A11 dualling another step closer

REGIONAL planners could today give another vital push towards ensuring the last single-carriageway section of the A11 is finally dualled.

REGIONAL planners could today give another vital push towards ensuring the last single-carriageway section of the A11 is finally dualled.

The East of England Regional Transport Forum is looking at road priorities and pressure is mounting on it to put the upgrading of the stretch between Thetford and Fiveways at the top of the list.

South West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser has written an open letter to forum chairman Guy McGregor setting out the case for dualling and has urged members of the forum to support it at their meeting today.

A study has shown the dualling would give a £600m boost to the region's economy.

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Today's forum is ahead of the East of England Regional Assembly's (Eera's) planning panel on July 8 when a final decision will be made.

Mr Fraser said: “This has been unfinished business for far too long. The earliest possible completion of the dualling of the last stretch of the A11 is vital for the economy of Thetford, particularly as the town has been awarded Growth Point Status, and for Norfolk as a whole.

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“Key hurdles have been overcome - the former minister of transport, Dr Stephen Ladyman MP, accepted that I was 'passionate about the issue', and last June, during a meeting that I had with him, he authorised the Highways Agency to press ahead with the necessary statutory process-es so the scheme will be 'oven-ready' for construction to start in 2010.”

The East of England Development Agency has commissioned an authoritative report, demonstrating the economic case for the upgrade and transport secretary Ruth Kelly has indicated she would “look favourably” on the scheme if it is prioritised by the regional planners and possibly bring the start date forward to 2010.

Mr Fraser said: “I now look to the regional transport forum and to Eera's regional planning panel to give its support to the scheme, as the last link in the chain. I have written to Eera to put the case. The government would then have to come up with funding, but I cannot believe that they would allow Norfolk to remain the only county in England without a dual-carriageway link to the national trunk-road system.

“The Gateway A11 East campaign, based in Thetford, has done a sterling job in bringing together the business community to make the case for the dualling work.”

It emerged last week that fresh hope was given that the final part of the A11 could be dualled within four years thanks to a £19.5m underspend in the east of England's road schemes, as long as Eera agrees.

Funding for dualling the nine-mile Fiveways to Thetford stretch has been pencilled in for 2012-13.

Supporters of the A11 are vying for top spot ahead of the A5-M1 link road, the so-called Dunstable northern bypass.

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