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Britain's First Local Authority Trunk Road Inquiry Begins

The first inquiry in Britain into the operation of a major trunk route is set to get underway today, to review the present and likely future performance of the A12 trunk road in Essex.

The A12 Inquiry was commissioned by Essex County Council in February 2008. Chaired by a former head of the Department for Transport Sir David Rowlands, with two leading transport experts and a former Under-Secretary of State, the council claims the inquiry to be the first of its kind in Britain into a major trunk route.

The inquiry's stated remit will be to review the present and likely future performance of the A12 trunk road in Essex and to make recommendations which will enhance the level of service to all of its users including improvements to information, emergency arrangements and capacity.

The A12 is owned and operated by the Highways Agency and runs for 121 miles between London and East Anglia, although the government has recently devolved responsibility for the upgrading of the road to the East of England Regional Assembly.

The inquiry will look at ways of alleviating current congestion levels taking evidence from those responsible for the running of the road and clearing accidents among others.

Congestion in Essex costs £280 million a year with a large proportion of that congestion occurring on the A12. 42,000 homes are planned to be built by 2021 along the route under the government's regional strategy along with A12, and two of Britain's biggest ports at Felixstowe and Harwich are set to be expanded significantly.

Chair of the Inquiry, Sir David Rowlands said: "I am delighted to be announcing today the membership and remit for my inquiry into the A12.

"This inquiry is a first of its kind in the UK and I commend Essex County Council for commissioning it to find a way this major trunk route can better serve its residents.

"Together with my colleagues Professor Stephen Glaister, Dr David Quarmby and Lord Whitty, I will now carry out a thorough investigation of the A12 with a view to recommending a way forward to relieve congestion in the future."

Leader of Essex County Council, Lord Hanningfield said: "Even though the Highways Agency is responsible for running A12 I am ashamed to have Britain's worst road in Essex. It is a priority of this council to ensure it is improved as a way of delivering a better quality of life to our residents and businesses.

"This inquiry into the A12 has never been more timely with over forty thousand homes due to be built along the corridor and the rapid expansion of two of Britain's biggest ports nearby putting the road under more pressure than ever.

"Sir David is perhaps uniquely qualified to look at this issue having run the government department which is responsible for the road. With some of the country's pre-eminent experts in this field on board as well, I am confident a report will be delivered which will outline what action can be taken to sort the mess out. "

The closing date for written evidence and comments from the public will be 19 May and the final report will be released in July.

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