Battle won for A11 safety work

By Liz HearnshawCAMPAIGNERS battling to stop more deaths on a notorious “slaughter track” have welcomed the announcement of when work will start to dual the road.

By Liz Hearnshaw

CAMPAIGNERS battling to stop more deaths on a notorious “slaughter track” have welcomed the announcement of when work will start to dual the road.

Highways bosses said last night details of the multi-million-pound scheme for the A11 between Thetford and Barton Mills would be published in the spring before contractors move in to begin construction work.

The project will see the entire stretch of road - which has claimed the lives of more than 50 people over the past 20 years - dualled, with a loop around the village of Elveden to take traffic away from nearby homes.

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The “long overdue” announcement has been welcomed by residents, who demanded safety should come first and a price could not be put on a life, whatever the final cost of the scheme.

Brian Bowers, whose 79-year-old mother, Christine, was killed on the A11 almost two years ago, said: “This is absolutely brilliant news.

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“A heavy volume of traffic uses the road, which is bad all the way from Thetford to Barton Mills. Nobody wants any more accidents to happen and safety should always come first.

“I have always said that you can't put a price on someone's life and anything to improve the roads is a good thing. I am so pleased as this is long overdue.”

It is now hoped protected species such as stone curlews, which live in man-made woodland around the construction site, will not halt the progress of the scheme.

Richard Spring, the West Suffolk MP who has led the campaign for action, said: “This road has been a slaughter track over the years and I do think there is a very widespread understanding of this.

“I would be very surprised if there are any considered objections to this. The good thing about this route is that it doesn't actually threaten any existing communities, as the dualling will take place in an area where there is no population concentration.”

He added: “It will lead through essentially man-made forests, not natural habitats, and although there are rare stone curlews nesting nearby, their distance from the road is sufficient.

“The RSPB will be monitoring the situation, but there is also an environmental consideration for human beings.

“This does not have the same environmental problems as most major road projects and, therefore, I am relatively confident that this will happen quickly.”

Draft orders detailing specifics of the scheme, including its cost, will be published in the spring, with residents given the opportunity to comment during a consultation period.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said any objections raised would be examined at a public inquiry next autumn and work would then begin the following spring.

Eddie Stewart, whose Brandon East ward on Forest Heath District Council covers the section of road earmarked for the improvements, said residents were “thrilled” with the announcement.

“I am delighted for the people who have campaigned for this as it is very good news and there is a great feeling of relief in Elveden,” he added.

“There are a multitude of reasons the people of Brandon are delighted about the dualling because if there is a bad accident, traffic is directed through our town.

“Having more than one lane should redress that to some degree, but why it has taken so long, I do not know. Once the A11 is completed, maybe we can concentrate on getting a bypass for Brandon.”

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