Fresh calls for action over 'unacceptable' queues at A11 roundabout
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Fresh calls have been made for a rethink over an A11 roundabout - because drivers heading in and out of Norfolk are getting stuck in "unacceptable" queues.
Council bosses and business leaders are exerting pressure to get the Fiveways roundabout, at Barton Mills in Suffolk, replaced with a new junction, to stop traffic become clogged up in congestion.
After years of campaigning, more than £150m was spent to finally complete the dualling of the A11 in 2014.
But concerns have been raised that a subsequent decision to install traffic signals at the Barton Mills roundabout is causing delays - and undoing some of the benefits of dualling.
The lights were put in place in November 2018 after concerns from people living in the Mildenhall area over safety and queues.
Norfolk County Council had tried to make the case that there should have been grade separation at the junction - so some or all of the traffic is not controlled by lights.
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A grade separated roundabout has at least one approach coming at the road from a different level.
However, it can be costly, with a need for ramps, connector roads or bridges.
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But council leaders are continuing to push for a longer-term solution at the roundabout.
Martin Wilby, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “Fully dualling the A11 was an enormous step forward for the county, opening up this once badly congested key route.
"Although the delays we all faced in the past have largely been solved by the dualling, we are continuing to press the government to focus attention on the need to keep traffic flowing, from all directions, at the Mildenhall Fiveways junction to cut unacceptable queues."
John Richardson, a retired civil engineer, who lives in Norfolk, wrote to Highways England before the lights were added, saying that would be a cheap, short-sighted option.
He was recently caught in mile-and-a-half queues due to congestion while returning to Norfolk, and has written to Highways England again.
He said: "The correct solution would have been to invest in the future properly by taking the A11 and bypassing the junction completely, leaving the roundabout off line to deal with local traffic movements and just slip roads up to the trunk road."
He said it would be more expensive, but would be the right solution - especially given the importance of tourism to Norfolk's economy.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Businesses, residents and visitors rely on this junction to come into our region so it’s important that traffic on the A11 – including at the Barton Mills roundabout - moves smoothly.”
Will Bridgman, chairman of Thetford-based engineering company Warren Services, said a flyover should have been built at the roundabout when the A11 was dualled.
He said: "I don't have a particular gripe with the traffic lights causing queues there, but I know that other people have had.
"We don't have massive problems, but there's something not right there.
"I don't know quite what it is, whether it's the traffic lights or not.
"It really should have been made into a flyover, but there was not enough money."
However, there might be in the future.
Highways England has allocated £347m to develop potential future projects over the next five years - and the Barton Mills roundabout is one of the 32 schemes being considered.
It has been named as part of a pipeline for the third Road Investment Strategy (RIS3), for schemes to be built between 2025 and 2030.
But Highways England said its data showed queues only happened sporadically.
Christos Galanopoulos, Highways England's route manager for the East of England, said: "The A11 is a vital route for East Anglia, linking Norfolk to Suffolk and Cambridge.
"The Fiveways junction is a busy roundabout, so to improve safety and its management traffic lights were installed which became operational in November 2018.
"These improvements were made after listening to feedback from road users and help to balance the needs of drivers on the A11 and those on the smaller roads using the roundabout.
"We will continue to keep traffic flows around the roundabout under review to ensure that the junction works for everyone."