Wednesday, January 8, 2014
A campaign to get the A47 extended has been launched, after top politicians and business leaders revealed an ambitious scheme to connect the road from Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft.
For decades, there have been calls for a third river crossing to tackle congestion in Lowestoft - but a lack of cash has always held back such a scheme.
The hope is that, by reclassifying the A12 as part of the A47, that will unlock the funding which could finally bring a solution.
In June 2007, the then Waveney MP Bob Blizzard launched a petition for a third crossing over Lake Lothing, to ease congestion, It attracted more than 12,000 signatures.
Two years later, the then transport minister, Sadiq Khan, agreed to Mr Blizzard’s request that an Economic Impact Assessment be carried out by the Highways Agency. The agency produced a report in 2009 – the Lake Lothing Third Crossing Feasibility Study – which said the crossing would cost nearly £38m.
And, last month, Suffolk County Council agreed to commission a feasibility study into the possibility.
Businessman Peter Colby also has plans to build a £30m tidal barrage crossing across Lake Lothing.
He says, as well as improving Lowestoft’s transport system it would protect the town from rising sea levels, thereby opening up large swathes of derelict dockside land for redevelopment.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond is to be lobbied to agree to the extension later this month.
The idea is that an extension of the A47 - by getting the existing A12 or the planned spine road through Lowestoft reclassified as part of the trunk road - will be a shot in the arm for tourism and businesses in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.
Momentum over the need for changes to the A47 has been growing over the past 12 months or so.
In November 2012, a new business case was unveiled spelling out the reasons why the vital stretch of carriagway deserves investment.
Dualling the entire 105-mile road would, consultants commissioned by Norfolk County Council say, could lead to 30-minute reduction in journey times along the length of the road from Peterborough to Great Yarmouth.
But, rather than calling for the whole road to be dualled, which the government is unlikely to bankroll in the current economic climate, the plan has identified specific pinch-points along the road which consultants say could be targeted for improvements.
Key areas include the Acle Straight, North Tuddenham to Easton stretch, and the Harwick junction at King’s Lynn.
The report states: “In short, as it is currently operating, the A47 is at best a brake on the economic growth for the whole county, including parts of Cambridgeshire.
“At worst, it hinders investment, adds to business and commuter costs, causes disproportionate accident and safety issues, and contributes to the ‘peripheral’ image of the county.”
Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee, Waveney District Council leader Colin Law, county council cabinet member for roads and transport Graham Newman and Waveney MP Peter Aldous met at Lowestoft Town Hall yesterday to discuss the plans.
Last year, the transport minister Stephen Hammond said that the A47 was among the top six routes in the country that will be looked at by the Highways Agency and was in the running to receive funding between 2015 and 2020.
The hope is that, by linking the A47 to Lowestoft as a trunk road, the funding could help meet the costs of a new river crossing.
Council bosses also say extending trunk road access from Great Yarmouth to the south shore of Lake Lothing in Lowestoft would help attract even greater benefits for the two towns - from the planned £50bn worth of investment in the southern North Sea over the next 10 years.
The meeting follows a decision taken by the county council last month to commission the comprehensive feasibility study into building a third crossing over Lake Lothing - as laid out in the Lowestoft Transport & Infrastructure Prospectus.
Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “Suffolk County Council, Waveney District Council and Peter Aldous MP are fully committed to resolving Lowestoft’s traffic problems and connecting the town to the A47 is a fresh and potentially decisive way of tackling the third river crossing issue.
“We want to see the A47 improved and Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth linked in a way that will genuinely benefit the town and the county. We will be pushing for this to be high up on Stephen Hammond’s priority list.
“Alleviating congestion in Lowestoft will help to regenerate the town and make it a better place for people who live, work and visit here.”
Colin Law, leader of Waveney District Council, said: “I am absolutely determined to explore every opportunity to improve transport links in Lowestoft and a plan to extend the A47 could be the answer.
“The major stumbling block for a new road crossing in Lowestoft has always been the cost and the difficulty we would face securing the government funding needed to make this project a reality.
“However, this fresh approach might enable us to unlock the money we would need. I know how important this is to the people of Lowestoft and we will leave no stone unturned.”