YEARS of consultations and debate over where the new A120 dual carriageway would go between Braintree and Marks Tey appear to have hit the buffers after the scheme was shelved.

The East of England Regional Assembly and East of England Development Agency scrapped £500million project, describing it as “simply unaffordable”.

While some claimed plans to build a new section of road would have devastated the countryside, others say it would have brought major economic benefits.

But, both sides appear to be united over one thing – the existing road is not good enough and something must be done about the congestion.

However, when asked about alternative schemes and the way ahead, the Highways Agency had little to offer.

Braintree Council leader Graham Butland said: “Eventually, something will have to be done, because traffic will come to a grinding halt as it did at the Army and Navy roundabout in Chelmsford 20 years ago.

“The impact it will have on the Braintree district over the next 20 years will be quite catastrophic.

“How are we going to attract businesses into Braintree if they can’t get in and out?”

The A120 is considered to be of regional, rather than national importance – despite being classed as part of the trans-European network – and so could only attract funding from the regional government pot.

A spokesman for the East of England Development Agency said: “To maintain the economic competitiveness of this region, it is essential that we have an effective and reliable transport network.

“To this end, the development agency commissioned the Transport Economic Evidence Study.

“This showed congestion across the six counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk already costs businesses and residents over £1billion per annum.

“Unless significant and immediate action is taken, this figure is likely to rise and the cost of congestion in the east of England will cost the economy £2billion a year by 2021.”

A study commissioned in October for the development agency to discuss the economic impact of the scheme recommended pursuing the project because there was “a very strong business case”.

Its main conclusions were: l Dualling the road could save road users at least £725million in time and operating costs l 80 per cent of traffic travelling between Braintree and Marks Tey mainly consists of people going to and from Colchester and Tendring. The rest head to and from Suffolk l The improved dual carriageway between Stansted and Dunmow has just over double the amount of daily and peak hour traffic that uses the Braintree to Marks Tey stretch l A small proportion of goods traffic to Harwich and Felixstowe use the route, but improving the A120 could become an alternative for traffic currently using the A12 and A14, congestion would be reduced and journey times would be quicker.

The report concluded: “The time savings caused by the duallling would substantially increase the attractiveness of the corridor to traffic in the region.

“The A120 will carry a substantially increased volume of traffic, much of which will be longer distance, attracted from the A12 and A14 corridors.

“There will be a substantial increase in traffic from Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, London and the rest of the country using the route to access the Haven Gateway”

After years of talking and stalling, it still remains unclear what road the highways chiefs will follow now.

One thing for sure is that money is tight, and they will need to find a lot if the scheme they wanted is ever to be resurrected.