Revealed: Road and rail schemes in region's 2050 transport push
- Credit: Denise Bradley
Details have been revealed of a fresh initiative to finally turn a string of proposed transport schemes in Norfolk and Waveney into reality - including dualling the A47 Acle Straight and speeding up trains between Norwich and London.
Transport East's 30 year draft strategy outlines a wishlist of more than 50 projects to improve roads, rail, airports and ports across the region.
The transport body - made up of local councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships and businesses across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex - will use the strategy to make the case to the government for investment in a number of schemes up to 2050.
By co-ordinating their wishes across the three counties, local leaders believe their voices will be better heard in Whitehall, making funding for the expensive schemes more likely.
The strategy focuses on key transport corridors, including: the Midlands to Great Yarmouth, via King's Lynn and Norwich; King's Lynn to London, via Cambridge and Harlow; London to the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts.
Major transport projects backed by the strategy include:
- Dualling the A47 Acle Straight
- Building the A10 West Winch bypass near King's Lynn
- The controversial Norwich Western Link Road
- Improvements to the A12 near Lowestoft
- Replacing the Trowse swing bridge to speed up trains between Norwich and London
- Rail improvements to allow direct train services between Norwich and Oxford
- Dualling the A47 from Tilney to East Winch
- Improving the Pullover Roundabout on the A47/A17 at King's Lynn
- Upgrading the A11 Fiveways junction near Barton Mills in Suffolk
The blueprint revolves around a series of priorities, including achieving net zero carbon, connecting towns and cities, boosting rural and coastal communities and unlocking international gateways.
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The report's authors acknowledge road schemes make up part of the strategy, but say they are committed to getting people to swap cars for public transport.
The strategy states: "In urban centres significant investment in public transport, active travel and complementary constraints on car use will be an important part of the decarbonisation solution, where targeted investment is likely to deliver value for money.
"However, in rural and coastal areas, although active travel and public transport will have a significant role to play, good road transport is and will remain a vital cog underpinning economic activity and social cohesion.
"Here, driving the transition to electric vehicles, developing new demand responsive and mass transit public transport and dovetailing transport interventions with initiatives such as the roll-out of super-fast broadband and digital services will be a critical part of the solution."
The strategy proposes an "electric vehicle infrastructure task force" to accelerate the rollout of charging points and to work with National Grid and UK Power Networks to ensure that happens.
The strategy states: "There needs to be a step-change in the provision of electric charging infrastructure in the places where people need it – at home, at work, in depots and on the road."
Public consultation on the strategy ends this weekend. Once finalised, Transport East would push and lobby the government to invest in the schemes and initiatives outlined in it.
Andrew Proctor, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council said: "We have ambitious plans to foster economic growth across Norfolk and it is important that this is part of a wider strategy for the region.
"How and where you travel is something that affects every business in the county so I would encourage as many people as possible to have their say.”
But Ben Price, leader of the Green group at Norfolk County Council, feared it could be a missed opportunity.
He said: "The strategy is a huge opportunity to lead the way in modal shift away from private cars clogging up the roads and choking our citizens, to active travel and a reliable efficient public transport system fit for the 21st century.
"Sadly the focus of the consultation is on big infrastructure projects, which lock in car use and the associated carbon."
At a county council meeting last week, Mr Price last week proposed the creation of an independent Norfolk Climate Commission to drive best practice and raise awareness of the county council's environmental targets. But Conservative councillors voted it down.
The consultation, which closes on Sunday, January 30, is at www.transporteast.org.uk/public-consultation.
Analysis: Vision for a car county?
Many of the projects contained within Transport East's draft strategy are major infrastructure schemes which have long been mooted.
The dualling of the Acle Straight, for example, has been talked about for decades.
The point of including it in this regionwide strategy is so Transport East can use its influence to make schemes like that a reality - to pressure the government for funding.
But the strategy includes strange bedfellows. How can major road schemes sit next to an avowed intent to decarbonise transport, by getting people on to public transport and to switch to electric cars?
The authors say there is no reason why both cannot be pursued - that roads will still be needed particularly in more rural areas such as Norfolk.
But critics pointing to the climate emergency suggest otherwise.