Back in 2009, when the Labour government was trying to maintain some growth in the economy, I wrote to various politicians urging them to support long term infrastructure investment (something that would be possible even now, since we have record low interest rates on government borrowing).
In particular, I urged both main parties to commit to a massive road building programme to improve the links between the economic regions outside of London and the south-east. Top of my wish-list were better roads for Norfolk (and Norwich), which needs them more than most.
Naturally, I am delighted that the final stretch of dual carriageway on the A11 will finally be built and may open sometime in the next five years (ideally it should be six lanes all the way to Thetford and not be clogged with roundabouts and traffic lights). This will reduce pollution by cutting congestion. It will also boost local business by making Norfolk more accessible to Cambridge and beyond.
Sadly construction of the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) continues to face delays – and, even if built, will fail to join up with the A47 near Easton (this should really be rethought – if necessary build a viaduct across the Ringland Hills). Nevertheless, it would help reduce congestion in Norwich and link the north and south of the county – as well as improving freight links to Norwich Airport. Meanwhile, here is the rest of my wish-list from 2009 (I originally wished for completion by 2020 but would settle for 2030):
- Dual (or even triple) the A140 from Norwich to Ipswich, bypassing Long Stratton (etc) – so connecting Norfolk to one of the UK’s main container ports at Felixstowe.
- Dual (but preferably triple) the entire length of the A47 from Gt Yarmouth to Birmingham (effectively the original 1923 route but bypassing the city centres along the way) – making our links with the Midlands and the North more efficient and taking some of the pressure off the A11 and the A14. (This would also encourage freight transport to use the new ferry terminal in Gt Yarmouth to get to and from Europe via North Holland – so boosting Norfolk’s export/import business).
- Dual the A1067 from Norwich to Fakenham and the A148 from Kings Lynn to Cromer via Fakenham (and develop a new international freight airport on the old air force base at Sculthorpe) and dual the A1065 from Fakenham to Barton Mills bypassing Swaffham and Brandon (so speeding tourists to the North Norfolk coast).
- Dual (or triple) the Great North Road (Ermine Street) from Kings Lynn to North London via Cambridge (but bypassing Cambridge properly without clogging the M11) – this would take some pressure off the M11 East London and M1 West London routes).
- Triple the whole of the A12 from Gt Yarmouth to London via Lowestoft and Ipswich.
- Turn the A14 into a proper 8-lane super-highway linking Port of Felixstowe with the M1 and M6 without all the dodgy lane changes and junctions and with wider lanes and straighter stretches so people can safely cruise along at 80mph.
The 80mph point applies to all the above – 70mph is too slow for a good road. It is bad roads and bad driving that cause most accidents not speed.
That should do for now. Road building in this country has lagged badly behind the growth in the number of vehicles on our roads (and the size and speed of those vehicles). The idea that new roads encourage more cars is simply nonsense – people buy cars because they need them, not because someone lays some tarmac near their house.
The age of the car (and lorry) will long be with us (even with rising oil prices – which may just prompt the development of more efficient engines). Public transport can never offer the same flexibility or door to door efficiency as private transport (save perhaps in densely populated cities such as London, where a large metro system works quite well). We need these roads and we need them now.