£600m dual A11 windfall

East Anglia's economy would reap a £600m windfall if final dualling of the A11 went ahead.That is the finding of a major study published today which seeks to convince ministers why they should find the £100m needed to dual the remaining nine mile stretch of road between Thetford and Fiveways at Barton Mills.

East Anglia's economy would reap a £600m windfall if final dualling of the A11 went ahead.

That is the finding of a major study published today which seeks to convince ministers why they should find the £100m needed to dual the remaining nine mile stretch of road between Thetford and Fiveways at Barton Mills.

With the region's key road and rail links to Norfolk groaning under the weight of increased commuter numbers - and with more than 78,000 new homes earmarked for the county - pressure is again mounting for the government to go the extra mile and reverse years of historic underinvestment in transport.

The New Year saw thousands of rail passengers forced on to buses when engineering work at Liverpool Street station failed to be completed on time. A stretch of the A47 was forced to close last week, just days after it emerged that dualling had been quietly dropped from the EU's list of transport priorities.

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Today's study was jointly commissioned by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda), Norfolk County Council and the Government Office for the East of England (GO-East) to evaluate the wider economic impacts of dualling the A11 between the Fiveways Junction and Thetford.

Carried out by Atkins Transport Planning it takes its lead from the transport study by Sir Rod Eddington commissioned by Gordon Brown, which concluded that tackling Britain's transport bottlenecks would bring the greatest economic reward at the lowest cost the national purse.

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The project could generate an estimated £135m of wider economic benefits, including significant productivity benefits to firms in Norwich and Thetford.

There would be £558m resulting from time savings for road users and £98m from reduced accidents.

“The total productivity benefits will be strongly concentrated on Thetford, Norwich and Yarmouth, with benefits also spread between other districts in Norfolk and elsewhere in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire,” the report said. “Tackling the remaining bottleneck on the A11 corridor will boost confidence among businesses in Norwich, which could help generate interest from investors from outside the region. This will help create the conditions for delivering new housing and employment sites in the city.”

But ministers will still need to be persuaded to support the scheme ahead of their current preference for adding an extra lane between the M25 and Stansted. There could also be widespread opposition from environmentalists who fear dualling could do more harm than good in the longer term.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council: “This study reinforces what many business people and councillors have been saying for 30 years, that there will be vast economic benefits to Norfolk in dualling the A11. Indeed the last stretch between the Fiveways junction and Thetford will bring benefits some six times the cost of dualling the road. Clearly we shall be using this study to press for the urgent dualling of this stretch of road to create economic growth and prevent some of the human suffering caused through deaths and injuries on this remaining stretch of single carriageway.”

Norwich South MP Charles Clarke, last year teamed up with West Suffolk MP Richard Spring to push for dualling to be brought forward, said the report was further evidence to act now.

“The report makes an absolutely compelling case that the future economic prosperity of Norfolk and Norwich depends on excellent rail and road infrastructure links to the rest of the country of which the A11 is probably the most important example,” he said. “I intend to continue to take what action I can to ensure that this transport infrastructure is completed.

“The big expenses on the roads are in the motorway system - if you put an extra lane on the M1 that's unbelievably expensive,” he added. “The proposal to put an extra lane between the M25 and Stansted would cost £700m - I think that's unnecessary compared to £100m for dualling the A11.

“I don't think there's any really serious congestion between London and Stansted, whereas dualling the A11 would make a major difference.

Later this year Eeda is to look at how improving links such as rail travel between Norwich and London, and westwards to Peterborough and beyond as well as dualling the A47 will all reap significant benefits to commuters, businesses and jobs.

In a separate move, the East of England Regional Assembly is about to appoint consultants to look at the best ways of moving freight goods in and out of Norfolk.

Andy Summers, senior transport project manager at Eeda said Norwich, said the study would help make the case for dualling.

“Backed up by hard evidence Eeda can, with its partners, support proposals to government that will tackle traffic congestion, get the region moving and help businesses succeed in a competitive global marketplace,” he said. “The recent Eddington report on transport showed that strategic and prioritised investment in the transport infrastructure, particularly at key pinch-points, can help businesses be more competitive and increase productivity. Investment in the transport network is key to the economic success of the region and the country.”

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