Norwich’s £178.5-million Northern Distributor Road will not ease traffic on the inner ring road
- Credit: Steve Adams
Pressure on Norwich's inner ring road will not be alleviated by the £178.5m Northern Distributor Road, council bosses have admitted.
Work on the controversial NDR, to stretch from the A47 at Postwick to the A1067 Fakenham Road, is due to start before Christmas, after the government this week announced its share of funding for the road had been released.
At a meeting of business leaders, officers from Norfolk County Council said the 12.5 mile road, earmarked to be complete at the end of 2017, would lead to a 'notable' reduction in traffic on the outer ring road.
But in response to a question from Peter Mitchell, chairman of the city's Business Improvement District (BID) and managing director of Jarrold, over the impact on the inner ring road, County Hall officers said the impact would be 'neutral'.
David Allfrey, highways and major projects manager at Norfolk County Council, said: 'The outer ring road will see a notable reduction in traffic movements to the north of the city. With the inner ring road, in a sense, it will keep the traffic flows relatively neutral.'
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However, council officers at the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce meeting insisted that other changes being made as part of the Norwich Area Transport Action Plan - such as changes to make Golden Ball Street two-way - would bring some relief to city roads and would improve reliability of buses.
Tom McCabe, executive director of community and environmental services, at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We have got to acknowledge that it is a medieval city. The transport systems are near or at capacity and doing nothing is not an option.
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'Trying to do anything within the constraints of the environment is going to be challenging. The number one thing we all need is reliability around journey times.
'People need to know that if they set off to the airport, it will take them 15 minutes, rather than 40 minutes. Transport is vital to the success of the city, be it retail, commercial or residential.
'We need to future proof the city and allow it to grow and to grow efficiently. The heart of the city centre is not designed for traffic and we have got to get the balance right, so we can have a vibrant retail core which makes Norwich the place which it is.'
Mr McCabe said the city needed to be 'opportunistic' about getting hold of money for schemes, such as cash the city council obtained for its Push The Pedalways scheme.
That project has seen alterations to areas such as Tombland, Vauxhall Street and The Avenues, not all of which have met with favour with the public.
Mr Mitchell, who had queried the impact of the NDR on the inner ring road, had previously expressed his concerns over the strategy for the city centre.
On the Golden Ball Street scheme he had said: 'I remain really concerned that the ring road does not have the capacity to deal with the traffic at the moment. It's premature and reckless.'
However, John Lewis managing director Andy Street had backed the move, saying it would help connect the store with the rest of the city.
Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich BID, said: 'We are going to follow up yesterday's meeting next week, along with the Chamber, by meeting county officers to discuss their approach to the city. We have been encouraging them to start a dialogue with the business community to shape future thinking over transport policies.'
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