Shadow roads minister questions if government is delivering “plan of action” for A47
Shadow roads minister Richard Burden told MPs he was not convinced that the government was actually going to deliver the A47, claiming the government did not have a “plan of action”.
Speaking in the debate in Westminster he called for clarity about what would actually happen in the Autumn, adding that he was not clear about what the £2.5m cost of the current feasibility studies was paying for.
Quoting Newcastle MP Nicholas Brown who was speaking about the also shortlisted A1 scheme last week, he said: “What accounts for the delay between the tentative announcement of yet another study and the setting up of the study? What is left to be studied of this much-studied question?”,.
He also questioned why it had taken 10 months to draw up the initial scope documents.
Earlier this year the government announced that it will create a new government-owned company to replace the Highways Agency, and Mr Burden questioned if its creation would meant that another study would have to take place before the A47 upgrade could go ahead.
He asked: “Will a decision on the issue then bind that new arm’s-length highways agency or does the Minister expect the matter to go to that agency to be considered, perhaps even — who knows?— for it to do its own feasibility study on this project?
“I should like the Minister to be just a little bit clearer on how the feasibility study fits in with the timetable and decision-making terms and with the creation of his new arm’s-length highways agency.”
He also hit out at the government for pulling a number of shovel-ready schemes when it came to power, including a major upgrades to a section of the A47.
He said the £26 million Blofield to Burlingham scheme, which was one of seven scrapped, had a cost-benefit ratio of 7:1.
“Delivery of the A47 scheme is important, but I am not convinced that we are getting it,” he said.
Mr Goodwill said the decision to pull schemes had been taken because of the “dire financial position that we inherited”. Adding: “Fortunately, things are looking a lot better, which is why we are able to invest in infrastructure generally, not only in roads but in the conventional rail network and our new high-speed rail network.”
He added that the idea of the new company - known as the GoCo - was to get on with the jobs, not delay them.
“I can allay the hon. Gentleman’s fears in that regard. Network Rail works in that way, and it does not tend to delay rail projects; it tends to deliver them efficiently,” Mr Goodwill said.