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Study explores possibility of M11-A47 extension

A study has revealed the possibility of connecting the M11 in Cambridgeshire to the A47 in the area around Wisbech and Guyhirn, which could boost deprived communities in the area.

The study, commissioned by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and discussed by its Transport and Infrastructure Committee last week, looked into the feasibility, viability, benefits and impacts of the idea.

The authority said the study was commissioned to “explore whether investment in new highway capacity in the corridor would help to address the spatial inequality that presently exists between the north and south of [Cambridgeshire] by improving accessibility to Greater Cambridge’s thriving employment opportunities, as well as encouraging needed investment into north Cambridgeshire”.

General view of the A47 near Wisbech.
General view of the A47 near Wisbech.

The results of the study say the “main ecological constraint” within the study area is the Ouse Washes Special Protection Area, which stretches from near St Ives in Cambridgeshire to Downham.

“The site is one of the country’s few remaining washland habitats, with much of the area being submerged during winter, which acts as a floodwater storage system,” it says.

“The number of both breeding and overwintering birds which use the site are of international significance.”

The report adds: “It is likely that any potential M11-A47 Link design would potentially have adverse effects on the Ouse Washes.”

It goes on to say it may be possible to create a new road that crosses the Ouse Washes in a location where an existing road already bisects them, such as the A1122, A1101 and A142 crossings, which would “potentially have less effect on the integrity of the site”.

Three main options for the possible M11 extension were included in the study, all of which meet the A47 near Wisbech.

The report also noted that there are currently projects for both the A47 and the A10 which are targeting external funding sources this year.

“Successfully securing funding for these schemes would have a significant impact on the M11 Extension scheme,” it says.

To move to the next stages, the report adds, the combined authority “would likely need to commit several million pounds of revenue funding towards progressing the scheme to the next phase”.

It says that the primary source of funding for projects of “such significant scale” is the Road Investment Strategy (RIS) funding stream – of which RIS2 is currently under consideration and will run from 2020 to 2025.

“As a result, any application for funding of an M11 Extension scheme would need to be considered for a RIS3 funding round (assuming it comes forward), which would be expected to run from 2030-2035,” it adds.

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