Booming food and specialist chilled produce haulage firms fear they will be choked by their own success unless the A16 between Spalding and Peterborough is dualled in parts or all of its length.
The road replacing the old A1073 opened four years ago but is already considered at capacity by bosses who pressed their case for a massive upgrade when they met transport minister and South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes in Downing Street.
Food producers and hauliers expect year-on-year growth of 25 per cent plus – meaning roads will be further clogged and inadequate for timed deliveries to the major supermarkets’ regional distribution depots.
A press statement issued by Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Spalding Chamber of Commerce president Phil Scarlett says the MP “agreed to seriously consider dualling parts, if not all of the A16, between Spalding and Peterborough”.
Mr Hayes told the Spalding Guardian he will look at possible improvements – which could include passing places, effectively part-dualling in certain spots – but there’s no guaranteed outcome.
He’s made “an absolute commitment to look at it, an absolute commitment to listen and an absolute commitment to consider different options”, but says there must be “a proper feasibility study which measures cost against effect”.
Mr Hayes said: “I take it very seriously when people raise these things. What I can’t do as a minister, of course, is simply favour my area and click my fingers and say because it’s in South Lincolnshire it must be done tomorrow. I have to do things in a measured, thoughtful and considered way.”
The MP is seeking comments from county highways and wants to know if any A16 upgrade would attract Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership cash.
Mr Scarlett issued an invitation through Mr Hayes for Prime Minister David Cameron to come to South Holland to see how its food industry could be stifled by inadequate roads and the MP has passed that to Mr Cameron’s office.
The district sees more than a million fresh produce truck movements a year and around 37 per cent of all the UK’s fresh produce will travel through South Holland this year.
Mr Scarlett said: “The reality is we have a moment in time to improve the transport infrastructure before the growth clogs up our roads and timed deliveries are not achieved and then the supermarkets and growers will establish operations elsewhere and our business will be strangled and die.”
Trevor Hyde, of produce firm FESA UK and chairman of the Chamber’s Logistics Forum, said the A16 from Spalding to Peterborough was planned as a dual carriageway, but that was scrapped by the last Labour Government, and temperature-controlled distribution businesses will suffer most if the road isn’t improved.