Full A11 dualling hopes raised
Hopes of accelerating the final dualling of the A11 were raised last night after a minister indicated the start of the scheme in two years.Political leaders from across Norfolk and Suffolk have been campaigning vigorously to kick-start the £100m project to dual fully the Norwich to London road.
Hopes of accelerating the final dualling of the A11 were raised last night after a minister indicated the start of the scheme in two years.
Political leaders from across Norfolk and Suffolk have been campaigning vigorously to kick-start the £100m project to dual fully the Norwich to London road.
But East Anglian MPs spoke of their optimism yesterday after the transport minister expressed her wish to see work on the nine-mile stretch between Thetford and Barton Mills beginning in 2010 - at least a year ahead of schedule.
The news comes after Norwich South MP Charles Clarke and West Suffolk MP Richard Spring met with Ruth Kelly to try to bring the A11 upgrade forward from its current 2011-12 funding bracket.
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The two MPs said they were pleased with the “constructive” lobbying meeting with the secretary of state for transport, who recognised the importance of the route and the need to fast-track the dualling of the final single-carriageway stretch of one of the region's busiest trunk roads.
After the meeting, Mr Clarke said the minister had made no concrete commitment to the early commencement of the A11 project, but indicated that 2010 should be the start date, if the scheme was given priority by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda).
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“I was pleased with the response from the secretary of state to our request to urgently accelerate the process of dualling the A11, which is exceptionally important for Norfolk.
“The basic commitment in the past has been 2011, but Ruth Kelly and her officers gave us a strong impression of their absolute commitment to get a 2010 start date,” he said.
The news follows the publication of a study commissioned by Eeda, Norfolk County Council, and the Government Office for the East of England (Go East) earlier this year, which concluded that the completion of the scheme would be worth more than £600m to the region's economy.
In a separate meeting between South West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser and Richard Ellis, chairman of Eeda yesterday, the two men highlighted the importance of the upgrade of the A11, but called on the government to give the East more in its next regional funding allocation in early 2009.
Mr Fraser said: “With the abolition of East of England Regional Assembly, Eeda will take over the key role of advising the government on regional transport priorities. I have made it clear to Mr Ellis that in my view long-term economic success in Norfolk cannot be achieved without a proper road link. I was hugely encouraged by his confirm-ation that he shares my view of the strategic importance of the project.”
Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said the signals from Ms Kelly were “encouraging”, but the authority would continue to lobby to ensure the scheme did not slip.