New setback for A11 dualling bid

FEARS were raised last night that the final dualling of the A11 could stall again after the transport minister Ruth Kelly announced she was standing down.

FEARS were raised last night that the final dualling of the A11 could stall again after the transport minister Ruth Kelly announced she was standing down.

Ms Kelly, who currently holds the key to the £135m project to upgrade the final single carriageway stretch of road, yesterday said she was resigning from her ministerial position to spend more time with her family.

But campaigners last night insisted there must be no backtracking and urged her to sign off the A11 upgrade between Thetford and Barton Mills Fiveways roundabout before she leaves.

Ten thousand people have so far signed a petition, launched by Norfolk County Council last month, calling on Ms Kelly to give the go-ahead to the scheme which could see work start at the end of 2010.


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But there were concerns yesterday that the project that has been in the pipeline for the last 37 years could be put on the backburner again when Gordon Brown appoints a new transport minister.

Christopher Fraser, MP for South West Norfolk, wrote to the Department for Transport asking for assurances that the A11 scheme was not put in jeopardy by Ms Kelly's resignation. He also urged the outgoing minister to approve the upgrade before she leaves the cabinet.

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“I am determined to ensure that it does not become yet another example of an issue that is sidelined by the government as a result of cabinet reshuffles. I have now had assurances from three successive ministers that calls for the A11 upgrade are being taken seriously and will do all I can to get those same assurances from Ruth Kelly's successor - but only time will tell. It now up to the government to walk up to the mark and deal with this issue,” he said.

But Charles Clarke, MP for Norwich South, said he was confident that the new secretary of state would give priority to the A11 and a change of personnel would not affect the timetable.

The news comes a day after 100 business leaders from Norfolk's largest companies, which employ a total of 30,000 people, sent a letter to Ms Kelly urging her to unlock the county's economic potential and dual the A11 as soon as possible.

It emerged yesterday that the Highways Agency was set to publish draft orders for the nine mile scheme at the end of October.

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council, said he was sorry to see that Ms Kelly was leaving the cabinet, but campaigners would be seeking a meeting with the new secretary of state at the earliest opportunity.

“We must now redouble our efforts to ensure the new secretary of state is left in absolutely no doubt about how strongly people in Norfolk and Suffolk feel about the continued injustice of leaving the remaining single carriageway A11 undualled,” he said.

A Department for Transport spokesman yesterday said that departmental business would continue as usual.

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