Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
MPs have been told to take their seats for an autumn A47 announcement in the clearest signal yet an upgrade to the trunk road could be given the green light later this year.
MPs have been told to book their place for the autumn statement in the strongest signal yet an upgrade to the trunk road could be given the green light later this year.
Roads minister Robert Goodwill said yesterday he recognised the economic case to improve the road, saying the government was committed to identifying and funding a solution to its long-standing problems.
He made the comments during a 90 minute debate in Westminster where Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire MPs spelt out why money needed to be spent on dualling the road.
While Mr Goodwill confirmed that there would be “some degree of success” for all six shortlisted projects, he was not clear how extensive the improvements would be.
Broadland MP Keith Simpson told the Westminster Hall debate that the lack of capacity “has had a real drag on current business opportunities, with delays and missed opportunities, especially for new investment in the area”.
“Without a commitment to investment in the A47, other Government priorities for our part of East Anglia will not be met,” he added.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said: “I hope that the Minister has heard enough to convince him that Norfolk is not a sleepy backwater, but a major centre of world-class innovation in a variety of different disciplines relating to agriculture, science and engineering.”
North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said the dualling was “very patchy” making it an inherently dangerous road.
Questioned by Mr Simpson about the timetable of the feasibility study, the transport minister said: “I suggest that he makes sure he gets a place for the autumn statement, to hear what the Chancellor says.”
The A47 corridor was added to a list of five feasibility studies identified in last year’s budget last summer. It also includes the A12 between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
The A47 Alliance, a coalition of MPs, councils and the New Anglia local enterprise partnership, has produced its “A47 Strategic Route: Gateway to Growth”, which is forming part of the study.
Mr Simpson said: “The study is not just the usual wish list that we frequently get from these kinds of organisations; as far as we can tell, it is a well argued business case and has been recognised as such by the Department for Transport.”
“Over my 17 years as a member of parliament, I have seen many schemes relating to the A47 drop off the list of priorities, either because other schemes have come further up the list or because governments have run out of money. Usually, there has then been a patchwork approach to mending the A47, addressing narrow local problems. Worthy as that is, it is not the solution for the year 2014-15.”
“If, as occasionally happens, there is ever a major accident on the east-west A47 in Norfolk and on the A11, Norfolk literally grinds to a halt. We need to bear that in mind,” he added.
Mr Goodwill said: “The A47 is an important trunk road that connects Norfolk with the midlands, and improving it has been considered by successive Governments. I recognise the strategic importance of the corridor and therefore of finding solutions to its problems.”.
See tomorrow’s EDP for full story