The most encouraging news for West Norfolk going into 2013 is surely the prospect that Transport Minister Stephen Hammond is likely to announce during the coming months that there will be improvements for the A47, possibly with work starting as early as 2015.
If this is so, then our local A47 campaigners, need to ensure they keep the pressure at full throttle for the first improvements to be on the West Norfolk sections of the road, rather than the road nearer Great Yarmouth.
In particular, getting the Middleton and East Winch bypass built first will immediately bring better links to Swaffham, and also to the largest potential market in the county – the city of Norwich.
It would mean Norwich having a better direct link to the A1 and the East Midlands, giving it a further boost on top of the shot in the arm it is currently getting with the dualling of the final section of the A11 at Elvedon. The A11 project will give Norwich the kudos of being linked into the national dual carriageway network for the first time, and if this brings anticipated growth to the city, then it will only increase the need for better direct links in an east-west direction – via the A47.
There will be cries from Great Yarmouth that their needs for better road links are greater than those of people in West Norfolk, as we are much nearer to the A1.
But the section of the A47 through West Norfolk, carrying traffic to Swaffham, Dereham and Norwich, is surely much busier than the single carriageway stretch between Acle and Great Yarmouth. If you speed up traffic through the West Norfolk bottleneck, then it makes places such as Norwich, and Great Yarmouth too, much more appealing to businesses.
With all this optimism about the A47 through West Norfolk, we should still be mindful of the section between Peterborough and Wisbech, and keep up the pressure here, together with our friends in North Cambridgeshire. Getting this section of the road fully dualled through to Lynn would bring immediate benefits to both Lynn and Wisbech.
Not only would local businesses be able to use quicker road links to Peterborough, but it would also be a boon to the many West Norfolk folk who already commute daily to our East Midlands neighbour.
I take my hat off to them, as I lived and worked in Peterborough for ten years in the 1970s, while maintaining close links with West Norfolk. It meant I clocked up many miles on this most tedious route over the years, just travelling back and forth at weekends. To do it on a daily basis on the existing road network is something I never fancied and I have the greatest respect to those hardy souls who do it year in, year out. They deserve better roads – and soon.
The struggle for improved road links in West Norfolk has been mostly uphill for pretty much the last 40 years. Remember how long, and how much effort, went into getting the flyover built at the Hardwick roundabout?
But we persevered, and we eventually got there – which is just as well, as it would be a nightmare without it today, given all the recent development at Hardwick. So keep up the A47 pressure... We Will Overcome – Eventually!