Why road tolls are not the answer for Norfolk - county council
Radical ideas to encourage private investment in roads are unlikely to be the solution to getting better transport links in Norfolk, council leaders have said.
Prime minister David Cameron yesterday called for 'innovative' ways to generate money to improve the country's transport network.
He suggested private companies might step in to build and run roads, possibly recouping their investment partially through road tolls.
But local authority leaders in Norfolk are not convinced the county will benefit directly from Mr Cameron's proposals – and were quick to rule out the introduction of road charging for the proposed northern bypass in Norwich.
Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said the private investment/road charging model might work in major Metropolitan areas, which have far greater numbers of drivers using highways, but could not think of a road in Norfolk where the business model would add up.
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Mr Plant said: 'I think this is something which could happen on the bigger road systems, but I just don't see it happening in Norfolk.
'We have thought about tolls on the third river crossing at Great Yarmouth and about whether it would be worth getting a private investor in to charge a toll for heavy goods vehicles. I've got no issue with the idea of private investors building roads and charging tolls, but I don't think there's anywhere in Norfolk which would generate the volume of traffic to make it worth their while.'
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He added there would be no point in the northern distributor road (NDR), which the government recently awarded �86.5m of funding for, being a toll road. He said: 'With something like the NDR it would defeat the point of having the road. The aim is to get traffic onto it and you have to wonder whether a toll is an obstacle or a means of finance.'
Despite the NDR and the long-awaited dualling of the A11, Mr Plant said Norfolk has been underfunded for years when it comes to transport.
The council's next goal is to get the A47 dualled along the Acle Straight into Great Yarmouth, calling for a criteria change so the road becomes eligible for a higher funding status.
Mr Plant said there was a possibility that, if private firms get involved in the bigger road schemes elsewhere in the country, it could mean the pot of state money for roads might be more likely to find its way to Norfolk.
Other key roads which people in the region would like to see improvements to include the A12 from Great Yarmouth to London and the A17, which stretches from King's Lynn to Nottinghamshire and is the gateway to the north of the country.