Hopes raised of finishing A11 dualling

Hopes of finishing the dualling of the A11 were raised yesterday as regional assembly chiefs pledged to make a £101m scheme one of their top priorities.

Hopes of finishing the dualling of the A11 were raised yesterday as regional assembly chiefs pledged to make a £101m scheme one of their top priorities.

A Norfolk MP and local transport officials spoke of their optimism last night following "positive" talks with the chief executives of the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) over investment in the county's road network.

Christopher Fraser, MP for south-west Norfolk, said he would now seek a meeting with transport ministers about funding the upgrade of the A11 between Fiveways-Barton Mills and Thetford.

The talks came after the seven-mile dualling prog-ramme, which was expected to start in 2008, was last year put back to beyond 2011 following a decision by EERA and a meagre government funding settlement of £778m for all road schemes in the six counties of the east of England over the next 10 years.

But after yesterday's meeting, Brian Stewart, EERA chief executive, said work on the final single- carriageway stretch of the A11 could be brought forward.

"The region is expecting to be asked to give updated advice on transport priorities over the next year," he said.

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"At that time, EERA would expect the A11 Fiveways-to- Thetford scheme to be one of the region's top transport priorities, and to become a funded scheme at the very earliest opportunity."

Mr Fraser added that he was "hugely encouraged" by the talks and would now be asking transport minister Stephen Ladyman to pledge funding to the nationally-important A11 scheme.

"Growth Point Status has been awarded to Thetford and Norwich since the government's announcement of funding for the regional transport programme, and this adds yet more weight to an already compelling economic case for the project.

"My view is that the upgrade is of national importance, in that dualling would pay dividends in terms of Norfolk's contribution to the national economy," he said.

Richard Rockcliffe, Norfolk county councillor, added: "We welcome EERA's commitment to dualling the A11 as one of the region's very top priorities.

"The county will work with EEDA in further developing the economic case for the scheme, which is critical to the economic future of Norfolk."

The meeting came just a few days before the official opening of the £30m dualling scheme at Attleborough on Thursday.