Haven't we been here before? MPs to take minister along A47 - again
PUBLISHED: 11:09 03 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:09 03 July 2014
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On hearing that a transport minister is to drive the A47 to see first-hand what drives the region's motorists to distraction, you could be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu.
Just eight months ago, roads minister Stephen Hammond was taken along the entire route from Great Yarmouth to Peterborough so the area’s MPs could show him exactly why the road urgently needs dualling.
But with Mr Hammond moving to a different role just weeks later in a government reshuffle, it is now the turn of his successor Robert Goodwill to take to the road in a visit due next Friday, July 4.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham admitted “there was a loss of momentum” as a result of the ministerial changeover – but said: “Now we’re putting that right.
“We have a new minister and it is essential we keep up the pressure.
“It was disappointing the minister we worked so closely with moved but I don’t think that time with him was wasted. We have also been briefing and talking to officials and have changed the attitude in the Department for Transport.”
MPs including Keith Simpson, Simon Wright and Brandon Lewis will join Mr Goodwill for parts of the route that affect their constituencies, so they can show him the problems drivers face and make the case for the economic benefits.
How long the journey will take, organisers say, is uncertain – due mainly to the unpredictable delays and traffic on the road.
But the fact the visit is, in effect, a repeat of Mr Hammond’s trip in October last year could leave many motorists asking what has changed –something Mr Bellingham said was a “fair question”.
Toby Coke, chairman of the A47 Alliance – who said yesterday he was not even aware of the visit until told by the EDP – said: “Quite honestly, what’s the point in driving down the thing? MPs can fully explain to him what the problems are. It is a waste of fuel.
“Rather than having a jolly driving down the road, MPs need to stand up in the House of Commons and say that instead of shifting vast quantities of money overseas, we should be spending money on infrastructure in this country.”
But South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said: “It is good news Robert Goodwill is coming. All Norfolk MPs have been lobbying successive roads ministers to ensure they understand the significance of this.
“Toby Coke knows what the problems are. However I know from my experience on any issue that you can stand looking at maps until you are blue in the face – it is no substitute for getting out there and seeing it for yourself on the ground.”
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who has organised the visit, said: “I am delighted that the roads minister – the third since we launched our campaign in 2010 – has accepted my invitation to visit next week.
“All the MPs from Lowestoft through to Peterborough will be showing him why the A47 is a national artery which needs to be unblocked.
“This is the next step in our campaign towards securing the commitment from the chancellor in the Autumn Statement that this road will finally get the upgrade that it has long deserved.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss added: “I think it is fantastic that the minister is driving the length of the A47. I believe it shows real commitment by him and the government to fully understand the different issues along the road.”
What do you think? Write, giving your full contact details, to: EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk
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