Business leaders raise concerns over Saddlebow roadworks, as engineers insist project is ‘progressing well’
Business leaders in Lynn have called for engineers to speed up repairs on a major town road junction, amid fears that jams could hit traders hard this Christmas.
The plea came as details were released of a series of events and parking promotions, which officials hope will still bring people into the town for festive celebrations.
Meanwhile, the first of a series of weekend closures of the A47 at the site has been scheduled for next week.
And a councillor has also suggested installing traffic lights on a nearby interchange to help ease congestion on surrounding routes.
Bridges on the Saddlebow interchange have now been closed for almost two weeks at the start of a seven-month project to repair the junction.
But the closures have led to long queues on nearby routes, particularly at peak times, and criticism of an apparent lack of work on the site so far.
Some have expressed concerns that the work could have a major impact on trade in the town during the run-up to Christmas, a fear echoed by Darren Taylor, chairman of the town’s BID organisation, Discover King’s Lynn.
He said: “While we must accept, albeit reluctantly, the experts view that this work was absolute necessary and could not be put off any longer, the negative impact on town centre businesses will be huge if the work isn’t done as quickly as practically possible.
“I urge all parties involved to redouble efforts to ensure this happens.”
As part of efforts to encourage visitors into the town centre, a free after three parking promotion will be run in all the borough council-operated car parks in Lynn, except the multi-storey, each Thursday from November 30 to December 21, to coincide with late night shopping evenings.
Drivers will need to obtain and display a ticket from the meters to qualify.
And, to coincide with the promotion, the BID committee is hosting its first Christmas market on Thursday, December 7. Around 40 traders are expected to take stalls.
Mr Taylor said: “There has been a lot of interest already from both traders and attendees, which is encouraging.
“We also know how important parking is to businesses in the town and we have listened.”
Up to eight full weekend closures of the A47 at the Saddlebow junction are scheduled as part of the repairs.
Signs at the site say the first will start next Friday night, November 17, and continue until the morning of Monday, November 20. Motorists will be diverted via the slip roads.
But one of the main pinch points so far has been at the Pullover roundabout, with long queues tailing back from there along both the A17 and the old A17 through West Lynn and Clenchwarton.
County councillor Alexandra Kemp has written to Highways England to call for temporary traffic lights to be placed on the roundabout – a measure she says will help to keep the traffic moving.
She told them: “Traffic is at a standstill in the mornings and people from Clenchwarton and West Lynn in my division cannot get onto the Pullover roundabout, because of the stream of oncoming traffic from Wisbech, with the current works.”
A Highways England spokesman said today that they would look into the suggestion, but insisted the project was “progressing well”, despite the public concern.
She said: “We are currently preparing the area ahead of the repairs taking place and will start work to expose the steel beams to be repaired from Monday (13 November).
“We will need to keep the bridges closed throughout the project for safety reasons while we carry out this essential work.
“We understand that this will cause some disruption to road users and will do our best to minimise congestion as much as we can.
“We will keep people informed of progress and of anything that might impact their journeys throughout the project.
“The work, which is part of a wider £18 million package of work to maintain the A47 in Norfolk, which consists of around 70 different schemes on the A47, is expected to finish by Easter.”