Call for short-term upgrades on A47
- Credit: IAN BURT
Smaller projects along the A47 such as pelican crossings and extra warning signs should be given the go-ahead now to give commuters the confidence that larger improvements are on their way, an MP has said.
North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham told transport minister Stephen Hammond yesterday that as well as dualling the road and improving the most notorious junctions, his department should also look at additional safety measures that would help to cut accidents on the road.
'The point I made is that we need immediate, small schemes to make the road safer now,' he said. 'But we also need to know major improvement schemes are in the pipeline.'
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Top of his list of larger goals is a new bypass between Middleton and East Winch.
At a meeting of the A47 Alliance group of campaigners on Friday, that was listed as a long-term priority because more research work needs to be done – but Mike Jackson, Norfolk County Council's director of environment, transport and development was keen to stress that did not mean such schemes were any less important.
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Areas that could benefit from smaller improvements include Wisbech and Narborough, Mr Bellingham said, adding that a pelican crossing could help with safety at East Winch.
North-East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay said he repeatedly bent Mr Hammond's ear about the A47 and said it was clear to everyone in government that improvements to the road were long overdue. 'Eastern region MPs recognise, I think, that too often government money is targeted around the country on the basis of deprivation rather than economic growth,' he said.
'If the Treasury's aim is for the economy to grow, it might be better to look at areas such as this which can be developed. We have to address the issue of the A47 and particularly of getting into and out of Wisbech. It is a key artery route, a long-standing issue and the current situation is simply not good enough.'
Ian Bates, Cambridgeshire County Council's cabinet member for growth and planning, said Mr Hammond was in 'listening mode' and did not give an indication as to which improvement schemes along the A47 would be given the nod. However, he said the A47 Alliance's views of which projects were long, short and medium-term priorities was made clear to him.
Asked whether improvements nearer to Great Yarmouth would benefit people in Cambridgeshire, he said: 'Yes. It's about jobs, housing and economic growth. It is an east-west corridor and is a strategic route, so if the economy in Norfolk benefits then so will the economy in Cambridgeshire.'
Elizabeth Truss, South-West Norfolk MP, added that she would be raising the need for improvements to the Broad End junction of the A47 to the attention of the roads minister.
'Until we know the cost benefits if each of the junctions that need to be upgrade, it is difficult to mount a campaign. We need to know how much it should cost and which bits should be prioritised. The last time they were costed was 20 years ago,' she said.
'The prime minister has been very clear that it is a priority and Patrick McLoughlin is committed to a feasibility study. The government is taking this extremely seriously and is committed to infrastructure spending as a way to achieve economic growth. I expect the economic case will be very positive.
'Norfolk MPs will not stop knocking on the door of the prime minister until we make progress on this.
'It is great to get the A11 dualled, but we need better links with the west. The A47 is an important route, particularly for the ports and links to the Midlands where there is a lot of economic growth.'