Acle Straight will always cause travel issues until we sort out alternatives
PUBLISHED: 08:10 14 March 2019
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012
Rachel Moore is a regular user of the Acle Straight, but often she sits in a queue of traffic watching almost empty trains travel between Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Give her a better way to get to Yarmouth and she’d ditch the car.
Beautiful marshland stretches as far as the eye can see in the early morning light, punctuated only by windmills, running horses and grazing cattle.
Roofs of Broads cruisers line the waterway and turbine blades of the east of England’s first offshore wind farm spin beyond the outline of Britain’s largest parish church.
The views on my morning commute to Great Yarmouth are never more beautiful than on a frosty morning. The fields glisten, the mottled skies and there’s always a surprise livestock swap with dozens of running horses replacing the grazing cattle and, as of late, a field of donkeys.
What commuters the length and breadth of the UK wouldn’t give for these views on their daily journey to work. It’s heaven for people navigating the sweaty London Underground system every day.
But this is Norfolk’s most infamous stretch of road. The eight-mile Acle Straight - the focus of campaigns to dual the single-carriageway road cursed for strangling the region’s economy, being the scene of countless crashes and causing daily frustration for drivers.
For as long as I can remember, calls to carve through its stunning beauty to make a “faster road” – of course an impossibility because a tarmac road isn’t ‘fast’, that’s all about the traffic flow and people behind the wheels – have been loud and clear.
Every morning and evening traffic grinds to a halt in both directions. The ‘rush hour’ is now more like two as traffic travels at a snail’s pace – the endangered little whirlpool ramshorn snail that lives on the marshes and has played a crucial part in the roadworks’ delay for studies to investigate relocating them.
We moan about the dawdling, but we’ve only got ourselves to blame. In most cars on that road at the busiest times is a sole occupant. One driver heading to either Great Yarmouth for work, or Norwich.
In my seven years’ driving this road daily, the volume of the traffic has swelled – like the numbers of cars outside homes – but the number of occupants per car hasn’t. Sitting there sometimes for up to an hour on a journey that should take 20 minutes, watching the opposite flow of traffic, one after another single occupancy vehicles.
Single use cars should be like single-used plastic – attacked, shamed and outlawed. And I’m as guilty as anyone.
If we all doubled up and lift shared, the number of cars would be halved. That statement – so simple, yet so scary. What a difference we could make by simple logistics.
Double-up, half the cars on the road and get to work quicker.
Every morning, I watch a train cut through the marshes parallel to the traffic, heading for Great Yarmouth.
Often, it’s a single carriage. I count the heads. Five people today.
Then, before I’ve crept a just few yards, it’s heading back again, back into Norwich, again with very few passengers.
I could take the train every day from my village station, reducing pressure on the Acle Straight, if only the service were reliable, and I could count on it running every day to get to the office on time.
Traffic radio reports on my journey regularly report cancellations of the services between Great Yarmouth and Norwich, at just the time people need them to get to work.
I could use my bike to cycle from Great Yarmouth railway station to my office, if I could guarantee that there would be room on the train for my bike after Greater Anglia announced it was restricting the number of cycles on its trains.
Although its new trains, yet to arrive on our lines, will take six. I could, as its spokespeople helpfully suggested, invest in a fold-up bike.
The Acle Straight is mocked for being “sooo Naaaarfolk” – a single carriageway into what should be our gateway to the continent, England’s main centre for offshore energy where multi-billion investments are being made by offshore wind developers.
Its opportunities in oil & gas decommissioning are immense too but stymied by a single-carriageway roads not big enough to take away waste North Sea infrastructure.
But the daily dangers and frustrations of Acle Straight are ours to fix.
It’s not the road causing the problems, it’s how we use it – and abuse it – and the ropey alternative ways of travelling those eight miles run by organisations that cannot be relied on to provide a fit-for-purpose service,
It’s dangerous because of the stupid drivers who see the roundabouts at both ends as gateways to speed on their own rally track and play beat the car. They are ignorant, reckless, and dim and arrogant
The safety and efficiency of the Acle Straight is down to us entirely. As long as people are prepared to dice with death, it will continue to be dangerous.
For as long as we continue to be selfish, refusing to share journeys and double up we will continue to sit on it immobile for too long.
And until rail providers commit make their services reliable and welcoming to people making an effort to relieve pressure on the roads, almost-empty trains will run past stationary traffic.