Road minister hears the case for dualling the A47 at campaign launch
PUBLISHED: 14:30 19 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:48 19 March 2018
Roads minister Jesse Norman was today left in no doubt what Norfolk wants when it comes to its main artery: Just Dual It!
In a meeting organised by the A47 Alliance at King’s Lynn Town Hall, councillors, business leaders and officials posed questions to Mr Norman and a panel of MPs.
The EDP-backed alliance is calling on the government to dual the entire 115-mile stretch from Peterborough to Lowestoft, to bring economic growth to the region as well as make our roads safer.
“I can only admire the steadfastness, the energy and perseverance of everyone working together to make a collective case of action,” Mr Norman said.
“I hope you all understand that this government is committed to better infrastructure for all the reasons you have highlighted.”
He said improvements to parts of the route already in the pipeline showed “the tide is coming in your direction”.
Despite this, Mr Norman said he was not in a position to give any firm committments on the government’s behalf.
When asked by EDP editor David Powles what was the best way for the campaign to make itself heard, Mr Norman said: “Continue what you are doing, I think the level of local commitment that has been shown shows that being strong, collective and questioning is absolutely the right spirit.”
He said the government was already committed to spending £300m for improvements along the A47 in the coming years.
Mr Norman heard about challenges including delayed journey times, limited business growth and the growing number of fatalities.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said dualling the A47 as soon as possible would save money in the long run. He said the Swaffham Bypass, a five-mile part dual carriageway which was costed at around £5.2m when it opened in 1981, would now cost around £60m.
“In 1988, the cost of dualling the entire A47 was £120m,” Mr Bellingham added. “The point to government is if you invest now you actually save money, you create wealth and create enterprise.”
George Freeman, Mid Norfolk MP, said it was a cross-party campaign which is being backed by all three counties and 15 MPs and will be led by the community.
“We can all tell you the horrific stories, it is very dangerous and it runs through my constituency. Barely a month goes by without a fatality,” he added. “At times it’s carnage.”
Safety concerns were echoed by West Norfolk council leader Brian Long, who told the panel how he had knocked on a door whilst canvassing and met a father who was bringing up two young daughters on his own after his wife had been killed on the A47.
He asked Mr Norman: “When are our roads going to be made safe?”
Mr Norman responded that it would be bad policy to focus on individual cases, but added: “This government is taking road safety with extreme seriousness across all of our roads.”
Questioning what would make this campaign different from previous attempts was Knights Hill Hotel general manager Bernard Ducker.
He told the panel: “We had a co-ordinated approach but we were told to behave ourselves, and in the 1990s nothing again happened. “Sometimes we are too polite and not rude enough to get this across to people - this is not good enough.
“We have waited for this for too long.”
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon agreed, adding that campaigners must be very persistent.
“When the government feels the risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting that is when things happen,” Mr Bacon added.
Norfolk Chamber of Commerce public affairs manager Nova Fairbank said: “If we work within the government frameworks, back that with the business community and residents all saying the same thing then it would be a strong message. It is down to us to build that.
“We need to keep going until we have all of the A47 dualled.”
How to get involved
Buy a copy of the Eastern Daily Press on Friday. Inside will be a Just Dual It! Freepost postcard for you to send your own message to the government about why you think the A47 needs to be fully-dualled as soon as possible
Pick up a Just Dual It! postcard from Friday from: our offices in Rouen Road; County Hall in Martineau Lane; Norfolk Chamber of Commerce in Whiting Road, Norwich; Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s Town Hall or West Norfolk Council’s offices in King’s Lynn. Those postcards would not be Freepost and would need a stamp.
Tweet your support for the campaign using the hashtag #justdualit. If you include your full name and location in the tweet, we will transfer your message onto a postcard for you.
Write, outlining your experiences of using the A47 to EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPletters@archant.co.uk