LABOUR has categorically denied that it intends to delay improvements to the A27 in order to pay for a freeze on rail prices.
Speculation mounted today that the party’s planned one-year freeze on rail prices would be funded by delaying the £350 million project for improvements at Worthing and Lancing and an Arundel bypass.
But Worthing West candidate Jim Deen said the policy was ‘fully-funded’ and the party would not put the brakes on improvements.
He conceded, however, that a short review would be conducted into the viability of the Arundel bypass to further gauge opinions.
He said: “We can categorically deny that will be the case.
“Labour intends to go ahead with all the works that have been designated for the A27 with one exception - the Arundel bypass.
“It’s been probably one of the most controversial aspects for some time because it is down to cut through the national park and raises a number of issues Labour will seek to resolve with local people and groups before it will be given the go ahead.
“It will be a short review of that element of the design.”
Concerns were first raised by Simon Kirby, the Conservative candidate for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven, who described being ‘outraged’ by the announcement, which he fears could eventually lead to the project being scrapped if a Labour Government gains power after May’s election.
He said: “Everybody thinks the work is about to start. I just think it’s an example of the Labour Party thinking that the South East and Sussex is not important.”
He called the project ‘essential’ and said the Conservatives would fund the works as well as promising a five-year freeze to rail fares.
East Worthing and Shoreham Conservative candidate Tim Loughton, who was part of the A27 Action campaign, said it was a ‘worrying’ development.
He said the improvements at Arundel must also go ahead to avoid shunting the problems down the road.
He said: “This is a really worrying development and the last thing we need, as the whole thing was shelved under the last Labour government.
“For the first time since the 90s we have got this on the agenda and it would be a slap in the face for the people who have campaigned for so long to get things sorted out.”
Confirming the party’s stance on the matter, a Labour spokesman added: “Labour is today saying that we intend to go ahead with the works on the A27 with the exception of the specific Arundel bypass – this is due to cut through a National Park and so raises a number of environmental issues that need to be resolved before we give this one section of road improvement the go ahead.
“Instead of an uncosted Tory plan they have no idea how they will pay for, Labour will deliver a fully funded rail fares freeze for one year.”