UPGRADING the A120 is vital to establish a post-Brexit gateway between the UK and other countries, a council boss says.

Essex County Council says there must be no delay in starting the improvement scheme for the A120 which serves Harwich International Port as well as Stansted Airport.

The scheme, from Braintree to the A12, is set to bring a huge economic benefit to the country.

Estimates put this at £2.2 billion in gross value through new jobs, business and housing with the dual carriageway improving journey times.

Kevin Bentley, deputy leader at Essex County Council, said: “An improved A120 has the potential to serve as a post-Brexit gateway between Britain and the rest of the world by providing a fit-for-purpose road to and from Harwich and Stansted.

“But at present the road is the only stretch of single carriageway in the country with an international port at one end and an international airport at the other.

“Every day businesses have to endure costly delays and deal with unreliable journey times caused by congestion and accidents.”

“This is a significant barrier to economic growth, including the potential creation of up to 20,000 new jobs, and we cannot allow that to continue.”

The A120, one of just three east-west routes in the east of England, is seen as a key economic growth corridor in Essex with seven out of ten local businesses expecting to benefit from an upgrade of the road.

Mr Bentley said: “We must deliver the planned improvements to ensure we can take full advantage of the opportunities that Brexit brings via our ports and airport, particularly as we also look to recover from the economic effects of Covid-19.

“Many of our businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and we must do all we can to help them, including investing in new and upgraded transport infrastructure so they can build for the future.”

The council drew up plans for the upgrade with a favoured route from Galleys Corner, near Braintree, joining the A12 south of Kelvedon.

Highways England is now progressing the proposals after a campaign secured Government funding to fully develop the project.

The campaign saw overwhelming public support for an improvement scheme with four out of five of the 2,795 responses to public consultation agreeing that there was a need to upgrade the A120 to a dual carriageway.

Mr Bentley said: “I am pleased that there is now a dedicated team at Highways England working towards announcing a preferred route for the road at the end of 2021/early 2022.

“We are giving that team all the support we can, including handing over our work to date, so it can be validated and then progressed as quickly as possible."

Brexit has also re-highlighted the need to upgrade the A120 heading into Harwich from Hare Green with Mr Bentley calling for early planning of a dual carriageway for this section of the road.

He said: “While I welcome the detailed planning and progress towards implementation of a dual carriageway between Braintree and the A12, we must not forget about the longer term need to upgrade the final stretch of the A120 into Harwich. I hope Brexit and the opportunities it brings will prompt moves towards re-igniting this scheme.”