MINISTERS are being urged to consider the case for introducing tolls on sections of the A1 to bring in private money to pay for much-needed improvements.
The CBI business organisation says bottlenecks on the road, for example around Newcastle, need to be addressed.
It believes there could be scope to examine whether private finance could be brought in to pay for parts of the road to be improved.
The CBI is not proposing any specific scheme, but says it is worth examining given the pressure on public finances. The suggestion forms part of a package of proposals to help kick-start growth that the CBI wants Chancellor George Osborne to consider ahead of his mini-budget later this month.
It has suggested measures to boost investment in infrastructure, stimulate the housing market, support energy intensive industries, reform the electricity markets and tackle youth unemployment. CBI director-general John Cridland said: “The Government must stick to its plans to bring down the deficit to maintain confidence in the UK’s public finances and keep the cost of borrowing down, but now is the time to revitalise its growth strategy and create a ‘Plan A plus’.
“In uncertain economic times, confidence falters, investment grinds to a halt and job opportunities fade. This package of measures taken together could make a real difference to the economy, creating jobs and boosting growth in the years ahead.”
He added: “The Government should introduce road-tolling and bring forward 10 major road infrastructure projects, getting spades in the ground, improving congestion and creating new jobs.”
In its latest quarterly economic forecast, the CBI predicts that unemployment will continue rising next year, peaking at 2.75 million in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Inflation is expected to fall back from the first quarter next year onwards, as this year’s VAT rise drops out of the equation, reaching the Bank of England’s target rate of 2% a year later. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, director of the dual the A1 campaign, said: “That is a very interesting proposal that they raise and if it was going to put the sort of money that was needed to link London with Edinburgh with a major road system we should look at it.”
But she stressed local residents should be consulted and any detailed proposals carefully considered, not least because of potential concerns about the lack of alternative non-tolled routes.
Jeff Reid, Liberal Democrat leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “It obviously wouldn’t be my option. It would be interesting to see more detailed proposals.”