A11/A47 'unfit' for 21st century traffic

Ministers were yesterday urged to act now to upgrade the region's key road links - as a report warns that the government will not be able to meet its own housing growth targets if nothing is done.

Ministers have been urged to act now to upgrade the region's key road links - as a report warns that the government will not be able to meet its own housing growth targets if nothing is done.

Norfolk MPs Henry Bellingham, Keith Simpson and Christopher Fraser made the case to junior transport minister Tom Harris to upgrade the A11 and A47 during a special Commons debate.

It comes as a joint report presented to the A47 Alliance from four councils - Fenland, King's Lynn and West Norfolk, Breckland and Broadland, - claiming that doing nothing would hamper growth targets over the next 20 years.

While Green campaigners believe better public transport links are the answer and more road building will worsen the problem, Mr Bellingham warned that Norfolk ground to a halt whenever there were roadworks or delays on the A47, while the lack of capacity would hit plans to deliver thousands of extra homes in the county.

A report by the East of England Development this year said that dualling the A11 was worth £600m to the regional economy.

Mr Fraser, said a recent fatal crash on the A47 in his South-West Norfolk constituency graphically illustrated the wider problem that the roads infrastructure in Norfolk is unsafe and unfit for 21st century traffic.

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“Norfolk is the only county in England which does not have a dual carriageway link to the national trunk road system,” he said. “The bottleneck of the A11 leaving Thetford is now a national disgrace, and its upgrade should be treated as a matter of national importance.”

Mr Simpson accused the government of creating a “chicken and egg” syndrome by failing to match roads spending to housing growth.

“The fact that the A47 and A11 were downgraded several years ago is ludicrous,” he said. “Road improvements should be a priority not slipping down the scale. The irony is that in some instances housing targets won't be achieved, but of course they won't until the road is improved. It's the chicken and egg syndrome.”

The report said that there were already capacity problems around Wisbech causing Highways Agency to object to Fenland's housing plans. Housing and job growth in Dereham, King's Lynn, Swaffham, Necton and Narborough would also hit traffic levels. There were also bottleneck problems at the Longwater Lane and Broadland Business Park junctions, near Norwich. Yarmouth's outer harbour would also cause

extra congestion on the Acle Straight.

Adrian Gunson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for planning and transportation and chairman of the Alliance, said: “The government cannot expect Norfolk and Fenland to absorb

tens of thousands of new houses, and the associated employment, unless the proper infrastructure is in place.

“The A47 is a critical route and already under great pressure. Quite apart from tragedy of the loss of life and serious injury in accidents, any sort of incident on these single carriageway stretches of the A47 has a serious effect on travellers, businesses and surrounding communities. This is happening month after month, year after year. The cost is probably incalculable, yet many of these accidents would not have happened if the road had been dualled.”