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First tour of the length of Norwich’s Northern Distributor Road

Tour of the NDR.
Picture: Nigel Pickover

Tour of the NDR. Picture: Nigel Pickover

Archant Norfolk 2016

Love the idea of the Northern Distributor Road around Norwich? Or question the huge cost? Whatever your view, the £180m project is well under way as summer turns to autumn.

Eastern Daily Press editor Nigel Pickover took to a chunky 4x4 vehicle and, via sandy trackways, became one of the first to traverse the entire route. Dan Grimmer asked what he thought.

Q. So what struck you most on the tour?

1) how well-advanced the project is.

2) how construction firm Balfour Beatty is putting all the hundreds of thousands of excavated tonnes to use on the site itself. Nothing is carried away.

3) the vast width of the carriageways which look more like airport runways.

4) the efforts being made to protect nature.


Q. So, when will it open and how are they using those hundreds of thousands of tonnes of excavated material?

Most of the work should be completed by the end of 2017 – with an opening as soon as late 2017. Digger drivers using satellite technology are moving the earth into exactly the right position. Embankments, as an example, will be made from excavated soil and sand taken from the sites of bridges and flyovers.

Q. What’s been the effect on wildlife?

Hundreds of great crested newts have been moved, bat colonies relocated, bat boxes put up and bat fences erected to guide the nocturnal fliers along their foraging routes. While I was there a red kite and a buzzard drifted overhead, oblivious to 200 men and women and noisy trucks working below.

Everyone is taking a great deal of care with nature – many conservationists will argue with good reason that the concrete structures, road surfacing, bridges, noise and pollution will drive animals away but that will only be shown by the test of time.

Q. So what else did you spot? 
I was impressed by the way the roads are being underpinned by a base of ‘rough concrete’ made from existing sand or sand and stone and cement. 
Experts tell the engineers what mix to make and the bases are prepared accordingly. Roads these days are designed in laboratories!
I was fascinated by the piling machines next to the rail line between Norwich, North Walsham and Cromer/Sheringham. The piling work has to take place at night when rail services cease. The holes are 100 feet deep.

Q. What did you feel about the quality of the project and scale of it?

It is vast – and very complicated with the number of bridges, underpasses and flyovers.

The work is progressing well and Balfour Beatty, principal contractors, seem to be a) ahead of their schedule, and b) doing well.

Q. What have the construction team done about dust and traffic disruption?

Dust is controlled by a fleet of bowsers... but there’ll always be some inconvenience.

Ditto on traffic disruption but there seemed to be a smooth flow of traffic when I crossed from the Taverham end to Postwick.

Q. What is the major ongoing issue?

Some people have labelled the NDR the ‘road to nowhere’. At the Fakenham Road end the traffic will spill on to the A1067 – and many fear ‘rat runs’ through nearby villages as people try to cut through to the A47 west. This will be an ongoing serious issue for Norfolk County Council – there is a clear need for an innovative final link of the road to be thought through, designed and ultimately paid for. There will, of course, be local hostilities at every turn.

The second issue is spiralling cost – officers have warned an extra £6.8m could have to be added to the £180m budgeted at the time construction began.

NDR factfile

The road is a 12.5-mile dual carriageway being constructed from Postwick, where it connects to the A47 at the eastern end of Norwich southern bypass, to the A1067 Fakenham Road.

The Postwick A47 junction was constructed as the stand-alone Postwick Hub scheme to overcome serious capacity problems. This was complete in late 2015.

The cost is being paid for by the Department for Transport, the Community Infrastructure Levy (with the agreement of Norwich City, Broadland and South Norfolk councils), Norfolk County Council, New Anglia LEP, and Growth Point funds.

Construction started on January 4 this year. The main contractor is Balfour Beatty. There are:

Nine roundabouts along the route

One junction where the A140 Cromer Road will go over the NDR, connecting to the dual carriageway via slip roads to two roundabouts

Six bridges over the NDR (Marriotts Way, Bell Farm, A140, Buxton Road, Newman Road, Middle Road)

Two bridges carrying the NDR (Rackheath Rail bridge, Plumstead Road)

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18 comments

  • A terrible article, clearly the EDP is more interested in selling propaganda than informing its readers of the real issues involved in the NDR. It's nice the writer of this disgusting diatribe saw a Red Kite overhead, that won't be happening for much longer.

    Report this comment

    NR23Derek

    Tuesday, September 20, 2016

  • An incredible biased report if ever I have read one. Not one word was written about the safety of cyclists in the areas of the new road. Oh a road is for cars right! Diverted traffic due to the NDR works has already congested previously quieter roads making life and safety difficult for local residents who attempt to cycle at the Fakenham end of the road. More written on that please and what is intended to be done about it.

    Report this comment

    Sylvia Williamson

    Tuesday, September 20, 2016

  • Jonno65 - I can't see a single comment that is criticising the construction staff, but lots having a go at the need and costs, the latter of which are irrelevant to a site visit. So what's the point of your comment, as it doesn't match what's been said by anyone? Explain how criticism of the council's vanity project could be changed by a visit to a site of wholesale destruction of woodlands and fields and replacement with environment damaging concrete (research the manufacturing process for concrete, the energy it takes and the mining for the materials).

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • So somebody sees first hand the construction of the new road and you all try to turn it to biased and propoganda - when did you all see the road first hand in order to back up your opinions? you opinions are based on gut feeling and nothing more so how can they be of more value that those of somebody who's visited the site?

    Report this comment

    Jonno65

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • Ve have vays of making you like this road - and will use every chance our at our disposal to do so - media included!

    Report this comment

    biglingers

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • What's this £180 million? Hasn't Mr. Grimmer read the latest EDP article about another £6m being required? And when this debacle is complete no-one will be able to tell the difference in Norwich because most of the traffic is not passing through.

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    Green Ink from Tunbridge Wells

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • Norfolk comment correct. The financialand environmental cost of joining b the NDR to the A47 cannot be justified by the numbers which would need to it. With the new road in place everything accessing East of the Fakenham. Road should be using the southern bypass to get to the A47. Which leaves a small number of residents of the area around Taverham and they will have to learn they are residents of a city suburb and take it on the chin. More small roads that rat run should be closed and any decisions left until the A47 is built at Honingham. It would be a waste of money to act before then and any spare funding should be used to sort out Sweetbriar and the existing ring road when deficiencies in the NDR become obvious.

    Report this comment

    FlintinChalk

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • very pleased that it is progressing well, it will not be finished until it connects to the dereham rd, however this will have happen, and soon too.

    Report this comment

    ted

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • Living North of Norwich I can see the need for this road but nothing like it is. There are at the moment too many rat runs many life a misery for residents and I can see its necessary for some improvements but I question the need for a dual carriage way and wonder why simple wide single carriage links weren't considered. However as others have said it's going to open the doors to more development north of the city which is a great shame.

    Report this comment

    Carol Barnes

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • @ Eddie: there are loads of ways that the 'spiralling budget' could have been better spent, I'm sure.

    Report this comment

    Patrik

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • "Roads are designed in laboratories" .. and modelled on computers and look what happened with the Postwick hub. Rubbish in, rubbish out. Please correct and simplify the factfile: "the road is being paid for" -- by Taxpayers. Taxpayers.

    Report this comment

    Patrik

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • I think £180m would have been far better spent on the sea defence to protect our shore line.

    Report this comment

    Eddie .

    Monday, September 19, 2016

  • "there is a clear need for an innovative final link of the road to be thought through, designed and ultimately paid for." The road was designed as a distributer route for all the new houses being built around it, not another bypass. We have a bypass already ! If you say the same thing over and over again people will start to believe it - or that's what the EDP thinks !

    Report this comment

    Norfolk25

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

  • Pity the journalist didn't join me on the tortuous journey yesterday on the single carriageway A47 to The Midlands. Dualling that would assist in prosperity to the region but of course wouldn't up large swathes of north Norwich for development and line people's pockets.

    Report this comment

    NorwichAbs

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

  • What a puff piece, not biased in favour of the NDR at all- haha!

    Report this comment

    RV2008

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

  • Pity the tour didn't work must be powered by Tarmac.

    Report this comment

    David Gom

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

  • Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..... its all over now

    Report this comment

    Captain Chaos

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

  • I wonder why there is a bridge over the NDR for Buxton road which is not anything like so busy as Nth Walsham road where there is to be a roundabout. Surely it would have been better if they were in opposite positions.

    Report this comment

    JEN

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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