Bunhill: Trucking hell

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The Independent Online
THE thing that makes a lorry driver's life hell, the horror that makes him wonder whether mini-cabbing wouldn't be more fun, is the unexpected low bridge.

At best, it means a long detour, at worst - a new truck. So full marks to the Automobile Association which in December published its AA Trucker's Atlas of Britain, highlighting the 150 most dangerous low bridges in the country.

Among the many roads lovingly plotted in its pages is the A14. It appears as a useful dual carriageway linking East Anglia with the A1, M1 and M6 - perfect for 38-tonners pulling out of Felixstowe for the Midlands and Lancashire.

Just one problem. Between Kettering and the M1, the road does not exist. It peters out into a building site.

Westbound lorry drivers with the misfortune to have relied on the atlas are to be seen driving around aimlessly in deepest Northamptonshire and highest dudgeon.

At the Basingstoke headquarters of the AA - the self- styled fourth emergency service - there are red faces. 'People have been misled,' says Don Squibb, from the cartographic research department. 'The road was supposed to have been opened in 1993.

'Twelve months ago, when we were putting the final touches to the atlas, the Department of Transport gave us a date for opening this A14 extension. Since then it has slipped and slipped. I hear they've just put it back again, to the end of June.'

Needless to say the DoT has an excuse - bad weather. Tarmac Construction has been granted a couple of contract extensions, says a spokeswoman. 'We do plan to announce the opening later this year.'

I hope they ask Don Squibb to cut the ribbon.