Austerity does not apply to road-building schemes, it would appear, as £300 million is committed to road schemes.
Norfolk County Council has welcomed today’s announcement from Highways England on its preferred routes for new dualled sections of the A47 – and urged the government company to provide further detail and progress the improvements as quickly as possible.
Following initial consultation earlier this year, Highways England has now arrived at what it believes are the best routes for new dual carriageway to follow between North Tuddenham and Easton and Blofield and North Burlingham. Highways England has committed £300 million to making improvements to the A47, including these dualling schemes, with work slated to start in 2019/20 financial year.
For the North Tuddenham to Easton improvement scheme, Highways England is proposing to construct the dual carriageway route close to the existing A47, going south of Hockering and north of Honingham.
Between Blofield and North Burlingham, Highways England’s proposed route would take the new dual carriageway south of the current route, following a path close to the existing road.
Norfolk County Council, as part of its work on the campaigning group the A47 Alliance, has been pressing the government to upgrade the A47 with the ultimate goal of getting the whole of this major trunk road dualled.
Martin Wilby, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Environment, Development and Transport Committee and Chairman of the A47 Alliance, was at a Highways England briefing this morning to hear the news about the preferred routes first-hand. He said: “This information continues to move the improvement schemes along, which is welcome. We’re particularly pleased that the solutions are slightly off the current route, which will minimise disruption to people using the road while also keeping the environment impact low. In addition, this means the existing road can be retained once the new dualled sections are open, which will increase the capacity of the road network.
“We’re looking forward to getting more detail on these schemes, particularly on the junctions, so we can better assess the impact on local communities, access and the wider road network in Norfolk. Our strong preference would be for ‘grade-separated’ junctions, using a flyover bridge or underpass, to improve the flow of traffic along the A47 and adjoining roads.
“I was really pleased that Highways England recognised the importance of taking account of future road projects, such as our Norwich Western Link scheme which would see the Northern Distributor Road connected to the A47 west of Norwich. Major infrastructure schemes cannot be done in isolation and it will be vital to work together to get any new roads projects to be of the best possible benefit to Norfolk.”
The £300 million of improvements to the A47 announced by Highways England comprise six schemes. Four of these are on sections of the road in Norfolk, these are:
• Dualling the A47 North Tuddenham to Easton;
• Dualling the A47 Blofield to North Burlingham;
• Improving the A47/A11 Thickthorn junction;
• Improving A47 Great Yarmouth junctions including reconstruction of the Vauxhall Roundabout.
No further detail on the Thickthorn or Great Yarmouth projects was announced by Highways England today, however they confirmed that a public consultation on these and the other schemes would be launched in early 2018.
Cllr Wilby said: “There are a lot of transport improvements planned in Great Yarmouth in the next few years, not least the third river crossing which will considerably improve travel times and connections between the town’s northern peninsula and the wider road network. We’re looking to construct this new bridge to a very similar timetable to Highways England’s improvements in Yarmouth, so we would want to work together on these plans to see if we can make any savings and reduce the impact on the town while they’re constructed.
“We also believe there is an opportunity to start work on part of the Vauxhall Roundabout scheme sooner than 2020. We have been talking to Highways England about this and will continue these discussions to see if we can bring this forward to help ease traffic congestion in the town.”
While Highways England is responsible for the trunk road network, including the A47 and A11 in Norfolk, the County Council manages the majority of Norfolk’s other roads. An improved A47 would have many direct and indirect benefits, including reducing accident rates, alleviating pressure and congestion on other routes and encouraging economic and job growth in communities from west to east Norfolk.
Cllr Wilby continued: “We will support Highways England in any way we can to get these funded improvements off the ground as soon as possible. In the meantime I would urge everyone who wants a better, safer, more reliable A47 to take every chance to remind the government how strongly we feel about this in Norfolk.
“The upcoming public consultation will give people a great opportunity to feed back to Highways England on the current planned improvements, but also on the need for vital further improvements to the A47. We should not rest until the whole of the A47 is dualled and the best way to get this done sooner rather than later is to show there is widespread demand for it.”
The government will shortly be considering and agreeing further investment in its trunk road network for improvements set to be made between 2020 and 2025, its ‘Road Investment Strategy 2’. The A47 Alliance identified the improvement schemes along the route it wants funded as a priority earlier this year. The A47 Alliance’s priority schemes in Norfolk are dualling the Acle Straight between Acle and Great Yarmouth and dualling the A47 Tilney to East Winch, including the Hardwick flyover, south of King’s Lynn.
For more information on the A47 Alliance, visit www.a47alliance.co.uk.
Highways England roadshow events this week
Highways England, the government company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads including the A47, has announced it will hold four roadshow events in Norfolk. The details of these are:
• Monday, 14 August – King’s Lynn Market Place (outside the Dukes Head), PE30 1JS, 11am – 6pm;
• Tuesday, 15 August – Attleborough Sainsbury’s, High Street, NR17 2EH, 12 – 7pm;
• Wednesday, 16 August – Great Yarmouth Tesco Extra, Pasteur Rd, Southtown, NR31 0DW, 12 – 7pm;
• Thursday, 17 August – Gorleston Morrisons, Black Reach, NR31 6SA, 12 – 7pm.
As well as featuring an exhibition of plans for upcoming major roadworks in the region, these roadshows will give people in Norfolk the chance to make staff at Highways England aware of their views on the A47.