Transport schemes would bring cash boost

A HIT-LIST of vital improvements to Suffolk's transport network has been drawn up - with the ambitious projects predicted to be worth millions of pounds to the county's economy.

A HIT-LIST of vital improvements to Suffolk's transport network has been drawn up - with the ambitious projects predicted to be worth millions of pounds to the county's economy.

The Suffolk Development Agency has identified seven rail and road upgrades, which it says are crucial for the future prosperity of the county and the region as a whole.

A “radical plan” for a new north-south trunk road, linking Ipswich, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Norwich, would alone be worth a predicted £300million to Suffolk's economy over 30 years.

The long-term strategy, which is currently being finalised and will be published soon, also stresses the “urgent need” for an Ipswich northern bypass and the upgrading of the rest of the A11 in the west of the county to a dual-carriageway.

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Robert Maidment, the agency's transport group chairman, said: “We are saying that this is something that should be looked at seriously as an economic plan, not as a wish-list.

“If these are not done it is going to be very difficult to sustain and improve the economy of the county. Our wish-list would be much longer.”

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The proposed report says the Ipswich northern bypass would act as an alternative route to the Orwell Bridge during closures and provide an east-west link between the A14 and the new north-south road project, while the A11 upgrade would help bond the county and Norfolk tighter to the region.

The agency says ongoing improvements to the A14 and A12 to London - the only two major routes in and out of the county - were “essential”, improvements to the A14 and A12 junction at Copdock Mill were a priority and the final approaches to Felixstowe needed constant appraisal. But it welcomed the progress on the A14 at Rougham and Haughley.

The proposed Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail upgrade is required to relieve the constraints on freight traffic between the ports at Ipswich, Felixstowe and Harwich and the Midlands and North, as well as helping to reduce container traffic on the A14.

At the very least, the single track rail link between Ipswich and Lowestoft should have one or more passing loops to improve freight and passenger services, it said.

The proposed Ipswich to Norwich road would take traffic away from villages along the A12, A144, A145 and A146, while re-routing Great Yarmouth's southbound traffic away from Lowestoft town centre, and would need grade-separated junctions, where bridges allow roads to meet at different levels.

The agency said it would connect the area, one of the most deprived in the UK, with the economic activity of Ipswich and Norwich, attracting businesses and creating jobs.

Mr Maidment said: “If you take it as a £300million road from Ipswich to Norwich, from an economic return the road would virtually pay for itself in 30 years. It would be worth £500m if it was to Norwich.

“Even if a road like that takes 20 years to come on-line if it is known it is coming on-line that in itself can create inward investment.”

The draft Economic Need For Investment In Transport Infrastructure says, in relative terms, Suffolk's transport situation was worse than the rest of the country, with historic spending on the east's network below the national average and Suffolk's lower than the region.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bob Feltwell particularly welcomed the inclusion of an Ipswich northern bypass, which he described as “key” to relieving traffic and saving businesses time and money. He said the chamber was 110% behind the SDA and its report presented a “considered view”.

Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for transport, said Suffolk County Council would take the SDA report seriously but added that it was a “table-top exercise”.

“We are in favour of improving the road network but we must all have our doubts about whether some of these schemes, which would cost hundreds of millions of pounds, are really feasible,” he said.

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