A11 will be dualled - Lord Adonis

Tara Greaves Transport secretary Lord Adonis promised the people of East Anglia that the vital dualling of the final stretch of the A11 will be completed if Labour returns to power - and work could still start this year.

Tara Greaves

Transport secretary Lord Adonis promised the people of East Anglia yesterday that the vital dualling of the final stretch of the A11 will be completed if Labour returns to power - and work could still start this year.

Speaking exclusively to the EDP while on the campaign trail in Norfolk and Suffolk, Andrew Adonis vowed that predicted spending cuts would not impact on the plan to dual the remaining part of the road if Labour is victorious in next Thursday's election.

“Subject to the completion of the planning process, we will fund the dualling of the A11 - that's a firm commitment,” he said, speaking while on a train to Lowestoft before heading to Norwich.

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“The investment of more than �100m is part of Labour's programme and I pledge on behalf of Labour that we will take the project forward as soon as the planning process allows, which could be this year.”

The EDP urged ministers to “get on and dual it” on January 29 when a public inquiry into the upgrade of the road between Thetford and Barton Mills came to an end.

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But the A11 became an early election issue after it emerged that a decision on the vital road scheme will not be made until after May 6, leaving campaigners frustrated as once again the plans were put on hold.

The secretary of state has yet to receive the report of planning inspector Neil Taylor who oversaw the A11 public inquiry.

Lord Adonis said the dualling of the road was vital for future prosperity of East Anglia.

“We are in the last stages of the process. The funding is there, the commitment on behalf of Labour is there and I pledge we will start the work as soon as planning consent is given,” he said.

“It's an absolute promise I make to the people of Norwich and East Anglia because I fully understand how important it is to the regional economy as we come out of recession.”

The Liberal Democrats have also pledged their support for the dualling and Stephen Gordon, the party's candidate for South West Norfolk, said yesterday: “It's top of my list. It's got to be completed, absolutely. It's ridiculous that is hasn't been completed up to now.

“I know everything has to be taken into consideration given the financial situation, but given the amount of hold-ups and accidents that take place, it really needs to be completed as soon as possible, money-permitting.”

Caroline Spelman, shadow secretary for communities and local government, was on the campaign trail yesterday with Norwich North Conservative candidate Chloe Smith.

She said: “I have often travelled on the A11 as my godmother lived in Aylsham. I really do understand how disruptive it can be, especially around Elveden. But Labour have had 13 years in office when they could have got on and dualled it during the good times.”

She said the government's failure to provide a spending plan before the election kicked off meant the Conservatives were in the dark as to how much money would be available for road schemes, but added: “The Conservatives see the need to dual.”

Andrew Boswell, Green candidate for north Norfolk, takes a different view. He said: “Essentially we feel it is very expensive, more than �100m, and that money would be better spent in getting rail links to London secured and to improve public transport generally in the area.”

Lord Adonis also pledged supported for the Norwich in 90 campaign for a faster train link between Norwich and London.

The problem of congestion in Lowestoft town centre was the focus of a visit by the transport secretary to Lowestoft yesterday before he headed to Norwich.

Lord Adonis was in Lowestoft with labour candidate Bob Blizzard to find out about traffic problems in the town and the need for a third crossing.

Mr Blizzard said: “The need for a third crossing dominates every day like here. Every time anyone goes from one side of town to the other, they wonder whether they can get there without a hold up.”

Lord Adonis said: “Bob has been campaigning on very important local issues, including a third crossing to ease congestion. We've discussed his plans and he makes a strong case for a third crossing and I have told him that the government will fund a crossing if it is given priority by Suffolk County Council. The regeneration of Lowestoft is very important.”

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