The controversial Norwich Western Link is set to finally get the go-ahead thanks to the scrapping of the HS2 rail link. 

Supporters of the road scheme were handed a boost after ministers named it among road projects that will benefit from the government's scrapping of the northern section of the high-speed rail project. 

Eastern Daily Press: Prime minister Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party ConferencePrime minister Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party Conference (Image: PA)

The £251m road, along with the Long Stratton bypass, the West Winch access road and the A17 Pullover roundabout near King's Lynn, were named among 70 road schemes which could get a share of £36bn created by prime minister Rishi Sunak's decision not to build the HS2 section between Birmingham and Manchester.

But critics say that, with £610m to be distributed among 39 projects in the East, South East and the South West of England, the sums don't add up.

Eastern Daily Press: An artist's impression of the Norwich Western LinkAn artist's impression of the Norwich Western Link (Image: Norfolk County Council)

The Western Link is one of the key priorities of Conservative-led County Hall. A business case, asking for the government to bankroll 85pc of the road's cost - some £213m - was lodged months ago but no final decision has yet been made.

Roads minister Richard Holden, on a recent visit to Norfolk, had said a decision would be made "very soon", but also hinted at tension between his Department for Transport and the Treasury over whether the road would go ahead.


But at the Tory Party Conference, Mr Sunak said money would be available for 70 road schemes after scrapping part of the HS2 project.

He said: "I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project and in its place, we will reinvest every single penny, £36bn in hundreds of new transport projects in the north and the midlands, across the country."

He said the government will deliver "70 other road schemes", "resurface roads across the country" and "keep the £2 bus fare across the whole country".

The government later confirmed £180m would go to schemes in East Anglia and listed the four Norfolk projects.

The government also confirmed money will be spent to revamp the Ely and Haughley railway junctions in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, which will increase capacity for trains in and out of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Graham Plant, the county council's cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "As I’ve said previously, we have a strong business case for the Norwich Western Link and we are certain that ministers recognise this and the importance of this piece of infrastructure to Norfolk’s residents, businesses and the economy.

"We remain confident of receiving a funding commitment from the government in the near future and today’s speech by the prime minister only serves to reinforce this."

Eastern Daily Press: Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transportGraham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport (Image: Jamie HoneywoodArchantNorwichNorfolk)

But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall, said the sums did not add up.

He said: "I don't see how £610m can possibly pay for all these schemes. It feels like a con. It feels like the government is saying these things knowing none will come to fruition before the next general election."

He added if money does come Norfolk's way, it should be used to tackle the rail bottleneck at Trowse rather than on the Western Link.

"Across the whole of Norfolk we need investment to finally develop an integrated public transport system and making our existing road network fit for purpose," he said.

"What we must resist is any cash blown on schemes like the Norwich Western Link.

"That would be so damaging when there are so many improvements needed that could benefit the county in more and better ways."

Eastern Daily Press: Labour group leader Steve MorphewLabour group leader Steve Morphew (Image: Denise Bradley)

Liberal Democrat county councillor Rob Colwell said he was disappointed at the lack of firm announcements for Norfolk.

He said: "It was as though the East didn’t exist. I saw nothing that provided any reassurance to residents in the region that axing HS2 will level up our area and provide funds for long-awaited infrastructure projects such as the Norwich Western Link."

In the summer, the county council announced it was "reducing" its development of the road scheme, because of the uncertainty surrounding the project.

Council leaders say the road will cut congestion and provide an economic boost but critics say it comes at a huge environmental cost.

The proposed route, which includes a viaduct over the river Wensum, has already had to be altered because of the potential impact on protected barbastelle bats.

The government had already announced it would give £26.2m towards the cost of the two-and-a-half mile A140 Long Stratton bypass, only for the bill to subsequently rise from £37.4m to £46.2m.