A11 dream hit by delays

Construction work on the dualling of the ‘missing link’ section of the A11 between Thetford and Barton Mills is unlikely to start before 2012-13, the government has revealed.

The prime minister yesterday hailed the announcement last week that funding approval had been given for the �134m “upgrade” of the nine-mile, single-carriageway bottleneck section of the road in the Elveden area.

“This is a big, bold – and long overdue – project”, he told the EDP. “It’s going to make a massive difference to your lives and the local economy. And we are 100pc committed to making sure it happens.”

But his words came just before the Commons was told that “it is unlikely that any new schemes will be able to begin construction before 2012-13”. This was because of “the level of funding required for schemes already under construction”, the government explained – in a comment that signalled that the new A11 wait is not a consequence of the still unpublished inspector’s report on the dualling scheme.

Mr Cameron also stressed that the government is determined “to make sure we get real value for money” on the A11 widening – even though the funding go-ahead was largely influenced by a report for the Department for Transport concluding that the scheme would have a “very, very high” benefit-cost ration of 20.

“Around �1bn of savings have been made from the Crossrail budget in London”, he said “and I see no reason why we can’t find savings in East Anglia too.”

The 8.7 mile, �127m Norwich northern distributor road scheme –for a dual-carriageway linking the A47 on the eastern side of the city to the Norwich International Airport –also has to go through further financial hoops if it is to get the green light.

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It is one of 22 projects that have to compete against each other for a share of a �600m pot to fund local authority transport projects. “Promoters will be challenged by my department to consider the scope of the scheme, its cost, lower cost alternatives and their ability to contribute more locally”, said transport secretary Philip Hammond.

“Those who can make the best case are the most likely to receive funding, which will be confirmed by the end of 2011.”

The EDP understands that in value for money assessments already conducted by the transport department, the distributor road has scored highly compared with many of its rivals.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said the scheme does represent good value for money, and “is wanted and needed by everyone who wants to get round the north of the city”. But the local councils would review the project in the light of all their other commitments, she added.