PROPOSALS for a second motorway through East Anglia were overwhelmingly rejected by East Anglia local association at its annual debate held over Easter.
'Do we really need another motorway to drive our tractors on?' was the question put to the 120-strong audience before voting firmly against the motion 'East Anglia will die without a second motorway.'
The debate was opened by independent consultant Adrian Judge, who argued that businesses had already moved out of the region because of its poor transport links, and that upgrading the A14 from Felixstowe to motorway status is vital to save the region.
Hyder Consulting transportation director John Spiers continued the theme: 'East Anglia is well known for being very inaccessible and European businesses won't come into the area, ' he said.
He pointed to the success of a combined approach of upgrading roads and public transport taken in Singapore. East Anglia needs similar treatment, he said, and called for the A12 London to Great Yarmouth to be upgraded to motorway standards and extended to Norwich, while at the same time upgrading train services between London and Norwich.
The case for the defence was led by sustainable transport lobbyist Transport 2000. Director Stephen Joseph insisted that East Anglia is already thriving without a second motorway.
Joseph highlighted that Norwich was recently voted the eighth best shopping city in Europe and that the region was such a housing hotspot that first time buyers had become priced out of the property market.
'East Anglia does compete economically. There is no clear evidence that road building helps the economy. It's all case specific, ' he said.
Joseph went on to argue that, far from saving the region, a second motorway could reverse East Anglia's economic prosperity. 'A second motorway would make it easier for firms trading in East Anglia to relocate to other areas, ' he said.
He also inflamed the audience by adding that improved road links make rural areas easier targets for criminal gangs in search of rich pickings.
Cambridge County Council head of transport development Graham Hughes wound up the debate by citing the 'predict and provide' argument that if you build new roads you will simply create new traffic to fill it.
'Even if by some miracle we built this second motorway, in 10 or 15 years' time we would be asking whether East Anglia will die without a third motorway, ' he said. 'Road building is a short term fix.'
Hughes instead urged a greater emphasis on modal shift to public transport. He pointed to the dramatic modal shift in his own city of Cambridge which has seen bus use soar by 100%.
'Thirty per cent of all trips are under a mile, 50% are under two miles. We can do an awful lot by improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, ' he said.
So will tractors be gracing a second motorway in East Anglia in the future? Not according to the audience, who proved that civil engineers don't always have their own best interests at heart.