Funding cuts will hit region's roads

STEVE DOWNES Norfolk's network of roads could "gradually deteriorate" in the wake of a significant cut in funding from the government, it was revealed last night.Former trunk roads, including the A17 and A134, will be particularly hard hit after Norfolk County Council got one-quarter of the cash it demanded to keep them in prime condition.

STEVE DOWNES

Norfolk's network of roads could "gradually deteriorate" in the wake of a significant cut in funding from the government, it was revealed last night.

Former trunk roads, including the A17 and A134, will be particularly hard hit after Norfolk County Council got one-quarter of the cash it demanded to keep them in prime condition.

Transport minister Rosie Winterton announced a total of £490m for local transport schemes and maintenance work across the east of England from 2008/9 to 2010/11.

Norfolk's share is almost £93m, while Suffolk gets £66m and Cambridgeshire £59m.

The Norfolk figure is made up of £33m over three years for integrated transport, including cycleways, pedestrian crossings and projects to make journeys to school safer, and about £60m for highways maintenance.

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Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said the announcement was "very frustrating". He said: "Although an average of £31m each year from central government for transport projects might seem large, it makes no provision for inflation, currently running at 7pc per year on highway costs." He added that the maintenance allocation was £1.75m less than this year's figure which, when inflation was taken into account, meant a "real-terms" cut of 14pc.

"It will mean a gradual deterioration in the quality of road surfaces. Where we would like to resurface a road, we may have to do surface dressing instead, which is not as good."

Mr Gunson said the integrated transport handout had been boosted by £6.1m in reward grants for the council's "excellent work planning and delivering" schemes.

The council asked for £4.8m for resurfacing work along stretches of Norfolk's former trunk roads, whose management has been handed from the government to the local authority.

But it only gets £1.2m - meaning a major project to resurface the A17 from King's Lynn to the county border at Sutton Bridge, and a similar scheme on the A134 near Thetford, will be scaled down.

Mrs Winterton said she was "delighted" to announce the funding, which she claimed would help meet the east's "unique challenges".

Barbara Follett, minister for the east of England, said: "I welcome this funding, which will help motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and public- transport users throughout the east of England."

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