POLITICIANS insist there is still plenty of work to be done on plans for a new dualled A120.

But County Hall hopes a final decision on where the new road will be built could be made by the end of next year.

Essex Highways' preferred route would see the notoriously busy road connecting Braintree and Colchester moved south west.

The A120 would be rerouted at Galleys Corner in Braintree and run south down to junction 23 of the A12 at Kelvedon.

Both the Department for Transport and Highways England, which maintains the road, have yet to endorse Essex Highways' preferred route.

But County Hall says both authorities are now working hard on plans for the new road and insists the project is now in the "critical stages of preparation".

Essex County Council's highways boss Kevin Bentley said: "I am pleased we now have the combined weight of the Department for Transport and Highways England progressing delivery of this much-needed scheme, which I now very much hope will become a reality in the next three or four years.

“The A120 upgrade is vital to solve issues from congestion, delays, poor resilience and safety to poor air quality and noise from lorries in local villages.

"Plus, the scheme is equally important to bring about business expansion, new jobs and housing."

Witham MP Priti Patel, who has long campaigned for a new A120, added: “It is good news that the Government is aware of the importance of dualling the A120 but there is more work to do to ensure a fully-funded scheme can be delivered this decade.

“The overwhelming support for the A120 has helped get the proposals this far and we need to continue to work together and collectively to push the A120 even higher up the Government’s agenda.”

The proposed dual carriageway is predicted to create 20,000 new jobs, bring an extra £2.2 billion to the economy and cut journey times for motorists.

Funding to work on proposals for a new A120 was included in the Government’s five-year road investment strategy announced in the spring.

But cash for the construction phase of the project was not included and instead has been earmarked for the next investment strategy between 2025 and 2030.

Business leaders across Essex are calling for the road to be built as soon as possible.

Trevor Scott, Managing Director of local worldwide logistics company Simarco and a Director of Success Essex Connected Economy, said: “The business benefits of an upgraded A120 are widely known and we must do all we can to bring them about.

“In Essex businesses have been hit hard by Covid-19 and the younger generation has been particularly badly affected by job losses. It is essential to build back economic resilience and the A120 can be a key part of that.”

David Burch, Director of Policy at Essex Chambers of Commerce, added: “The road network is good if you are travelling north-south but heading east-west it is dire. We know the hold-ups our members experience and the effect it has, not just in terms of time but also money and business lost.

“We want to build back after Covid-19 and Brexit and we need to have a modern efficient road network across the county to do that.”