Traffic lights could relieve beleaguered A47 villages

Highways chiefs have announced that part-time traffic lights will be installed to ease rush-hour tailbacks and 'rat-running' caused by a congested A47 roundabout.

The junction with the Mattishall Road at the eastern end of Honingham, was redesigned after a judge demanded safety improvements following three fatal crashes in five years.

But although it has eradicated serious accidents, the new roundabout has brought long delays for Norwich-bound commuters since it was completed in February 2009.

Neighbouring villagers have also complained of a steep rise in traffic through their communities as drivers used smaller roads in a bid to escape the queues and rejoin the roundabout with priority over A47 traffic.

To relieve the problems, the Highways Agency (HA) has announced it has secured funding to install part-time traffic signals to control the Mattishall Road leg of the roundabout during the morning peak hours.

At its meeting on Friday, the A47 Alliance steering group welcomed the scheme as a temporary solution towards the final goal of dualling the entire stretch of road.

But other local campaigners sounded a note of caution, warning the impact of the changes must be monitored so they did not simply shift the 'rat-running' problem onto other villages.

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Graham Plant is chairman of the A47 Alliance, which includes representatives from county councils, district authorities, MPs and business groups.

He said 'While we all know that the complete dualling of this length of carriageway is required we very much welcome this good news. The A47 Alliance has been pressing the HA to ameliorate the problems experienced in the adjacent villages since they first became apparent.

'I am sure that the residents affected will be pleased that their problems will be overcome a year earlier than had previously been expected.'

An HA spokesman said: 'The agency is looking to complete the design and delivery before the end of March 2011. It will be discussing a permanent electricity supply with EDF, otherwise generators will have to be employed.'

Julian Blackmore is chairman of Marlingford and Colton Parish Council, which is part of the Eight Parishes Group of councils which lay alongside the A47.

He said a more sustainable – albeit more expensive – long-term solution would be to build an 'express lane' to allow east-bound traffic to bypass the junction.

'The trouble with installing these lights at this junction is that we are concerned it will simply shift the problem back to other villages,' he said. 'We are pleased that there is going to be some relief for Honingham, but we are concerned that places like Colton could suffer as a result.

'We understand there are severe budgetary constraints and that resources are scarce. But there must not be a temptation to think that this is 'problem solved' and everyone will forget about it. Hopefully the HA will experiment with traffic light timings and look at the impact on other villages.'