A11 dualling scheme to start sooner

DUALLING work on one of Suffolk's busiest roads could begin next year - five months ahead of schedule - after a row over an underpass was resolved.

Laurence Cawley

DUALLING work on one of Suffolk's busiest roads could begin next year - five months ahead of schedule - after a row over an underpass was resolved.

The �127million dualling scheme between the Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills and Thetford is expected to begin towards the end of next year.

But it could be brought forward by five months if the works get underway without first being made subject of a public inquiry.

Campaigners demanding a crossing over the A11 at Elveden had threatened to lodge objections to the Highways Agency scheme, which could have ended in a public inquiry.

But the British Horse Society has now pledged to drop its objection to the scheme after the Highways Agency agreed to an underpass beneath the A11 at the Elveden war memorial.

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The society and access groups were angry when the agency initially unveiled its plans for the A11 because no crossing was included. The Highways Agency said at the time there was “very little usage” of local rights of way in the area.

Following a meeting between campaigners and the agency, plans for an underpass are now being drawn up and it will be high enough to allow riders to pass through without having to dismount.

Bryan Freemantle, regional welfare officer of the British Horse Society, said some kind of crossing was essential for both pedestrian and rider safety. He said the reason very few people currently crossed at the war memorial was because of the quantity of traffic there.

He said the underpass was the best of the suggested options, which included building a new bridge. However, he said, the idea of an underpass had been agreed to about six years ago when the proposals were first mooted.

“It has gone full circle,” he said. “It was a very successful meeting and the Highways Agency has gone away to discuss the matter with their consultants and for more designs to be produced.

“They will come back to us and I gave an undertaking that equestrian groups would withdraw their objections to the scheme.”

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “We had a very constructive meeting and all parties set out their points of view.

“The agency will now carry out further investigations into the various alternative proposals for non-motorised access in the vicinity of the war monument and will report back to those who attended the meeting in due course.”

Work to dual the missing link of the A11 is scheduled to begin at the end of 2010, but could start five months earlier if a public inquiry is not required. A public consultation exercise ends on February 19, after which Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon must decide whether a public inquiry is needed. If there were one, it would take place this summer.