With Christmas approaching, my thoughts have turned to visiting family and friends over the holidays.
Life in 2016 means that more and more of us live further away from our loved ones than we may have done in generations past. Using modern technology it is possible to keep in touch by phone, social media or Skype. But there is no substitute for meeting up in person – and that means getting in the car and making that journey. And at the very time of the year when many of us are taking to the roads, it is also the time of the year when things are potentially their most dangerous. The weather often makes driving conditions tricky with fog, rain or snow. And although drink driving is thankfully nowadays a rarity, sadly it still does happen – often with tragic consequences.
Although it is impossible to control the weather, or the actions of irresponsible drivers, one thing I can help with is the state of our roads in West Suffolk. I recently met with the Minister for Transport, John Hayes and representatives from Highways England to discuss a few of the problematic roads and roundabouts in the constituency with a view to improving both the traffic congestion as well as the safety aspects of the roads.
The Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills has been beset with delays and accidents. With the withdrawal of the USAF Mildenhall in 2022 and the proposed planned development of the site, this is an area that needs to be addressed quickly. A study will be undertaken immediately to examine the case for traffic lights at Fiveways as well as to look at the current lineage and signage there.
The A14/A11 and the A14/A142 junctions were also discussed at the meeting. There is no right turn from the A14 onto the A11 and no left turn from the A14 to the A11. This results in rat running through nearby villages that were not meant to have the kinds of traffic levels that they do, with the resulting outcome of accidents and delays. These problems may be dealt with as part of the proposed A14 upgrade.
I co-chair an action group for improving the A1307, the road that runs from Haverhill to Cambridge. We met for the first time in October and we have another meeting scheduled for this week. I have long campaigned for the dualling of this road and with the action group’s interest and involvement we hope to affect change. The A1307 is single carriage in some places and a dual carriageway in others. Accidents happen when drivers overtake to avoid getting stuck behind slow moving traffic and then have to brake sharply when the road becomes a single carriageway. I made the roads Minister aware of this diabolical situation and that, in my view, the only long term solution is the dualling of the entire stretch of the road.
Currently the average UK motorist spends 4 working days stuck in traffic congestion, with the figure set to rise to 18 working days by 2030. Over the next 16 years traffic congestion will cost the economy £300 billion. A well-planned and efficient road network is vital to the economic well-being as well as the physical well-being of the country. We are incredibly fortunate to live in beautiful West Suffolk, but our quality of life along with our financial successes are at risk if the roads are not improved. I will keep campaigning and pushing until we get the necessary changes and improvements to make travel as quick and safe on them as possible.
If you would like to contact me about this issue or any other matter, or you feel that there is a problem I could help you with, please do get in touch. I am always keen to hear from constituents and will do my best to help. I can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01638 576 692.
I wish all of you a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year.
-- Matthew Hancock is MP for West Suffolk and Minister for digital and culture