Boost for scheme to fully dual the A11

SUPPORTERS of full dualling of the A11 believe they are just a step away from a 2010 start date after regional transport chiefs backed the idea.

SUPPORTERS of full dualling of the A11 believe they are just a step away from a 2010 start date after regional transport chiefs backed the idea.

The East of England Regional Forum, made up of county council transport portfolio holders from the six counties, yesterday agreed to urge the Government to publish the orders needed to begin work to dual the final single-carriageway stretch of the road between Thetford and Fiveways.

At a meeting in Bury St Edmunds, forum members gave their backing to the scheme and also proposals for an A13 bus link in Essex and the Croxley Line rail link at Watford.

Now the 31-member regional planning panel - part of the assembly and consisting of 21 councillors, nine stakeholders and two East of England Development Agency (Eeda) representatives - will decide whether to recommend the scheme to government when it meets on July 8.

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Ministers have already hinted to MPs Charles Clarke and Richard Spring, who teamed up to lobby on the issue, that they would look favourably at the scheme if it secures regional support.

Eeda is already strongly in the 'yes' camp after producing a report stating that dualling would bring £600m to the regional economy.

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And while costs for the other two projects have shot up, and they have later start dates, the bill for the A11 has remained relatively constant.

Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads and transport at Suffolk County Council, who chaired the meeting, said he was delighted it had thrown its weight behind the scheme.

“I urge the Highways Agency to get on and sort out the remaining rights-of-way issues and then publish the orders needed for this long-delayed scheme,” he said. “The scheme is relatively straightforward, though there are issues about rights of way which we are keen to protect, particularly in Elveden where we have Centre Parcs and a huge amount of cycling.”

South-West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser, who had also lobbied the forum to support the scheme, said: “We can take nothing for granted, and I shall now be writing to the chairman of the regional planning panel, making the case for prioritisation of the project and urging the planning panel to support it.

“I shall also go back to the secretary of state for transport, calling on her to step up to the mark and recognise that we must not be kept waiting any longer for funding so construction can be scheduled to start.”

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