Straight Talk - Fatalities inevitably make us think about sub-standard roads

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The media as a whole is often slated for only running bad news stories.

It’s a little unfair, at least as far as the Lynn News is concerned, because if you tot up all the “good news” coverage we do – of our community coming together in things such as cheque presentations – there is comfortably more “good” than “bad” in most editions.

But there is no doubt that some editions do take on a sombre tone and Tuesday’s was certainly one, made all the bleaker by the juxtaposition with the festive season.

Three people dead on the roads and one killed in a house fire made an unhappy end to 2012.

The road deaths in West Norfolk, made all the more poignant by including two sisters aged just seven and 10, were part of a tally of six people altogether who died on Norfolk roads over the Christmas period.

No doubt it was just one of those statistical blips that happen, Most weeks, happily, we do not report road fatalities.

But it concentrated the mind once again on the problems faced by drivers using roads in West Norfolk just at a time when a fresh bid is being made to kick-start dialogue on upgrading the A47.

That, of course, is a project that will stretch far beyond the boundaries of West Norfolk. The road is inadequate for much of its length from Yarmouth to Leicester.

As someone who uses the A47 every work day, I know its frustrations well and as I have said before, it beggars belief that in the 21st century such an important trunk road is so under-developed.

Just building more roads leads to more traffic, I recognise that. And our countryside is too precious just to Tarmac it over. But there needs to be a recognition that communications in a rural area such as this have to be based around the car.

Despite the gripes (and yes, we do get quite a few filter through to us), we are relatively lucky with public transport in this area. Norfolk Green is a good local bus company and the X1 run by First a good alternative to the car if travel is needed to Norwich or Peterborough and points in between.

But the limitations are obvious. Buses cannot go everywhere you want, at the time you want.

That’s even more true of the railways and here price becomes even more relevant. Ticket price rises of four per cent on the King’s Lynn line have now taken the price of a season ticket to London to more than £5,000 for the first time. That has got to drive people back on to the roads.

If there is joined-up thinking on transport by any government of the past 30-odd years then it has been hard to spot.

It is probably fruitless demanding that large stretches of the A47 are immediately dualled. But there should be a commitment by Government to at least recognise that the route should be improved.

That seems to be far from clear at present. And in a time of unparalleled austerity, frankly the omens do not look good for large public spending commitments.

How ironic that the A47 goes so close to the site of a certain proposed scheme that will eat up so much public cash (albeit through the mechanism of a private finance initiative). What would you rather have? A decent road or the incinerator?