A united drive has begun to convince the government of the overwhelming business case for fixing the traffic bottleneck strangling Norfolk’s prospects for growth.

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With work under way to dual the A11, the east-west artery of the A47 has now become the main transport priority for the county’s politicians and industry leaders.

Many of them met at the Norfolk Showground outside Norwich yesterday for the launch of “A47 – Gateway to Growth”, an eight-page prospectus which outlines “an achievable programme of targeted improvements” along the congested route.

Rather than putting forward a single, unaffordable plan to dual the whole 105-mile stretch from Great Yarmouth to Peterborough, the document outlines a “realistic” series of 14 individual projects at pinch-points and problematic junctions.

They include dualling the Acle Straight, creating a third river crossing at Great Yarmouth, and building an East Winch / Middleton bypass in West Norfolk.

Combined, the plans could revolutionise Norfolk’s “economic spine”, unlocking the potential of Great Yarmouth’s outer harbour, reinforcing Norwich’s position as a shopping destination and improving the journey times of thousands of commercial motorists.

But in order to help secure the necessary funding for these projects – more than £500m in total – the economic case is laid out in the potential benefits of the plans over the next 20 years:

-Almost 10,000 new jobs

-£390m per year increase in economic output;

-Private investment of more than £800m

-A 30-minute reduction in journey time, worth £42m a year to road users.

The launch event was joined by Broadland MP Keith Simpson mid-way through his journey along the A47 from King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth to highlight the issues – driving a Mini Cooper emblazoned with a Union Flag, borrowed from his son, George.

Mr Simpson said: “There is no ‘big bang’ solution to this. But if we don’t come up with an achievable business plan we will not be able to persuade the government to at least come up with some initial money and I am absolutely convinced that unless we come up with a compelling business case we are not going to be able to convince the minister.

“There is some money available, but we are going to be in competition with every other part of the UK so if you do not hunt as a pack, you will always get picked off. It will be crucial to demonstrate the support of the business community.

“If we can demonstrate something is viable and achievable and get the money for it, then not only will people in Norfolk see that things are starting to move, but it also reinforces our case for the next tranche of money when it becomes available. I would like to think maybe we could get something in the next five years.”

Davina Tanner, general manager of Chapelfield shopping centre and board member of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “When I got this job I was living the other side of Wisbech and had to drive to Norwich every day, so I know from personal experience that this is the road from hell.

“The LEP represents a whole range of businesses and our experience with the A11 is that we need to show much more than just a technical case to be successful – we need to make sure that all our businesses are behind this.

From my point of view, as a retail destination it is very important that we get more visitors to Norwich because we want to stay in the top ten shopping destinations in the country. We need to be able to have a high quality retail offering and the people need to be able to use the roads to get here.”

Chris Limbach is network officer for First Buses, which runs the X1 route between Lowestoft and Peterborough, carrying 1.8m passengers along the A47 last year.

He said: “If people turn up at a bus stop at 5pm for a bus at ten past, then it needs to be there at ten past. For us, it is all about reliability and consistency. One day you might be there at ten past, but the next there will be roadworks or an accident or a closure and people will be out there standing in the cold. The Traffic Commissioner tells us that 95pc of journeys must be no more than one minute early or five minutes late. That is what we want, and that is what our customers want. Punctuality, reliability and consistency are the three key things, and to have a dual carriageway would give us a better chance of achieving them.”

Martin Lake, director of Norwich-based firm Copyprint and chairman of the Mid Norfolk Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I go up and down the A47 every day.

“If I can save 10 or 20 minutes on those journeys per day then that’s another 10 or 20 minutes I can use constructively, and that’s the same for tens of thousands of other people so if we can combine all that we will have a huge economic benefit.

“This could draw some very positive discussion about Norfolk and I am very excited about the prospect of the A47 being properly opened up, welcoming people in and allowing us to get our brilliant products and services out.”

Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council Cabinet member for planning and transportation, and chairman of the A47 Alliance, said:

“We are right behind the Government in wanting to see rapid progress on infrastructure improvements that will boost economic recovery, and the report we commissioned shows that the A47 is a prime candidate.

“In the long run, we still want to see the road dualled throughout, but the case for early, targeted improvements is very strong. The Gateway to Growth prospectus provides a realistic way forward, recognising the importance of securing developer contributions wherever possible, but also showing what benefits would flow from the investment of public money.”

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said road safety provided another key justification for improving the road. He said: “The A47 is a vital artery in the Norfolk economy but is has been neglected over recent decades, and increasingly becoming an obstacle to growth, like a blocked artery. As a result, it has become increasingly dangerous road and the section which runs through my constituency is responsible for far too many accidents, injuries and – regrettably – deaths, every year.”

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who met Mr Simpson on his arrival at the coast, said: “What today is about is highlighting the importance of the A47 for all of Norfolk.

“In Yarmouth we have a separate issue and requests. The Acle Straight needs to be safer, but also made better for businesses. We have massive opportunities in Yarmouth for expansion, for example with the energy industries, and the Acle Straight as the important access to the town is something we have got to work on.

“All of us in Yarmouth know it and the debate has been going on for decades now. I am not saying I can get it dualled this year or the next but we have got to start the work now.”

Vivienne Spikings, a borough councillor in West Norfolk and vice chairman of the A47 Alliance, said: “The A47 is a key route for businesses, visitors to and residents of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.

“The robust, economic business case we have put together demonstrates how improvements at specific junctions or along certain stretches of the A47 could not only result in faster journey times for road users, but could also unlock private investment in Norfolk, increase the county’s economic output and create jobs.

“In King’s Lynn, these improvements are crucial for the future growth and prosperity of the borough.”

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia LEP, said: “The A47 is a crucial road artery linking Norfolk with the Midlands and the North. Our Gateway to Growth prospectus shows the clear economic benefits of upgrading the road and we are keen to explore ways of turning the plans into reality.”

Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is no doubt that improving Norfolk’s poor infrastructure especially the A47 will enable Norfolk businesses to develop more quickly and create the jobs that are so needed. Norfolk’s business community are united in the desire to grow and we look for improvement to the A47 to help us make this a reality and connect us more effectively to the west of the country.”

Ian Alston, managing director of Honingham Thorpe Farms, which employs more than 200 people, said: “We must seize every opportunity to bring the A47 up to date if Norfolk is to avoid losing real business and employment opportunities.

“The Norfolk Food Hub is a vision that seeks to cluster rural businesses. We have been assembling interest from the food and drink sector to process, package and promote regional food from our central Norfolk site at Easton. We have political support, we have received considerable encouragement from across the county, we have serious interest from major employers. What we desperately need now is the infrastructure to allow us to create this job creating proposal. We envisage the creation of over 1,500 jobs in the years ahead.”

James Parry, Norfolk chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), sounded a note of caution. He said: “We welcome initiatives that provide genuine opportunities for rural communities in the county. Relieving the current bottlenecks on the A47 will ease congestion temporarily, but history tells us that increasing road capacity simply leads to more traffic and greater congestion at a later date.

“More to the point, these proposals are part of a wider development scenario that seeks to bolster growth to a point beyond that which we consider to be sustainable or desirable. Such high levels of growth cannot be achieved without a severe impact on the character of Norfolk’s countryside.”

-The A47 Gateway to Growth prospectus says about £110m in funding has already been identified, with the potential for £50m-£150m from other local sources, leaving between £270m and £370m to be sought from the government. The document is due to be presented to transport minister Stephen Hammond by an A47 Alliance delegation on December 18.

10 comments

  • And at the first sniff of a few extra jobs.......come on you all tell me ........... where are the workers going to come from .......

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    wallywalnut

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • In 1959 in a mark 7 Jaguar Saloon I drove the Acle Straight and A47 once a month up to Kings Lynn, in those days it was not cars but Motor Cycles that were killing people, and the cry of mothers that lost sons was Duel the Straight. Fifty Three years we are still shouting for it, and getting nowhere. Why? I believe that the “elected ones” throughout the decades have had only one objective, “Great Yarmouth’s holiday trade. Think about it! If there is money from grants it is spent on the Seafront because councillors have an interest in it. Even Beacon Park what did the previous political party do? They syphoned money from there to refurbish the seafront. No wonder we don’t get the main arterial road out of Great Yarmouth duelled, the money people with the Grants from central government know our elected ones are not serious. In their (lack) of wisdom they dreamt up 1st East a scheme that will turn the Port of Yarmouth from Gas House Quay to Haven Bridge East and West into Yuppie dwellings and coffee bars. Consecutive Governments see all these stupid ideas in print and what happens? No Grants, two years ago David Cameron said “no more grants for Eastern England the North East has more need. WHY? Because the North East looks to provide jobs on a 52 weeks a year basis in Industry, Not as our lot here that just want to have a pool of out of work labour to fill (falling vacancies) for just 12 weeks of the year in the holiday trade. The same councillors without consulting the Business Fraternity now want to put a bridge across Gas House Quay to kill any chance of the River keeping the Borough’s head above water, but will they be told? NO. I don’t think that even the GYPC would want a bridge that could decrease the Ports earning by two thirds.

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    John L Cooper

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • So how would those who come by train get to the imaginary ferry service, which needs an imaginary harbour mouth re-designing and whose custom has to come over an imaginary third river crossing? or is the rail terminal not going to end next to the ferry? how novel, will this be a car ferry only? Dualling must not be to the detriment for all those who are making an effort to cycle to work or use the bus. A ferry must connect to as many transport modes as possible, not just the most popular. An improvement that does not take heavy HGV's impact off our small roads, when this could be achieved, that does not consider cutting down emergency ambulance time when it can be achieved, will not be an improvement.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, November 26, 2012

  • So how would those who come by train get to the imaginary ferry service, which needs an imaginary harbour mouth re-designing and whose custom has to come over an imaginary third river crossing? or is the rail terminal not going to end next to the ferry? how novel, will this be a car ferry only? Dualling must not be to the detriment for all those who are making an effort to cycle to work or use the bus. A ferry must connect to as many transport modes as possible, not just the most popular. An improvement that does not take heavy HGV's impact off our small roads, when this could be achieved, that does not consider cutting down emergency ambulance time when it can be achieved, will not be an improvement.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, November 26, 2012

  • I suppose the cost of putting a bypass around East Winch and Middleton on very low lying peaty ground near the rail way line will be offset by freeing up Middleton and East Winch for development. As for the jobs, the government could make sure where the jobs went by coming down hard on the practices of agencies which source workers for contractors ( and any employers come to that). If the practices some of them use were reversed so that ethnic minorities were excluded from their books there would be an outcry.

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    Daisy Roots

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • What is meant by "unlocking the potential of Great Yarmouth’s outer harbour". Will the ferries to Holland start running from the outer harbour after all. The extra traffic coming into Yarmouth off a new A47 dual carriageway from Acle and heading for the harbour should go over a new third river crossing, projected to be along Southtown Road, and thus avoid the town centre. What about Breydon Bridge, this is already very busy and it seems the "county’s politicians and industry leaders" expect it to carry extra traffic to the new third crossing and the outer harbour.

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    Port Watcher

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • Without sorting out the Breydon bridge roundabout, which is so small and ill designed that traffic takes much longer to negotiate it than it should, and without sorting out the Gapton round about, there will be no advantage in a third crossing, unless it is anticipated all the users will come from the A12 south. It is of no benefit to non port area users-there is limited parking near by and the road network to get to the north is along residential roads, the sea front or the quayside-which ends up log jammed on Fuller's Hill anyway. Seems a bit extreme spending money on a third crossing for the Harbour and Albert Jones casino and Pleasure Beach when the north and west of the town is regularly at a standstill because of the road network and river crossings there.

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    Daisy Roots

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • ‘Gateway to Growth’ We had growth but the avarice British businessmen without any morals or loyalty to their home country decided it was cheaper to offshore everything. I don't expect to see much growth in this country for the next 20 to 30 years, sure it will go up and down, especially when we start house building, but this will be only lead to more of the mini boom and bust economy. Quite frankly we have had it, we have lived beyond our means for far too long, all the crown jewels have been sold off to finance this over the years by corrupt politicians and we are now up the creek without a paddle, so get used to it.

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    John L Norton

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • If the A47 is the east-west artery what possible east-west benefits does this hair-brained, east-benefitting scheme actually bring to anyone crossing the county? Hardwick roundabout has been ruined recently with lane markings thought out by a blind whippet. Norwich and the east benefit from the dualling of the A11, King's Lynn gets another set of useless traffic lights on Southgates roundabout, with lane markings again down to the blind whippet. When is Norwich going to realise the west of the county exists, and that King's Lynn is the gateway to Norfolk from the north and west of the country. Hardwick roundabout has a flyover to the A47 and then the bottleneck begins as far as Swaffham. NCC need to look at the bigger picture across the whole of the county, not out of the windows at County Hall.

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    Honest John

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

  • The third river crossing at Yarmouth and dualling the Acle straight are two of the 14 “realistic” individual projects mentioned in this report. These proposals mean Yarmouth will get a lot of money spent on it and at last the outer harbour may be a major success! That seems to be all that is important in the town.

    Report this comment

    Port Watcher

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

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

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