MPs call for more ambition in short term demands for the A47

Norfolk M.P Keith Simpson

Norfolk M.P Keith Simpson - Credit: Archant

MPs have called for more ambition and a clearer case for an A47 upgrade at a Westminster summit.

During the London meeting about efforts to secure investment in the key trunk route, Broadland MP Keith Simpson said everyone should agree a significant aim which they think could be achieved in the short term, so the parliamentarians could do some 'serious' lobbying.

East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay, who was also at the summit, said he had not yet had the clarity of what he should be lobbying for, adding: 'What we should have is a one-page sheet which says, frankly, 'between now and 2015 this is what we are looking for'.'

Earlier this year the Department for Transport added the A47 to six other road schemes on which it has tasked the Highways Agency to conduct a feasibility study.

Alan Kirkdale, asset development manager at the Highways Agency, who was at the summit to update MPs, said it was a tight timescale, but that the plan was to present a proposal at the Autumn Statement this time next year.

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He said they were currently collecting evidence and pulling together past studies on the road.

The A47 Alliance has pulled together a new booklet, which sets out each scheme needed, including the cost and the timescale it expects, up to 2021 and beyond.

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David Cumming, co-ordinator of the A47 Alliance, said it needed about £800m for a raft of projects up to the 2021 period.

He said that, following the feasibility study, he hoped money would be pledged towards some of the proposals in next year's infrastructure plan, with the rest coming in spending plans after 2015.

But Mr Barclay said: 'My challenge back would be to be very ambitious in what we ask for. The challenge back is to come to a figure and then ask the MPs to back it.

'The meeting today in Parliament identified the importance of a bid to the chancellor ahead of the next Autumn Statement. I believe our vision should be to dual the whole of this route, and we need to ensure the first round of funding includes the relevant feasibility work to deliver this longer-term aim'

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who organised the summit, but was unable to attend because of a family funeral, said: 'The A47 is a vital economic artery, from the east coast ports across Norfolk to the Midlands, which has been neglected for years.

'The business case for developing this route is insurmountable with the potential to help unlock a new cycle of growth in our region and nationally. Working with all the local MPs and the A47 Alliance we have a united front to campaign for the much- needed improvements.

'Following the visit of the roads minister this year to see the A47 for himself, we will continue to push the Department for Transport to implement the upgrades needed.'

Comment – page 28

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