‘The time for talking and yet further studies is over’ - rallying cry to David Cameron for A47 cash
07:40 10 January 2014
Archant © 2013
Enough talk, time for action - that is the message over the A47 which the EDP, road users, business bosses and politicians today send to the government.
A road with a terrible toll
While much of the focus for improvements to the A47 have been the need to boost Norfolk’s economy, the terrible toll of human lives lost on the road is another reason why action is needed.
With a patchwork of single carriageway and dual carriageway sections, the road has been the scene of numerous fatal crashes.
There are stretches of the road, such as the Honingham to Hockering section which have become notorious, while the Acle Straight is another section where there have been too many deaths over the years.
In an especially dreadful period between Christmas Eve in 2012 and the start of April last year, eight people died on the A47.
One of those was Kim Utting, 52, (pictured) who died on the road at Dereham on Valentine’s Day last year.
The mother-of-three, from Litcham, was travelling from her home to Dereham with her 30-year-old daughter Emma Herring for a morning of shopping when a black Peugeot 307 overtook them and continued to drive “erratically” on the single carriageway.
Andrew Scottow, 25, from Dereham, was driving in the opposite direction towards King’s Lynn in a red Skoda when he was forced to swerve away from the black car and crashed into Mrs Utting’s vehicle. Mrs Utting, who was a prominent figure on the dog show scene and won a major prize at Crufts in 2008 with her mastiffs, died at the scene.
Mr Scottow was in a coma for a week and suffered a brain haemorrhage, ripped diaphragm, collapsed lung, broken pelvis and broken humerus.
The driver of the Peugeot, thought to be a man with cropped hair aged between 20 and 50, has never been caught, although police have pledged to keep the case open until justice is done.
Anyone who has information about the crash should contact Norfolk police’s serious collision investigation team at Wymondham on 101.
At the end of a week in which Suffolk has joined the long-running battle for much-needed improvements to the vital route through the region, a rallying cry has been issued to prime minister David Cameron.
Last year, the Department for Transport added the A47 to six other road schemes on which it has tasked the Highways Agency to conduct a feasibility study, due to be published later this year.
But, with Suffolk County Council calling for the A12 to be reclassified to become an extension of the A47 and the government giving the green light to the £19m Postwick Hub junction, that has given renewed impetus to the campaign over the road.
Some £500m is needed to pay for a string of improvements to the 105-mile road, which the A47 Alliance - made up of council leaders, business representatives - say would boost economic output by £390m a year, bring in millions of pounds in private investment, create thousands of new jobs and cut journey times.
The story so far
With work under way to dual the A11, the east-west artery of the A47 has become the main transport priority for the county’s politicians, transport campaigners and industry leaders.
In November 2012, an eight-page prospectus called “A47 – Gateway to Growth” was launched, outlining “an achievable programme of targeted improvements”.
Rather than putting forward a single, unaffordable plan to dual the whole 105-mile stretch from Great Yarmouth to Peterborough, the document outlined 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.
That would not come cheap. It would cost more than £500m, but council leaders say the next 20 years would see economic benefits reaped.
That, they say, would include almost 10,000 new jobs; £390m per year increase in economic output; private investment of more than £800m and a 30-minute reduction in journey time, worth £42m a year to road users.
At the launch event, Broadland MP Keith Simpson drove along the A47 from King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth in a Union Jack-emblazed Mini Cooper to highlight the issues.
However, despite all the bluster, the A47 was left out of the government’s spending blueprint for 2015 to 2020.
That led to all nine Norfolk MPs signing a letter to road minister Stephen Hammond to tell him that investment in the trunk road was “essential to unlocking the full economic potential of the region”.
Mr Hammond visited Norfolk last September, where MPs and council leaders left him in no doubt as to the importance of the road to the county.
He said the key route was ranked in the top six in the country for future roads funding and had a strong case for government cash between 2015 and 2020.
He said a feasibility study by the Highways Agency was set to be completed by the end of 2014, which would examine the costs and benefits of upgrading the A47.
And the campaign now has added support from Suffolk. This week, a campaign to get the A47 extended from Great Yarmouth to Lowestoft was launched by Suffolk County Council, Waveney District Council and Waveney MP Peter Aldous.
The idea is that an extension of the A47 – by getting the A12 reclassified as part of the trunk road – will be a shot in the arm for tourism and businesses in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.
But it also sends a further message to the government about the essential strategic importance of the A47, while leaders in Waveney hope it could unlock the funding for the long sought third river crossing in Lowestoft.
But calls have now been made for work to start before the general election, to prove the government recognises the importance of a road which acts as a link between Europe and the Midlands.
Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman said: “After four decades of under-investment in East Anglian infrastructure it is time to press the button and invest.
“Our commuters have had to be more patient than most for longer than most and the scale of economic recovery in the Eastern region means that this investment will more than pay for itself.
“I strongly support the EDP in calling for this investment to be accelerated.”
Broadland MP Keith Simpson said: “The time for talking and yet further studies is over.
“Norfolk is looking for a concrete commitment by the government to start something on the A47. It would an act of good faith and we would like to see something before the next general election.
“The two pressure points are the Department for Transport and the Treasury and that is where we will be putting pressure on.”
Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, said he welcomed the EDP keeping up the pressure.
He said: “What we need is an indication, announcing one or two schemes, in the near future.
“The most important thing is to get the department to agree in principle that we do need investment in a significant scheme in the future.”
Peter Aldous, Waveney MP, said Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft being on the strategic road network was vital to the future of the area.
He said: “Yes, there are issues to address there, including the Acle straight, but now is the time to really get behind the campaign and give it a real push.”
The A47 Gateway to Growth prospectus says about £110m in funding has already been identified, with the potential for £50m to £150m from other local sources, leaving between £270m and £370m to be sought from the government.
The county council is putting the finishing touches to the business case, so MPs can present a stronger case to chancellor George Osborne.
David Harrison, chairman of the A47 Alliance and county council cabinet member for planning, transportation and the environment, said: “With the Postwick Hub agreed and the possible extension to the A47 to Lowestoft, we are building up a head of steam.
“Any pressure which can be brought to bear is welcome, because we need to be heard loudly.”
Business leaders said the government must pay heed to the message.
Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said studies had proved up to 10,000 new jobs and significant economic output would result from improvements.
She said: Norfolk businesses are investing in their companies in order to retain and create new jobs and to help drive the local economy.
“We need action and investment from the government to deliver what we all agreed we need, sooner rather than later.”
Martin Lake, chairman of the Mid Norfolk branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said improving the A47 would also transform the perception of Norfolk.
He said: “Anyone who travels on that road knows it can take a considerable time to get from A to B and I think that means people see the county as a bit constrained.”
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