MP's plea to finish A11 work

A Norfolk MP last night secured a high-level meeting with a government minister to press the case for dualling the last stretch of the A11 trunk road.Christopher Fraser, MP for South West Norfolk, will meet with roads minister Stephen Ladyman at the end of April when he will press the case for dualling the seven-mile stretch between Thetford and Fiveways.

A Norfolk MP last night secured a high-level meeting with a government minister to press the case for dualling the last stretch of the A11 trunk road.

Christopher Fraser, MP for South West Norfolk, will meet with roads minister Stephen Ladyman at the end of April when he will press the case for dualling the seven-mile stretch between Thetford and Fiveways.

Mr Fraser will be inviting along members of the Gateway A11 East Group, a pressure group for businesses in and around Thetford, to drive home the importance of the road for Norfolk's economy.

Last night he said: “There is no doubt in my mind, or the minds of business people locally, that the dualling would pay dividends in terms of Norfolk's contribution to the national economy.

“I am determined to secure the support of the minister in ensuring this becomes a funded scheme at the very earliest opportunity. Norfolk cannot afford further delays.”

The £101m scheme had originally been pencilled in for 2008, but last year was pushed back to beyond 2011 following new recommendations by the East of England Regional Assembly (Eera).

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Mr Fraser held discussions last month with representatives from Eera, the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) and Norfolk County Council where it was agreed that the A11 should be promoted as a top priority for the region.

“We discussed issues of prioritisation and funding for this long-awaited scheme,” said Mr Fraser. “It was a very positive meeting - I was hugely encouraged by the consensus that dualling this last stretch of A11 is of vital importance to Norfolk's economy.”

Now pressure will be put on Dr Ladyman to make certain the Highways Agency, which controls the A11, keeps the proposed scheme 'oven ready', so that the diggers can move in as soon as funding is announced.

That involves the Highways Agency producing environmental statements and other necessary plans now rather than in 2010, when the scheme is likely to get the green light, freeing up years of potential red tape.

Last night Mr Fraser said that it was increasingly important that a firm commitment was made by the government in the wake of its decision to award Thetford growth point status.

That means that the town will be expected to accommodate 5,500 new homes and 6,000 new jobs in the next 15 years.

Last month dualling was completed on the penultimate single carriageway stretch of the A11 at Attleborough. The 3.3-mile project was completed for £30m - but has led to a number of complaints over its uneven surface.