Roads will drive growth in the East, says David Cameron
- 18 January 2014
- From the section Norfolk
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been visiting the region with the message that more is being spent on transport here than any other region outside of London.
He went to see the road works on the A11, a nine-mile stretch of improvements.
After nearly 40 years of campaigning the A11 is almost completely dualled - and the man who gave the go-ahead to the final stage came to inspect the work.
The Prime Minister spent half-an-hour at Elveden - he was told that last year's good weather meant the road should be open by this summer - and said it would be the final piece in the jigsaw linking Norfolk with London.
He claims it's the biggest spend on transport since the Victorian era. I imagine the Victorians, who built thousands of miles of railways in a quarter of that time, would be spinning in their graves.
The Prime Minister said that he wants this region to be at the heart of the economic recovery and is promising better road and rail links.
There are questions over whether this region does get a fair deal.
We may be doing well as far as roads are concerned, but we still pay in more to the Treasury in taxes than we get out.
The government's spend per head here is the lowest in the country, with the exception of the South East.
Mr Cameron told us: "It's important to give the Eastern region the priority it deserves and when I look at the industries here, when I look at the potential of pharmaceuticals, the agriculture here, biotech and the Port of Felixstowe and all those energy industries I was visiting in Lowestoft today, what they need is clear plans from the government and strong investment in infrastructure.
"I believe the growth potential of the eastern region is immensely strong but it needs that transport infrastructure to make it work.
"What I'm signalling today is those areas with potential like the east of England should have the infrastructure to make sure that potential delivers."
Fine words indeed, but of the £1.9bn spend in the East, £1.5bn of it is going the A14. That's the A14 upgrade the government scrapped in 2010 and after three wasted years is now back on the cards. Work is finally scheduled to begin in 2016.
The £102m for the almost completed A11 upgrade is also included in that figure, as is £86m already earmarked for the Norwich Northern Distributor road.
As we've said before, there's no new money for infrastructure here, which was made clear in last year's spending plans.
The only thing that's new is the idea to rename the top of the A12 which could morph into the A47 at some point after a feasibility study - an exercise which is not as pointless as it sounds because it could help attract funding.
But not a penny for trains. In the breakdown I saw, by the column marked "rail" was a big fat zero.
The "Norwich in 90 and Ipswich in 60" task force led by MPs Ben Gummer and Chloe Smith says in its summary: "The East of England has suffered for too long from the effects of under-investment in its rail network. The time is now overdue to rebalance this regional anomaly".
It looks like we've still a very long wait.