Analysis: Business counts up the benefits of A11 dualling

DPD has invested £1.2m on expanded facilities next the A11 at Snetterton, improvements to the road w

DPD has invested £1.2m on expanded facilities next the A11 at Snetterton, improvements to the road where key to the expansion. - Credit: Archant

For businesses dualling the A11 was simply a no-brainer. But what will it mean for the local economy and how soon can we expect to draw in inward investment as a result?

Mark Pendlington, director of Anglian Water, who has joined the board of New Anglia local enterprise

Mark Pendlington, director of Anglian Water, who has joined the board of New Anglia local enterprise partnership - Credit: Archant

It has been some journey, but as the dualling of the A11 is completed, it looks like we are nearly there.

And for businesses dualling was simply a no-brainer.

So what will dualling mean for the local economy, and can we start to expect to draw in inward investment as a result?

Back in 2008 a Norfolk County Council funded study looking at the wider economic benefits of dualling the remaining Fiveways to Thetford section found that over a 60 year time period, for businesses the time savings involved would be worth £355.5m, or around £5.9m a year

Productivity improvements alone arising from being able to do more work by simply getting from A to B more quickly and easily and cutting travel would be worth £101m over the same period.

The study noted that the main benefits would be and it noted that the road would help open up new housing developments and employment sites in Norwich.

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The study by transport consultants Atkins noted that the 'scheme will help promote increased business efficiency, enterprise, innovation, and skills. Overall the road improvement will help Norfolk by linking the two regional engines of growth in Norwich and Cambridge'.

It added: 'Tackling the remaining bottleneck on the A11 corridor will boost confidence among businesses in Norwich, which could help generate interest investors from outside the region.'

However, the long overdue infrastructure improvement also has a flip side. During an EDP business roundtable last year, Phil Gadd, from Norwich airport admitted that better links were a 'a bit of a double-edged sword'.

We would like to see the road networks and rail networks developed to bring people to us and use us as connectivity to Europe and the rest of the world,' he said at the time. 'Giving people the opportunity to look elsewhere and to focus elsewhere and to drive to Stansted is not great for us. If we are going to develop as a resource, there has to be a focus on bringing people in.'

Bev Spratt, Chairman of Economic Development on Norfolk County Council, said that dualling would definitely bring investment into the county.

'There's no doubt that removing the Elveden bottleneck makes Norfolk a much better prospect for inward investment, as well as improving safety and encouraging tourism. It will bring a real boost along the whole A11 corridor – Thetford, Attleborough, Wymondham and Norwich. Now we've got to press on with east-west improvements on the A47 to spread the benefits from King's Lynn to Great Yarmouth, and make sure that the Norwich Northern Distributor Road goes ahead so that Broadland and North Norfolk can share all these improvements. Of course it's not all about roads. We must continue to press for faster and more reliable rail services, and roll out Better Broadband and mobile phone reception across the whole county.'

And bringing people in is exactly what is on the mind of bosses of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP said that its One East project will help make the business case to firms for locating here.

'The opening of the A11 brings us a faster route into the region and a faster route towards greater investment, prosperity and connectivity across Norfolk and Suffolk,' he said. 'An estimated £558m in direct benefits will come here as result of better commuting times, better business opportunities and increased tourism. And it boosts our challenge to the perceived dominance of the so-called 'golden triangle' of innovation in London, Cambridge and Oxford.'

But he said the Norfolk and Suffolk must state loud and clear that the two counties are open for business.

'Thousands of businesses large and small see Norfolk and Suffolk as a great economic hub,' he added. Our big challenge is to keep them here and attract more.

'So in our robust and persuasive recruitment strategy for national and international business, our message needs to be heard much louder and clearer.'