A11 dualling will go ahead - MP

LONG awaited plans to dual the final stretch of the A11 will go ahead whichever party is in power next year, according to a Conservative MP.

Long awaited plans to dual the final stretch of the A11 will go ahead whichever party is in power next year, according to a Conservative MP.

Richard Spring, member for West Suffolk, said he had feared a major clampdown on public spending could jeopardise work to dual the final 15km single-carriageway stretch of the A11 between Barton Mills and Thetford, seen as vital to economic growth in Norfolk.

But after talks with senior cabinet and shadow cabinet figures Mr Spring said it was now almost certain the scheme would go ahead as planned.

Despite a public inquiry pending over a crossing at Elveden, near Thetford, Mr Spring said he hoped the inquiry could be dealt with promptly and work start as soon as April 2010.

The news comes as the Highways Agency has confirmed Norfolk construction firm May Gurney is in the running for the deal to carry out the work worth between �106m and �147m.

The Trowse-based company, in partnership with building management firm AECOM, formerly Faber Maunsell, is one of five consortia to bid for the Highways Agency contract.

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While it is not clear whether securing the contract would lead to new jobs in Norfolk the deal would be a major boost to May Gurney, which employs 700 in the county.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Spring MP said: “Given the state of public finances any incoming or remaining government is going to have to rein in public expenditure.

“The earliest start date for the A11 dualling is next April and the fact that it would be so close to a general election has given me the heebie-jeebies.

“But I am much more relaxed about it now.”

The work is seen as a key improvement to transport links between Norfolk and the rest of the country. Research by the East of England Development Agency found dualling the final stretch would save �690m in time savings.

Last September the leaders of 100 of Norfolk and Suffolk's biggest firms signed a letter to the transport secretary urging the work be brought forward in a campaign organised by regeneration partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future.

A Highways Agency spokesman said the project was still on track. He said: “A start of works date in late 2010, as announced in November 2008, can still be achieved subject to satisfactory completion of the relevant statutory procedures - including a public inquiry. We are committed to improving this busy section of the A11."

May Gurney's partner firm Faber Maunsell changed its name to AECOM, its parent company, in May and provides professional technical and management support services in more than 100 countries.

No one was available for comment from May Gurney.