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Debate East Anglia motorway

The government is considering whether to upgrade roads in East Anglia as part of its multi-modal and roads based studies. Opinions are divided about how to improve transport links in the region.

This week we ask:

Does East Anglia need another motorway?

Yes

John Spiers, director of transportation Hyder Consulting Current transport planning wisdom calls for sustainable, accessible and integrated solutions.

This has been interpreted in some quarters as cars (and highways) bad, buses and railways good.

However, a truly sustainable, integrated, and accessible transport system has to be made up of a mixture of modes within a well designed comprehensive national plan.

Good transport links are an essential part of economic development. It is no surprise that the most deprived areas of the UK are those with the worst transport networks.

East Anglia is well known to 'outsiders' as being relatively inaccessible because compared with other parts of the UK, the road and rail networks are poor, with the M11 only serving a small part of the region. The East Anglian ports are also among the least well served in the UK for transport infrastructure.

Increasingly business is international and the quality of the transport system is one of the key factors that a business considers in deciding to invest in an area. EC membership makes the decision not only one of should it be in East Anglia or the Midlands or South Wales, but also should it be in Catalonia or Normandy.

There are those that argue that we don't need new roads - the railways and bus services should be improved. I agree with the latter statement, but there is also a need for new or upgraded roads in some areas that are currently poorly served, such as East Anglia. For example, although predominantly dual carriageway, the existing A12 is of variable standard.

A motorway standard route linking the M25, Ipswich and Norwich together with an increase in the capacity of the rail lines throughout East Anglia and improvements to urban bus services are required to power East Anglia through the 21st century. A truly sustainable, accessible and integrated solution - cars (and highways) good, integrated with bus and rail even better.

No

Graham Hughes, head of transport development, Cambridgeshire County Council.

Does East Anglia need another motorway - a question that has been asked over many years but which is still unresolved.

On the surface, the arguments appear compelling. Improved accessibility can give rise to increased local economic prosperity and parts of East Anglia are clearly not well served by transport networks. The question we should be asking though is if we do provide additional roads, how long will their benefits endure, at what price do they come and are there alternatives?

National Transport statistics demonstrate that despite the postwar road building programme, congestion has increased. Increased prosperity and improved roads have allowed people to travel further in a given period of time and car ownership levels are currently well below saturation. To focus solely on the need for a new motorway will therefore address only the short term issues and may exacerbate future problems.

So what are the solutions? In my view, we need to promote a balanced transport policy comprising improvements to infrastructure and services, particularly for public transport, walking and cycling and where appropriate, new roads. In rural areas where public transport is not viable and walking and cycling are not realistic, community transport has an important role to play.

These measures need to be coupled with a change in the demand for travel that will require personal commitment to travel in different ways. Improving the relationship between new development and provision for transport is also important in this respect.

Areas that have shown commitment to this approach are starting to achieve real results in terms of increased bus use, walking and cycling. Although within such a policy mix, there will be the need for some new roads, to focus purely on a new motorway risks diverting resources away from more effective measures and creating more congestion in the future.

The facts lMajor road building in East Anglia could emerge from multi-modal transport studies being carried out by consultants, which will recommend road upgrades and public transport improvements for the next 10 years.

lSo far the Cambridge to Huntingdon study has recommended widening the A14 in Cambridgeshire to six lanes and parallel local roads around the junction with the M11 bringing it up to eight lanes. Total cost is put at £192M.

lNorwich to Great Yarmouth Study recommended dualling and widening parts of the A47 between Norwich and Great Yarmouth at a cost of £25M.

lThe London to Ipswich A12 corridor study is due to report this summer. Recommendations on Norwich to Peterborough are expected next year.

lEast Anglia's need for a second motorway was recently debated by ICE's East Anglian association (NCE 11 April).

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