Joy as A11 dualling brought forward

THE Government has this afternoon announced that the dualling of the last remaining single lane stretch of one of East Anglia's busiest roads will go ahead 18 months earlier than planned.

James Mortlock

THE Government has this afternoon announced that the dualling of the last remaining single lane stretch of one of East Anglia's busiest roads will go ahead 18 months earlier than planned.

As the region battles the effects of the economic downturn, businesses across Suffolk and Norfolk were given a major boost by the news that the £135million scheme to upgrade the A11 between Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills looks set to begin in 2010.

Delighted campaigners, who have been battling to have the road improved for decades, welcomed the news and said their fight had been worthwhile.

Businesses, residents and commuters look set to benefit better, more reliable and safer journeys almost two years sooner than expected, after the planned start date for the dualling was brought forward by Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon.

Following discussions with local MPs, councils and the Regional Assembly, Mr Hoon has confirmed crucial improvement work to the A11 between Fiveways and Thetford can be brought forward from 2012/13, subject to consideration of any objections to the scheme.

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A Government spokesman said this would enable this important scheme to open to traffic in early 2013, 18 months ahead of the previous timetable.

Mr Hoon, who took over from Ruth Kelly as transport secretary in the autumn, said: “The Government is committed to bringing forward infrastructure investment wherever possible, so I am pleased to confirm that today I have asked the Highways Agency to work towards delivering this much needed scheme to dual the last single carriageway stretch of the A11 at the earliest opportunity - subject to the outcome of statutory planning and order making processes.

“The region has confirmed improvement work to this heavily used road which connects the East of England with London and the Midlands via the motorway network is a top priority which will bring increased capacity, improved journey times and safety, and provide a big boost to the region's economy.

“Bringing start of works forward to autumn 2010 would mean road users would benefit from the improvements around 18 months earlier than originally planned.

“It will also provide better value for money, costing around £8 million less than it would to start work in 2012/13. This scheme confirms the Government's commitment to delivering transport improvements to the East of England.”

Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for transport on Suffolk County Council, said the announcement was “exciting news” for Suffolk. “This particular road is a real bottleneck and needs to be upgraded to modern standards,” he said.

“There is no doubt that it will be a boost to the economy and also the regeneration of Thetford and that area of Norfolk generally.

“I would say that the road must be built to the highest possible standards with proper provision for pedestrians and other non-motorists.

“But this announcement is another stage forward in getting this much-needed road and much needed link in Suffolk and Norfolk.”

Barbara Follett, Regional Minister for the East of England, said: “Today's announcement of a planned earlier start on an upgrade to the A11 is great news for the East of England and will boost the economy during these difficult times.

“This is the Government's commitment to support key infrastructure projects despite the downturn in the economy in action and is, I believe, the result of effective partnership working locally, regionally and nationally.

“As Chair of the East of England Regional Economic Forum I will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that we can help support the region's economy.”

Roger Hawkins, project manager for the Highways Agency, said completing the dualling of the A11 between the M11 and Norwich would ease congestion and significantly improve journey times.

He added: “The scheme includes a bypass that will take traffic away from Elveden, bringing substantial benefits to the village which has Conservation Area status.”

Draft Orders for the scheme will be published shortly by the Highways Agency.

Depending on the nature and weight of any objections to the proposals, a public inquiry may be held.

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