Peterborough’s metro mayor believes it is “frankly unacceptable” that the A47 is not fully dualled after lobbying the Government for action.
Mayor James Palmer, leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, attended an A47 parliamentary reception on Tuesday alongside fellow leading figures from across the East of England who are all calling for the road to be fully dualled.
Currently just 47 per cent of the major route is dual carriageway and, while the Department for Transport has committed to making £300 million of improvements to the road, including dualling the Wansford to Sutton stretch, this will still leave substantial sections of the A47 as single carriageway with no current plans to dual them.
Between 2011 and 2015 there were 180 fatal or serious accidents on the A47, while fully dualling the road would provide a huge boost to the regional economy by attracting new businesses and supporting existing businesses to become more profitable.
Mayor Palmer said: “While dualling all of the A47 in Cambridgeshire is one of my core priorities and absolutely crucial to our transport future, the A47 Alliance delegation to Westminster emphasised just how important upgrading this road is to the East generally.
“Well organised lobbying such as this, direct to Westminster with the roads minister present, really does make a difference when the Government is deciding which road schemes it wants to support. I think the roads minister was genuinely impressed with the show of unity across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Norfolk and Suffolk.
“The combined authority has already submitted technical work to Government for dualling the A47 between the A16 junction and Walton Highway, east of Wisbech. With Highways England already committing to dualling the short stretch between Wansford and Sutton, successful funding would mean all of the A47 in Cambridgeshire would become dual carriageway.
“The road has a terrible reputation. It has a poor safety record, there are frequent delays and it is costing people time and money and holding back economic growth. It is frankly unacceptable that a route which connects two key centres in Peterborough and Norwich is majority single carriageway. It comes back to the point I continually make that East Anglia does not get its fair share of infrastructure funding. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy pays in a net £5 billion to the Treasury, but our economy cannot continue to provide a surplus unless we see some of that money returned in investment in this area.”
Michael Ellis, Minister of State for Transport, also attended the reception and heard speeches from regional business people on how the A47 is limiting their success and growth.
One of the speakers was Rob Facer from Peterborough-based construction and logistics company Barnack.
Patrick Peal, chief executive of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, also spoke of how often their crews attended traffic accidents on the road and urged the Government to invest in dualling further stretches of the A47 to increase road safety.
In response, Mr Ellis said at the event: “I get it. I get the importance of the A47 in terms of east-west movement and the economic value. I really appreciate you all coming together for this project, it does send a powerful and effective message. I look forward to receiving new information from the A47 Alliance, we’ll be looking very closely at it.”
The Peterborough Telegraph revealed last year that the A47 from Thorney through Guyhirn had seen 23 road collisions in just four months at an average of nearly one every five days.
Cambridgeshire police were called to 23 road traffic collisions on the stretch of road from the start of May to the end of August - at an average of one every 5.3 days.
The force was also called out to the area for non-road collisions on many more occasions.
One of the crashes was last June between a lorry and a bus at Thorney Toll which saw two people die.
Aside from the risks to life, the number of collisions on the road also sees motorists diverted through villages, causing grief for residents.
Barry Britain, chairman of Wisbech St Mary Parish Council, told the Peterborough Telegraph: “We feel very strongly about this. Traffic is diverted through the villages of Guyhirn and Wisbech St Mary.
“It’s causing mayhem for local people with overcrowding of the local roads which have become how the A47 used to be.
“The road is not capable of the volume of traffic now. A lot of mornings there are queues of over a mile. It really is a bit of a nightmare. We think dualling would be a big help.”
In response to the PT’s reporting, Highways England said the number of collisions on the whole of the A47 were falling, and that safety is its “top priority”.
Highways England has already committed to dualling the A47 between Wansford and Sutton after concerns about the road were highlighted by MPs and the Peterborough Telegraph.
The scheme was announced in December 2014, 16 months after Samantha and Stephen Durber were killed in a collision, leaving behind three-year-old son Lucas.
The proposed works were warmly welcomed by then MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson, and North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara.
Peterborough City Council leader Cllr John Holdich, who back then was deputy leader, also welcomed news of the dualling, stating that there had been 33 serious accidents on the A47 around Peterborough in the preceding five years.
The latest proposals to dual the road were revealed by Highways England last year, which said improvements could half the number of collisions, improve driving times and boost economic growth in the region.
However, the decision to introduce new lanes south of the existing carriageway, rather than north, came under heavy criticism from the chairman of the A47 Community Consultation - a group which represents the views of the parishes affected by the scheme - which said it will do environmental damage.
The scheme is expected to start in the autumn of 2020, with the newly dualled road opening in the winter of 2021/22.
The cost of the scheme is currently expected to be between £50 million to £100 million.