance, who met earlier this month (on October 14) to discuss the growing problem.
Although the Government's current road investment strategy includes plans to deliver improvements in 2020, the Forum's advice to the Department for Transport is that it should make a commitment to properly upgrade the nine-mile section to full expressway standards.
Chairman of the Strategic Transport Forum and Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Heather Smith said it was the only long-term solution capable of dealing with the congestion, maintenance and safety issues that have plagued the section for years.
Mrs 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 Strategic Alliance's transport statement – 'Planning for Growth' – highlights the importance of improved east-west connectivity to support our economy: an issue that is being examined in greater detail by the National Infrastructure Commission. 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.
"Both the Government and the Strategic Alliance share the ambition to create an expressway standard route between Oxford and Cambridge. While the Government has identified the need for a solution, the strategic importance of resolving this bottleneck means that the sooner we have a long-term solution being delivered the better.
"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."
Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson said, "Bedford Borough residents and businesses who rely on this section of road know how completely unsuitable it is. A piecemeal improvement here just won't cut it – a proper upgrade with expressway standard dual carriageway in both directions is essential.
"If the Government makes the right choice, it will mean investing just once and turning an obstacle to economic growth in this area into a major boost for both the local and wider economy."
Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Councillor Steve Count, said: "Cambridgeshire is vital for the UK economy and international trade but this, and the prosperity of our neighbouring counties, is threatened by transport links that are no longer fit for purpose. We welcome the investment that Government is making into transport locally and we are also doing our bit in being innovative in bringing forward road, rail and other public transport measures.
"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."