Can A140 be improved in new Transport East strategy?
- Credit: Google Maps
As a new transport strategy for the East is nearing completion, today we are highlighting the need to improve links between Ipswich and Norwich - the largest communities in this part of the region.
The road between the two, the A140, is more of a barrier than a link because it is largely single carriageway and there are many delays en route.
The rail link is much faster - but even here there are constraints with capacity issues facing trains at Haughley near Stowmarket and at Trowse on the entrance to Norwich station.
Now Transport East, which represents local authorities and transport bodies in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex, has produced a draft strategy that it hopes to use to persuade the government to improve links across the region.
One of the key architects of this report, which is now open for public consultation before its final draft is published next year, is Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter,
He is also MP for the entire length of the A140 in Suffolk - and knows about the frustrations drivers face on such a vital but slow route.
He warned that the scope for major improvements on the road is limited because it was handed over by the government to the two county councils it passes through back in the 1990s.
"That makes it very difficult to get the kind of money needed to transform the route. There is a limit to what we can do."
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Dr Poulter did work with business and the county council to get two new roundabouts built near Eye airfield: "They have improved safety and kept traffic flowing better," he said.
And he is currently working to try to get major project funding to improve the road at Stonham and make the junction with the A1120 much safer.
But he does have a concern there: "It has all gone a bit quiet on that - we shall have to do some more pushing."
One bit of good news for motorists is that a long-desired bypass for Long Stratton in South Norfolk looks finally set to be built after decades of campaigning by local people and drivers who use the road.
Funding for that is stacking up, helped by a government grant and contributions from developers who will see more land made available for new homes. Work could start in 2023 and the road could be open by Christmas 2024.
But it will be a single-carriageway road, not a dual carriageway like the Scole/Dickleborough bypass, so while it will reduce the delays you current find in the town, it will not speed traffic significantly.
And the A140 means road journeys between Ipswich and Norwich are slower than those between other major urban centres.
According to the AA's Route Planner, it takes 72 minutes to complete the 45 miles from the centre of Ipswich to the centre of Norwich - that's an average speed of 37mph.
Ipswich to Cambridge takes 70 minutes for the 54-mile drive down the A14 at an average of 46mph.
Elsewhere in the country the average speed from Newcastle to Carlisle (60 miles) is 46mph, you can do the 50 miles from Birmingham to Nottingham in exactly an hour, and it also takes exactly 60 minutes to do the 44 miles from Nottingham to Sheffield.
The road linking the East Anglia centres is considerably slower than any of these.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said its officials were working with Transport East on the new strategy for the region - and was working on plans for improvements at the A140/A1120 junction at Stonham.
The A140 is only one element of the Transport East strategy which looks at road and rail links across the counties and how they link to other parts of the country - particularly the midlands and north of England.
It also looks at the strategic importance of the ports from Felixstowe and Harwich to Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn.
Its focus is on what transport structure the region will need by 2050 - looking at how we can be carbon neutral and how active travel, walking and cycling, can be encouraged.
Dr Poulter said it was important to have a document like this because it was a clear strategy to take to the government for a region that sometimes feels overlooked - although he pointed out there had been gains over recent years.
He said: "Suffolk has seen improvements like the dualling of the A11 and the construction of the Lowestoft bridge - but there have also been disappointments and this will give us a really powerful voice for the region in the future."