Council calls for full dualling of the Acle Straight
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Concern that the dualling of the Acle Straight could still be years away has prompted county councillors to send a strong message to the government that the work is crucial to Norfolk.
While improvements to the A47 were included in a £15.2bn programme of investment from 2015 to 2020, that did not include the notorious Acle Straight or the stretch from Tilney to East Winch.
Norfolk County Council bosses, made those roads strategic priorities, and hoped they could get money in the next spending programme from 2020 to 2025.
But those sections seemed to be omitted from thinking over the next major investment in England's roads when Highways England published its initial report on where money could be pumped over that period.
While the A11 and the A47 from Norwich to Dereham are mooted as 'expressways'. the Acle Straight and the west Norfolk stretch are not flagged up as anything other than standard trunk roads.
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And that sparked concern they could miss out on the next share of money.
At a meeting of the county council's environment, transport and development today councillors reaffirmed they were the priorities to send a message over the importance of those schemes.
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Mick Castle, independent councillor for Yarmouth North and Central, said: 'If we are not careful, once again Highways England seem to be working in the opposite direction to us.
'It's really important that we reaffirm our priorities as a county, with the Acle Straight and the stretch at Tilney.
'If we are not careful, we will just get a second rate option from Highways England and they will just do the bit between Dereham and Acle.'
Martin Wilby, the Conservative chairman of the committee, has written to MPs to stress the importance of a fully dialled A47 to the county.
And Stuart Clancy, Conservative councillor for Taverham, said it was essential to keep up the pressure over the work to the A47 which has been agreed.
He said: 'We must do all we can to speed up this snail-like process.'
Highways England has stressed the 2020 to 2025 plan was a vision, rather than a firm commitment and that planning of road upgrades will be done through the usual processes.
What is an expressway?
An expressway is to be a new classification of road between a motorway and a traditional dual carriageway to show a route that would flow faster than at present.
There would be no slow-moving agricultural machines allowed to use them.
Junctions would be improved to allow traffic to join and leave the road at the speed of the prevailing traffic.
There would be extra emergency spaces at the side for vehicles to pull off – but roads would remain two-lane, rather than three, for most of their length.
And their roadsigns would be painted blue like motorways, rather than green, as A routes have at present.
But the concept of expressways has come in for criticism.
The Campaign For Better Transport fears they could lead to the cutting off of junctions with minor local roads and that investment in more integrated public transport would be better.