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Prospect of faster A47 upgrade is played down by top minister

Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling arrives in Downing Street, London, for the final Cabinet meeting with David Cameron as Prime Minister. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 12, 2016. His successor Theresa May will take up office as Britain's second woman PM on Wednesday, after Mr Cameron answers MPs' questions in the House of Commons for the last time and goes to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to the Queen. See PA story POLITICS Conservatives. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling arrives in Downing Street, London, for the final Cabinet meeting with David Cameron as Prime Minister. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 12, 2016. His successor Theresa May will take up office as Britain's second woman PM on Wednesday, after Mr Cameron answers MPs' questions in the House of Commons for the last time and goes to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to the Queen. See PA story POLITICS Conservatives. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Hopes that
the £300m upgrade of the A47 could be speeded up have been played down by the transport secretary.

Chris Grayling, who was handed the top transport job by new prime minister Theresa May in the summer, said that while he hoped to bring some of a raft of road improvements forward, he did not want to “raise expectations” that the Norfolk improvements could be done more quickly than the current Highways England timetable.

Drivers could have to wait for eight years before a £300m upgrade to the A47, including dualling between North Tuddenham and Easton, Blofield and North Burlingham and Wansford and Sutton, is complete.

Highways England warned earlier last year that road building was a “hugely complex task” and it was likely to be five years before diggers could move in.

The upgrade was a flagship part of the Conservative election manifesto for the East.

Former prime minister David Cameron quipped that he would “get in the diggers himself if he had to” when he heard how long the work might take to complete, and local MPs have also led calls for a shorter timetable.

Speaking on the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mr Grayling
confirmed that he was “looking at that issue”.

He added: “As you can imagine, there is great demand and a whole range of different projects that we need to get off the ground. A lot do start in 2019.”

But he said they had to work within their budget.

“I would hope that we can bring some schemes forward, but I don’t want to raise expectations that I can deliver much more quickly than Highways England is suggesting, but this is the kind of question me and my ministerial colleagues are asking about the phasing of road schemes, to understand what we can do sooner and understand what the priorities could be.”

Mr Grayling also indicated the was putting pressure on the government-backed rail infrastructure body Network Rail over multi-million-pound track upgrades between Norwich in 90 minutes and Ipswich in 60 minutes, which are vital to the another key Conservative manifesto pledge being achieved.

How important is the A47? Email edpletters@archant.co.uk

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