For the sake of this region, please prioritise the A47 now

Peter Brown from Jack Richards speaks at the reception at Westminster to lobby for the dualling of t

Peter Brown from Jack Richards speaks at the reception at Westminster to lobby for the dualling of the A47. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Peter Brown, managing director of Norfolk-based logistics and haulage company Jack Richards, explains why the whole of the A47 is in dire need of being dualled

We operate 350 trucks, 700 trailers and employ 730 staff servicing customers across both Norfolk and the UK.

We are one of the UK's fastest growing logistics companies and our ambition is to continue this growth and become the next Eddie Stobart.

I have been with Jack Richards for 13 years, and, yes, I am the person you phone to complain to if you get stuck behind one of our big yellow trucks emblazoned with our slogan 'you are following one of the best', but more importantly over that 13 years I have seen Norfolk's manufacturing base decline and relocate, not to China, but to the Midlands. Why is this happening?

As I am sure we are all aware Great Yarmouth and Norwich are closer to the centre of the UK than Newcastle, Exeter or Dover but do you realise because of the shockingly poor state of our major trunk routes, particularly the A47, it takes a truck longer to travel from Great Yarmouth than it does from Newcastle, Exeter or Dover to reach our country's major markets?

Does this matter? Yes it does

We have seen over the last few years many significant manufacturers leave Norfolk for more central locations. Just this year both Unilever and Britvic have abandoned Norwich.

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Why are they leaving? Cost is the main reason. The cost of that extra time has to be built into every haulage rate, on average every hour extra travelled will add £75 to the cost of a load.

If, like one of our customers, you are dispatching 50 loads a day 350 days a year that is a huge extra cost. (Just over £1.3 million per year in that example).

Add to this the problems of maintaining reliability of supply when trucks are forced to use single carriageway roads which become blocked by any accident or breakdown and it is easy to see why we are losing our industrial base and the jobs that go with it. Let's be clear these are good jobs, both in manufacturing but also in logistics, our drivers typically are earning £35,000 a year. Lose this work and it affects the whole local community.

If Norfolk is to continue to grow in a balanced and sustainable way it must retain its manufacturing capability, and the good quality jobs which result from this.

We need the government to invest in dualling the whole of the A47 NOW before Norfolk loses the last of its large scale manufacturing plants. Finally I started this column by talking about being the person you talk to if you are stuck behind one of our trucks, if you are not impressed by the business argument, then please consider this. I never again want to get a phone call telling me one of our trucks has been involved in a serious accident on the A47 because a young family lost patience waiting behind it and attempted to overtake in the wrong place. There have been 180 serious or fatal accidents on this road in the last four years, that's more than 180 lives messed up. Please prioritise the A47 now.