Joseph Watts, Political editor
Friday, February 8, 2013
A transport minister has said the A47 is “ideally placed” to attract government cash for a major upgrade as early as 2015.
Stephen Hammond made his comments in the House of Commons during a debate on the issue last night called by Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman.
East Anglian political and business leaders recently launched the Gateway to Growth campaign to secure improvements to the A47, which could generate nearly 10,000 jobs, add £390m to the region’s economy and attract £800m of private investment.
The campaign’s document envisioned that the needed improvements could be delivered over the next 20 years, but in December Mr Hammond suggested there was a possibility of the upgrade being considered in the government’s “route based strategies” programme.
There are already three UK road schemes being completed under the initiative, and Mr Hammond suggested the A47 plan could be the fourth or fifth; meaning it could get the cash by 2015.
In last night’s debate the minister appeared to confirm that the A47 improvements set out by the Gateway to Growth campaign had pushed their way to the front of the funding queue.
He said: “They are exciting, they are generating growth, they would unlock housing and they would also be good for road safety as well, they tick all the boxes.”
He went on : “It is absolutely right as I stated in December, and I’m happy to reaffirm this evening, that there has been truly excellent work done by the A47 alliance.
“They are ideally placed to be considered as one of the earliest route based strategies in the forthcoming programme and I do hope they will be one of the first one or two after the three that we’re currently considering.”
Mr Freeman and other county MPs who spoke in the debate emphasised the economic importance of getting the bottleneck route opened up.
The Mid Norfolk MP said: “Our county is ready to rise and meet the challenge of a rebalanced economy and with infrastructure we will be able to.
“The A47 is now the most pressing and urgent infrastructure in our county, it is a blocked artery that runs across from east to west linking our economy to the Midlands allowing goods to be moved in and out.”