A11 dualling 'is region's top priority'

TRANSPORT planners in the East of England have made the completion of the A11 dualling their top priority.

Graham Dines

TRANSPORT planners in the East of England have made the completion of the A11 dualling their top priority.

But they have told the Highways Agency the scheme must of the highest quality as befits one of the major roads in the region linking London to Norwich via Newmarket.

The chequered history of the project has seen the A11 improved piecemeal, with priority given to dualling the sections from Thetford and Attleborough to Norwich.

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The completion of the road has been delayed, then put in national programmes only to be withdrawn again because it was not made the region's number one priority.

The delays have meant that no schemes have been undertaken to improve the accident blackspot on the two-way stretch at the notorious Elveden crossroads.

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During the summer Suffolk West Conservative MP Richard Spring and Labour's Charles Clarke (Norwich South) lobbied Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to emphasise the economic need for the upgrade.

Yesterday at its meeting in Cambridge, the East of England Regional Assembly decided to make the A11 the region's top priority after competing claims for a road scheme in Bedfordshire had to be shelved because of environmental issues.

The Assembly's weight is now firmly behind the A11 upgrade. It will ask the Environment Agency to make it the number one project across the six counties of the East of England when it applies for funding from the Department of Transport for regional priorities for the period until 2011.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member with responsibility for transport, said he was “absolutely delighted” that the A11 completion was now in sight.

“The assembly today backed the road, but we have said that it must be a scheme of high quality because of its importance to the region,” said McGregor. “I'm now firmly optimistic that the missing link on the A11 will be built.”

Although the road has not progressed beyond the drawing board, it is understood that the plans are at an advanced stage, including the alignment and route. Land purchase must go through legal procedures, which may include a public inquiry, meaning it is unlikely construction will start before 2011 with completion up to three years later.

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