East Anglian roads spending 'too low'

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Spending on transport in the region would need to increase by £370m a year just to keep pace with other parts of the country, it was claimed.


Spending on transport in the region would need to increase by £370m a year just to keep pace with other parts of the country, it was claimed yesterday.

Two East Anglian MPs Charles Clarke and Richard Spring have joined forces to urge ministers to bring forward the dualling of the A11.

Research funded by the pair showed that transport spending per head was the lowest in the country at £106.8 compared to £198.1 in the South East and in a joint letter to transport secretary Ruth Kelly the parliamentarians have put forward four options ministers in a bid to see the link completed earlier.

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Options include getting the Highways Agency to restore dualling at an earlier date, significantly increasing transport funding for the region in the next spending round, backing a bid for cash from the government's transport innovation fund, and taking a fresh look at how the government classifies roads of strategic national importance.

They said though the Highways Agency describes the link as 'substandard' and the source of substantial delays with frequent accidents.

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The move comes as business leaders warned that firms were losing an average £21,000 a year because of jams on the single-lane Thetford/Barton Lane stretch.

“It is really absurd that transport spending in the East of England lags significantly behind other English regions,” the letter said. “The region is forecast to see high population growth and if the transport spending per capita in this region were to equal the average of the other high growth English regions an extra £370m should be spent on transport a year.”

Making the construction actually happen has fallen victim to the regional funding allocation process since the investment of about £100m was too large to fit easily within the funding limits imposed upon the region in the first two phases, they added.

And the pair were critical of out of date information about the progress of the scheme being posted on the Highways Agency website.

“This road needs to be built as soon as possible, but there still appears to be no firm timetable for its construction,” they said. “A 2012/13 start date is far too distant, being 15 years or so after the government's decision to make dualling the A11 the top priority for the Eastern region of the country.”

Tom Harris, junior transport minister, said it would be “inappropriate” to make exceptions to schemes such as the Fiveways to Thetford link, but said while a scheme could be ready to start in 2010 it would have to be “held at that stage until funding becomes available”.

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