'Powerful message' as region unites to pile pressure on government over A47
PUBLISHED: 18:01 25 June 2019 | UPDATED: 18:15 25 June 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
Pressure has been piled on the government to commit to the £1.4bn full dualling of the A47, after a delegation from the region delivered what a transport minister described as a "really powerful message" to Westminster.
Business bosses, council leaders and MPs put safety and economic growth at the forefront of their calls to transport minister Michael Ellis for a pledge over the 115-mile road.
Although £300m is committed for improvements to six stretches of the road in the years ahead, that will only dual an extra eight miles of the A47.
Less than half of the road, which runs from just past Peterborough and across the breadth of Norfolk to Lowestoft in the east, is dualled.
The aim of Tuesday's meeting in London, organised for the A47 Alliance by Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, was to send a united message to the government about the need for further improvements, ahead of key decisions this autumn.
The government is due to decide where to allocate funding in the next tranche of road projects, between 2020 and 2025.
And Mr Ellis was left in no doubt the region will not settle for the money it has already had.
He told the delegation, which included representatives from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire: "I get it. I get the importance of the A47.
"I understand how key it is, in terms of east/west movement and the economic value of the road, I was minister of tourism until a few weeks ago and understand the value of tourism to the economy."
Speaking after the reception, he said: "It is a really powerful message that the people of Norfolk and surrounding areas have made today in coming to parliament.
"It really does make a difference when one area speaks as one and makes a powerful impact. I am very conscious of a number of the issues.
"Safety is my top priority and I look at that first and foremost. I recognise the value to the economy and how the right infrastructure is very important to the wider economy.
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"I will take that away and in my role as transport minister and use that to inform my judgement going forward."
The minister was presented with postcards containing comments written by EDP readers as part of the Just Dual It! campaign run by this newspaper, Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.
The A47 Alliance made the case for a funding commitment for full dualling by 2030 and to prioritise upgrading three sections by 2025:
- The Acle Straight in Norfolk
- Tilney to East Winch (including Hardwick flyover) in Norfolk
- Peterborough to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire
The campaign made the case that shorter and more reliable journey times along the road and onwards to the Midlands would not only improve quality of life but provide a huge boost to the regional economy.
They said that would attract new businesses, support existing businesses to grow and become more profitable, encourage more visitors to the region and create more jobs.
And, with 180 deaths and serious injuries on the A47 between 2011 and 2015, calls were also made to make the junctions safer.
Patrick Peal, chief executive of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, invited the minister to meet a patient and family affected by an A47 crash.
He said: "What I would like to highlight is the impact one road traffic collision has, not just on the person in the car, but, if that person is killed or injured, the impact on the family around them."
Brandon Lewis highlighted the benefits of dualling the Acle Straight, saying: "If we can get the Acle Straight dualled, the economic opportunities that unlocks through oil and gas, along with tourism, is astronomical."
Richard Pace, managing director of Norwich International Airport, said the airport's full potential could be realised with an improved A47, while David Parfrey, from Norwich Research Park said it could help stop talented young people who grow up in the county from turning their backs on Norfolk and working elsewhere.
Peter Brown, managing director of Fakenham-based Jack Richards transport, said: "We have lost both Unilever and Colmans. We need the government to invest in dualling all of the A47 now before Norfolk loses the last of its large scale manufacturing plants."