Dualling blow as A47 downgraded

HOPES that the A47 will become a dual carriageway spanning Norfolk have been dealt a blow by Brussels after the road was quietly stripped of its status as a major European route.

HOPES that the A47 will become a dual carriageway spanning Norfolk have been dealt a blow by Brussels after the road was quietly stripped of its status as a major European route.

Eurocrats have downgraded the A47 from the transEuropean network (TEN-T) of major routes linking the key economic towns and cities of the European Union.

Campaigners had hoped TEN-T status would put pressure on the British government to dual the route throughout Norfolk.

Currently only intermittent stretches of the road are dual carriageway, while upgrading the stretch between Blofield and North Burlingham is pencilled in to start between 2011/12 and 2015/16.

Supporters of full dualling believe the opening of the new Yarmouth outer harbour scheme and the prospect of more than 78,000 new homes being built in Norfolk the next 20 years - means upgrading the road should be given priority.

But East Anglian Euro MP Robert Sturdy has discovered that the European Commission removed the A47 from the main TEN-T network because it would not be completed in the next decade.

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An exchange of letters between Mr Sturdy and transport minister Tom Harris makes it clear that the road had been downgraded by EU Commissioners because the A47 was not a route they expected the British government to upgrade before 2020.

“Unfortunately the European Commission has introduced a further categorisation know as 'priority axes' within the TEN-T programme,” Mr Harris wrote. “These comprise 30 or so key routes that the commission wishes to see completed by 2020 and in the current funding round it is only these routes which are being targeted. In the east of England two routes have been designated priority axes - No 13 which covers the A14, A120 and M11 routes, and No 26 which covers the Felixstowe to Nuneaton Railway. The A47 has not been designated as a priority axes.

“Only projects which are mature, well-developed and have a robust financial package in place are considered for TEN-T funding.”

Mr Sturdy pledged to lobby Transport Commissioner, Jacques Barrot, to get the road reinstated.

“It seems ridiculous, we are going to spend all this money on the Yarmouth outer harbour, yet there is no main link into the port,” the MEP said.

“I would be interested to know the reasons why the government has not applied for EU funding for this route and also why the A47 has been classified as a regional trunk road, rather than one of national importance.”

Henry Bellingham, North West Norfolk MP, added: “I find it staggering that there can be any consideration of a downgrading of the A47, especially in light of things such as the outer harbour at Yarmouth. If it is going to be the success that people believe it is then it will mean a massive increase it traffic.”

Adrian Gunson, chairman of the A47 Alliance and cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, said the case for dualling was more urgent than ever because of the outer harbour and the extra housing growth.

“The A47 goes through those areas in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire where there is going to be a lot of population growth,” he said. “King's Lynn could be a designated growth area and there is a lot of growth planned around Wisbech and Fenland. We've got to do anything we can to up the pressure.

“What we want is to get it as a priority in Europe and get the British government to acknowledge that. Then we will able to draw down European money.

“There ought to be a fully dualled route from Yarmouth to the north and midlands.”