The potential of the A47 to generate economic growth in Fenland has been underestimated for too long, according to the area’s MP.
The claim was made during a debate in which Stephen Barclay joined MPs from across East Anglia to press ministers for a commitment to make the road a dual carriageway along its entire length between Peterborough and Lowestoft.
Mr Barclay said: “We have a region that will deliver greater benefits than have traditionally been forecast, and the potential of the scheme has been undervalued.”
The North East Cambridgeshire MP told last Wednesday’s session in Westminster Hall that the Fenland district has just two miles of dual carriageway road, despite being a leading haulage centre because of its food production industries.
And he criticised what he described as a “piecemeal, patch and mend” approach that had been taken towards the road in the past.
He added: “As a result, issues have been stored up – nowhere more so than in Fenland, which I have the privilege to represent.”
The A47 is one of six routes currently being assessed by the Government. A decision on which schemes will be funded is expected this autumn.
But Roads Minister Robert Goodwill insisted the road was not in competition with other schemes, adding: “I hazard to suggest that there will be a degree of success in all six areas that we have identified.”
Supporters of the A47 upgrade say full dualling could generate up to £1 billion per year of additional economic benefits for the region.
In its Gateway to Growth prospectus published earlier this year, the A47 Alliance, a body representing politicians and business leaders from Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, claimed that more £50 million of economic benefits would be generated by upgrading the Wisbech bypass alone.
Mr Barclay highlighted problems on the road, such as the Broad End junction at Walsoken and the stretch between Wisbech and Guyhirn, and argued that an upgrade would also boost the X1 bus service, which serves communities along the length of the road, including Wisbech.
And he backed the warning made by Broadland MP Keith Simpson, who called the debate, that future housing demand meant towns like Wisbech would have even more serious problems in the future if nothing were done.
He said: “This is an area that can unlock the housing required, if the Government meets us halfway in delivering the necessary transport infrastructure.”