Video: East Anglia is not a Cinderella region, says roads minister Stephen Hammond
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2013
East Anglia is no longer a Cinderella region, a government minister said yesterday as long-awaited work to dual the last remaining single-carriageway stretch of the A11 officially got under way.
The preparatory work has been done, reptiles, trees and shrubs have been relocated, the diggers have moved in and now work to finally complete the A11 dual carriageway has started in earnest.
The £105 million Fiveways to Thetford dualling and improvement scheme will widen five and a half miles of the trunk road - a key route between the M11 and Norwich - and build a new 3.6 mile bypass around the village of Elveden.
Once completed, it is hoped the Highways Agency project will bring a significant boost to the economy, reduce congestion and improve road safety.
Roads minister Stephen Hammond visited the site of the first part of construction work yesterday.
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Mr Hammond, who experienced the delays on the A11 at Elveden first-hand yesterday, said: 'It's really exciting times and what is exciting is that with this project, it is one where we can see the embodiment of the money we have committed to invest being put to good use.
'It's quite clear that this work will open up the strategic route from Norwich to London and will benefit the local economy and local people and journey times will be improved. It's a great project and I'm delighted to see that it's started.
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'East Anglia may have been a Cinderella region in the past but it's not now nor will it be in the future. The government is committed to giving this country the first-class infrastructure we need, and the A11 is another example of how we are delivering projects that will boost the economy, especially in the east of England.'
The dualling scheme comes after campaigners fought hard for years for the road's completion.
An A11 campaign was launched in August 2008 by Norfolk County Council, working with partners including Suffolk County Council, local MPs, business groups such as Shaping Norfolk's Future and Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, the Gateway A11 East group, Breckland Council and Forest Heath District Council.
More than 16,000 people signed the county council's petition to show their support to get the stretch of road from Fiveways to Thetford dualled and a Facebook group dedicated to the cause attracted 3,200 members.
Norfolk Council Council chairman Ian Monson said: 'It's going to make getting to Norfolk easier, will get the tourists in and all-in-all will boost Norfolk's economy. It's wonderful that work has started and hopefully next year, we will be seeing the benefits of it once it's completed.'
The main works have begun with top-soil stripping, with the first of nine phases starting at the Fiveways roundabout and concentrating on a 0.56-mile (900m) stretch of road. Workmen will begin with the southbound carriageway which motorists will then be moved on to while the northbound side is built.
From yesterday, a temporary 40mph speed limit was put in place along the whole length of the scheme. The first phase is expected to be completed by June, with a further three stages to be finished by the end of this year. The final five will take place in 2014.
Elizabeth Truss, South West Norfolk MP, said: 'It is absolutely brilliant to see the work start.
'It's taken a lot of lobbying from MPs, councillors, businesses and support from members of the public to get this far and it's great to see it come to fruition like this.'