Norwich gets £32m for transport shake-up - which schemes will money be spent on?
PUBLISHED: 16:14 28 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:19 28 September 2020
Norwich is to get £32m to make changes to transport in and around the city, which includes mooted shake-ups for the railway station, the Heartsease Fiveways roundabout, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and St Stephens Street.
But, while the money has been welcomed, the government’s award is a fraction of what council officers had originally hoped to get.
The government announced today that Norwich would get the £32m, after the city was left to battle it out with Portsmouth and Stoke-On-Trent for a share of £117m from the Transforming Cities Fund.
Transport for Norwich officers had originally hoped to get between £75m to £162m, but missed out on the initial award of cash and had to resubmit a case with a medium value of £32m and high and low cases of £5m either side.
The government has awarded the £32m, which will lead to a total of £59m being spent.
The schemes include £3.7m towards a £4.4m redesign of the Fiveways roundabout in Heartsease and £5m towards a scheme in St Stephens Street, which council bosses say would speed up buses.
Just over £1.4m is for a new bus interchange at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, close to the outpatients entrance.
That would cut congestion and make it safer for vulnerable people using the disabled car parking area - who currently run the risk of coming into conflict with buses.
Just over £2.1m would be available for a £2.5m scheme to make changes to the Foundry Bridge junction, close to Norwich Railway Station, with more space for pedestrians, changes to crossings and better facilities for buses at the station.
Another £2.3m would be used to expand Thickthorn park and ride site by 400 spaces to serve Norwich Research Park.
But, because the government did not plump for the ‘higher’ £37m bid, it means an extra 600 spaces on top of that will not get funded.
Another scheme which will not get funding for that reason was a £1.6m one to create a mobility hub at Wymondham Rail Station, although some £600,000 has been awarded to make platform access there step-free.
Other projects include almost £280,000 to make improvements to Grapes Hill roundabout, £1.4m towards a scheme to widen the footpath in St Stephens Road and nearly £3.4m to provide a new bus gate and create in Dereham Road to better serve people from Costessey and Bowthorpe.
More than half a million has been given towards a £1.1m link between the Aviation Academy and Norwich International Airport for pedestrians, cyclists and buses.
There would also be schemes to improve cycling and pedestrian crossings on the outer ring road at Mile Cross, plus a protected cycle lane and traffic changes in Sprowston Road.
Other schemes include changes to Ketts Hill roundabout, a shake-up for the Boundary Road junction and a new bus and cycle contraflow on Thorpe Road.
A further £9m, on top of the £32m is available from council and private contributions, while First Eastern Counties is now prepared to pump a further £18m into its fleet and local services - as it had promised to do if government money was forthcoming.
Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport and chair of the transforming cities joint committee, said: “I am delighted we’ve been able to secure this vital investment at such a crucial time for both the economy and the future of transport in the city.
“Retaining First Eastern Counties’ commitment to Norwich has been central to the partnership approach taken in developing our proposals. I am confident all of the projects we are now able to progress will deliver real benefit in terms of health, employment and the environment for years to come.
Steve Wickers, managing director for First Eastern Counties Buses, said, “We are delighted with the news of the award for Norwich from the Transforming Cities Fund, and would like to congratulate Norfolk County Council and all other stakeholders who have been involved in the process, for their success in putting together a bid that has been identified as being capable of bringing really positive change to sustainable transport across the city.
“The dynamic infrastructure projects involved will result in reduced congestion and reduced journey times for bus passengers, as well as improvements in frequency of many core services and air quality; the latter in part by our partnership commitment to an £18m investment in a combination of brand new and refurbished buses which will form a completely revitalised fleet for our operations across the city.”
But opposition leaders had previously said it was a “let-down” that Norwich had been unsuccessful with the original bid.
Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said: “This was supposed to be about transformation, but its been reduced to a series of improvements that fall way short of transforming anything.
“If we’re going to move people around Norwich safely, quickly, conveniently and cleanly it needs bigger thinking and investment than the disappointing amount the government has come up with.
“Sustainable transport is key to tackling climate change and a successful economy. What feels like a considerable sum is really selling us short yet again.”
And Brian Watkins, from the Liberal Democrat group, recently said the lack of money meant schemes were not as inspiring as they could have been.
But Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) said: “This is a great opportunity to improve the infrastructure and public realm in Norwich city centre based around the vision of investing in clean and shared transport, creating a healthy environment, increasing social mobility and boosting productivity through enhanced access to employment and learning.”
And Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Improvements to our transport infrastructure will open up job opportunities, access to training and help businesses thrive.
“The confirmation that this bid has been accepted is fantastic news, not only for Greater Norwich’s economy, but its environment and the region’s wider ambitions for clean growth.”
Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for transport, and a member of the Transforming Cities Board, said it was good news for the city’s economy.
He said: “This is fantastic news for the city. The money will pay for infrastructure improvements, which will make buses quicker and more reliable and will further improve facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.
“Not only is this good news for the city’s economy, it’s also great news for the city’s environment and helps us work towards our 2040 vision for Norwich.”
It was also welcomed by Chris Sargisson, chief executive at Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, who said: “It is really positive to see investment that improve infrastructure that help businesses grow, thrive and survive. Great news for our city and the economy.”
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