On Air Now
Zoe Hardman & Anna Whitehouse 10pm - 1am
12 December 2014, 11:12 | Updated: 12 December 2014, 12:29
A multi-million pound investment to upgrade a vital transport link in the East of England came to fruition today as the new A11 dual carriageway was opened by the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
The £105 million improvement to more than nine miles of the A11 - a key route between the M11 and Norwich - will bring a significant boost to the economy, reduce congestion and improve road safety.
The Highways Agency scheme between the Fiveways roundabout and Thetford has involved widening 5.5 miles of the A11, building a new 3.6 mile bypass around the village of Elveden, and five new structures. In addition a new underpass was constructed, for users without vehicles, near the war memorial - this received funding from Suffolk County Council.
The A11 widening project, which began in January 2013, was part of a £3.3 billion investment in major road improvements in England during the Government's last spending review period.
Patrick McLoughlin said: "This major upgrade to the A11 is part of the most ambitious, far-reaching roads programme for decades. It will not only benefit those who use the road every day but create jobs and opportunities, benefiting hardworking families across the East of England.
"This government has a long term plan to secure Britain's future and our £15 billion roads programme is demonstration of that."
A commemorative plaque was unveiled by the Transport Secretary. After today's opening the plaque will be mounted near the new underpass at the war memorial.
Graham Dalton, Highways Agency Chief Executive, added: "The work to dual the A11 has been an enormous task and the project team, including our contractor Balfour Beatty, have worked tirelessly to complete a high quality dual carriageway between Norwich, London and the Midlands.
"The new dual carriageway will benefit road users and local people by improving road safety and reducing journey times by removing the bottlenecks that have caused congestion."
Stephen Tarr, Managing Director, Balfour Beatty Major Projects, said: "The A11 project has been a fantastic example of close collaborative working with our customer, the Highways Agency, and key stakeholders such as Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils. The project has already won plaudits for its sustainable and considerate delivery and for the benefits the scheme will bring the local community and road users."
Cllr Graham Newman, Cabinet member for Roads and Transport, Suffolk County Council, said: "These improvements to the A11 have been a long term aspiration of the county council. I am delighted that this strategically important project is open to traffic.
"As well as being vital for the region, the project is expected to deliver local benefits such as less congestion and delays for the town of Brandon.
"We are extremely pleased to have been at the centre of delivering the new underpass at the war memorial and public bridleway around the edge of Weather Heath. It has improved facilities for local communities wanting to get around the area on foot, cycle or horseback."
George Nobbs, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "Today sends out a positive signal that, more than ever before, Norfolk is a great place to do business. In the past businesses were choosing not to locate to parts of Norfolk because of perceived poor transport links.
"Despite enjoying the beauty of our county, many tourists had their experience marred by a delayed journey getting into or out of the county.
"And, of course, there were too many lives being lost or ruined by collisions on the single carriageway stretch.
"Those are now things of the past where this part of the A11 is concerned and there is no longer any excuse for businesses not to invest here."
There is some landscaping work to be finished which will continue in the New Year until March 2015. To minimise any disruption, this work, which needs to be done during the day, will be completed using short sections of off-peak lane closures.