M11, A14, A11, A47 and A1 road schemes move forward
- 10 February 2013
- From the section England
Everyone involved in planning will tell you that when it comes to getting road schemes built you need the patience of a saint.
First you need to drum up support for the idea, then you need to persuade someone to fund a proper study.
Even when that's been done, the report is likely to sit in a filing cabinet for many years while the project gets put on and taken off various lists for funding.
Eventually, if you're very lucky, the scheme might just get commissioned and finally the diggers will go in.
The Eastern region has a long list of schemes which, for decades, businesses, motorists and local residents have been longing for: people were talking about a by-pass for the village of Elveden on the A11 back in the 1970s and there was talk of completely dualling the A47 in Norfolk in a 1988 government white paper.
There is currently a growing sense of optimism among MPs and councillors that things are starting to change.
The bulldozers have started digging at Elveden, work will shortly begin widening the A14 near Cambridge and improving the Black Cat roundabout on the A1 and Galleys Corner at Braintree in Essex.
Positive signs keep coming - this week Treasury and Department for Transport officials went to Cambridge for serious discussions on the long-awaited plans for widening the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon.
Nick Clarke, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: "It was fascinating to hear that George Osborne is asking his officials on a regular basis 'when is the A14 going to be upgraded?'
"They told us that the Government will provide most of the money and pay for a toll road but we will have to put in some of the funding ourselves."
Private discussions are now underway with councils and businesses in Cambridgeshire to see what local funds can be raised.
At the same time this week the roads minister, Philip Hammond, was singing the praises of the A47, telling a debate organised by MPs from Norfolk: "I think [the plans for improvement] are ideally placed to be considered as one of the earliest route-based strategies in the forthcoming funding programme and I do hope that they will be one of the first one or two, after the three we are currently considering."
Report on the A120
Earlier in the week, Mr Hammond told MPs from Essex that he also recognised the strategic importance of the A120 - another project a long time in the pipeline - and he was looking forward to the outcome of a new report currently being prepared on the road by the Highways Agency.
Meanwhile, plans for an extra junction on the M11 at Harlow were formally approved this week by Essex County Council. Another transport Minister, Norman Baker expressed support for those plans.
"This is fantastic news, I've been campaigning for an additional junction for over eight years now," said Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow.
The cynics among you will note that there is lots of talk at the moment, but no money, and until serious funding is actually announced there is a danger that all this optimism will be short-lived.
But in a region which has felt neglected when it's come to infrastructure funding in the past, it feels like the needs of East are finally moving up the agenda.
Now all we need is for ministers to deliver........