National Highways has announced that it will not start construction of its £950M A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet scheme as planned due to a legal challenge from Transport Action Network (TAN). Works were due to start this month but a judicial review application being submitted to the High Court will mean they cannot start until at least “early” next year. In a written statement National Highways said: “We are disappointed to let you know that we won’t be starting construction on the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet scheme this month like we had initially planned. “Following our recent public information events we know the improvements are very much wanted by local people, commuters and businesses. We are continuing our surveys of land, water, ecology and finalising the design of junctions and bridges to minimise impact when we start building the road. “Our plans will help transform the region, improving journeys between Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge by bringing communities together and supporting long-term regional growth.” The new dual carriageway, which will link the A1 Black Cat roundabout in Bedfordshire to the A428 Caxton Gibbet in Cambridgeshire was given the green light by former transport secretary Grant Shapps in August. National Highways says it will “fill in the missing link of a dual carriageway on the strategic road network between Milton Keynes and Cambridge, helping drivers save up to an hour-and-a-half on their journeys every week”. Skanska was awarded the construction contract in March 2021, when the cost was expected to be £507M.

TAN is challenging the Scheme “on the Grounds of Biodiversity.

need for the scheme and climate change”. It initially lodged the legal challenge in October. A statement on the campaign group’s fundraiser, which has raised £9,156 of it’s £12,000 goal, says: “With the government doubling down on wanting to build new roads, regardless of whether they make any economic sense or the damage that they do, there has never been a more important time to challenge them. That’s why the government’s hypocrisy in approving high carbon infrastructure, such as new roads, while saying it is committed to tackling climate change needs exposing and stopping.” It is also interrogating the need for the road, which will run in the same corridor as the under-construction East West Railway – although Shapps said there is “uncertainty and lack of detail around the East West Rail project” in his letter granting the development consent order for the A428 improvement.

TAN has Said a Decision on the Legal Challenge is Expected at the Earliest Early 2023.

The A428 scheme is among the 138 projects to be accelerated as part of the government’s Growth Plan 2022. However, TAN said that its inclusion in this list “appears odd” as it is one of the highest carbon emitting schemes in Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2) – the government’s major road investment portfolio for the years 2020-2025. National Highways’ figures submitted as part of its DCO application reveal that carbon emissions from the road’s construction and the extra traffic will total over 3.5Mt. TAN has also questioned the spiralling construction costs – something that has been seen on multiple recent road schemes – “the economic case for the road looks weak,” it said. TAN has previously taken forward legal cases against the government’s RIS2 and the National Policy Statement for National Networks (NSPNN) to the High Court. Following the group’s work, in July 2021 Shapps agreed to review the NSPNN, which was published in 2014, though this process is not expected to be complete until spring 2023 at the earliest. TAN appealed to the high court to suspend the NSPNN while it is under review, but this was thrown out in March this year.