September 23 2014 Latest news:
Public affairs correspondent
Friday, October 26, 2012
Frustrated drivers used to years of misery on the A11 have a long-awaited date for their diaries - after a government minister revealed when he expects work to dual the road will be completed.
Transport minister Norman Baker revealed that December 2014 is the date when work to dual the final single carriageway section of the road will be finished.
The surprise announcement, which is the most precise date yet given for the completion of the long-awaited work on the 9.1 mile stretch of road, was made during a debate in the House of Commons this week.
During a discussion on road improvements, the subject of the A11 dualling was raised, which prompted Mr Baker to state: “The massive improvement on the A11 between Fiveways and Thetford will be delivered by December 2014, so Norwich will finally get the road that it has perhaps been after for some time.”
Preliminary work for the £134m project, which will see the road widened and a new bypass built at Elveden, began last year, with the creation of an access road at the Elveden Estate for large vehicles,
But the bulk of the main work is due to begin early next year, with the government having signalled a start date between January and March.
The Highways Agency has revealed further details of what will happen next, explaining that it is working to prepare the land either side of the existing A11, so when the main construction work starts early next year, traffic can use that in an attempt to minimise disruption.
However, they said road signs and traffic signals will be used to protect the safety of road workers, with the speed of vehicles passing them controlled.
The Highways Agency has also revealed how reminders of East Anglia’s past have been unearthed during an archaeological study of land which will be developed through the dualling work.
Archaeologists from Suffolk County Council have been surveying an area between Chalk Hill Farm and the B1106, on which the new Elveden bypass will be built.
Early investigations have shown evidence of settlements dating from 50BC to 400AD. Flint workings from primitive tools have been discovered dating back even further - to 4000BC.
Items from early settlements have included evidence of timber homes, animal bones and pottery from France and the Nene Valley at Peterborough. Those surveys, which started in August, are due to continue into the middle of next month.
And the Highways Agency has also detailed “significant ecological investigation and protection” measures which are being put in place.
The agency, on their website, says: “Our team of ecologists have been conducting surveys to identify animals that could be impacted by construction works and developing ways to protect them.
“For example, newt fencing has been erected allowing captured newts to be relocated to an area of safety, away from future construction activities.
“In addition to the installation of temporary badger fencing, permanent badger tunnels will be constructed under the route of the new road to minimise disruption to their migratory routes.”
Preparations for the main work next year is being stepped up, with a public exhibition about the scheme and how the work will be done due to be held at Elveden Village Hall next month.
Members of the Highways Agency project team will be available to answer questions at that exhibition.
Funding for the scheme was secured in the 2010 spending review.
Prime minister David Cameron recently founded himself in a tit-for-tat battle of semantics over the A11 with journalist Jon Snow.
Asked by the Channel 4 interviewer to name regional infrastructure works which were “shovel-ready”, the prime minister cited the A11, calling it “a big project which has been called for for very many years”.
But at the end of the interview Mr Snow poured scorn on Mr Cameron’s example, saying: “A little check on the Highways Agency website shows that all that has happened so far is the removal of a few trees along the route.”