Will the region get the new investment we need from the Government?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 18 July 2019
New infrastructure projects seem to be the order of the day for councils and MPs in Suffolk and Essex at the moment - hopefully the current rash of pleas for support won't fall on deaf ears in government.
Businesses in Suffolk are leading calls for junctions on the A14 in the county to be upgraded to keep traffic moving, especially to the Port of Felixstowe.
The Copdock Mill junction, where the A12 from London meets the A14, is top of their list (and likely to be by far the most expensive to sort out) but there are other significant improvements needed as well.
The Great Eastern Taskforce is keeping up its pressure for improvements to the main rail line from London to Norwich through Colchester and Ipswich to go with the new trains that are about to be introduced.
Rail campaigners are also pushing for improvements to the cross-country route from Haughley junction through Ely to Peterborough and lines to the north and Midlands.
Meanwhile in Essex the campaign to dual the A120 all the way from Harwich to Stansted (especially from the A12 to Braintree) has also been stepped up.
Highways England and Network Rail are both preparing the definitive lists of projects they are prepared to undertake in their next five year plans (or whatever they call them) - and hopefully some of these arguments will get through to them.
East Anglia has seen some improvements to its infrastructure over the last 30 years - but it still feels as if we have to fight tooth and nail for everything we need and that they take too long to come to fruition.
It is great that we are getting new trains (largely provided by the national railway of a foreign country). It's just a pity our own publicly-owned rail infrastructure company hasn't been able to pull its finger out fast enough to carry out the improvements needed to allow them to operate to their full potential . . .yet. We live in hope!
My suspicion is we'll get some of the improvements to the A14 and rail infrastructure, but not all. I fear we'll get the "easy wins" like Haughley Junction on the rail and some road improvements on the A14 - but the big schemes like the new loops in Essex or rebuilding Copdock Mill might be put in the "pending" file for someone else to decide on in five or 10 years time.
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In Essex the compelling case to get a new dual carriageway from the A12 to Braintree may well be won - but dualling the A120 all the way to Harwich may prove to be a decision too far.
And what about the cross-country rail route? I think Network Rail will find away to increase capacity allowing more trains to travel from Felixstowe to the Midlands and to allow an hourly passenger service from Ipswich to Peterborough - but the total rebuild of junctions at Ely? That gets more complex every time they look at it, and I cannot see it happening anytime soon.
These are all strategic decisions about infrastructure programmes with a national dimension.
I can't let this pass without pointing out that the Ipswich Northern Route isn't seen as a strategic route by the government - it is a local highway that may be built as a way of improving the economic activity of the Ipswich area.
As such its funding demands very different criteria.
This week's news that we now have a pressure group set up specifically to oppose the proposed new road as well as several groups trying to promote the road is significant.
There will now be a real battle for hearts and minds among people living in the Ipswich area - a battle that will split political allies and could potentially drive another wedge between Ipswich and rural Suffolk.
The arguments have only just started on this. We still don't know the cost and its benefit as a congestion-busting exercise is, at best, questionable.
The government is likely to listen much harder to infrastructure arguments about the A14, the region's rail lines, and the A120 in Essex - that's where some things might happen over the next decade.
As I said, I don't expect the region to get all it wants or needs - the government does see East Anglia as somewhere that is on the whole doing okay.
But we should get something from Highways England and Network Rail - and then we will have to go away and start preparing our case to get more in the decades ahead if they don't give us the complete package!