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Years could be cut from key transport projects including Wisbech Rail and dualling A47 says Mayor James Palmer

A report into vital transport infrastructure schemes for Cambridgeshire has found that projects can be completed years ahead of conventional schedules by using fresh approaches to how they are delivered.

Mayor James Palmer is pushing for new ways to deliver major infrastructure projects so they canbe done more years earlier than currently scheduled. (3157231)
Mayor James Palmer is pushing for new ways to deliver major infrastructure projects so they canbe done more years earlier than currently scheduled. (3157231)

The review, which followed Mayor James Palmer’s Interim Transport Strategy Statement in May, looked at how key projects including the A47 dualling, the Wisbech Access Strategy, Wisbech Rail and solving the Ely rail bottleneck, can all be completed more quickly.

The opportunities for time savings come from three main areas, where the Combined Authority can employ fresh thinking and new ideas to challenge the conventional approaches to infrastructure delivery. The first is managing the projects with a focus lean, efficient processes coupled with quicker decision making at key gateway stages.

The second is how projects can be funded quicker upfront, with phases overlapping rather than running sequentially. That also incorporates looking at alternative delivery bodies to see if they can offer a more efficient service.

The third element is how the Mayor’s direct connections and lobbying of central Government and its agencies like Network Rail, can target barriers and red tape that typically hold back infrastructure projects. That lobbying power can also shorten or remove processes and procedures that build in delay to delivery.

For example, under a conventional scheme, the proposed dualling of the A47 in Cambridgeshire, from East of Peterborough to Walton Highway, would be complete in 2033. But the report states that six years can be saved by changing the method of delivery. That involves taking a single route approach to planning and constructing the scheme, rather than dividing the scheme into four separate sections.

Wisbech Rail would be delivered by 2024 under conventional practice, but the report has identified a time saving of two years to 2022 if GRIP 4-8 work is approved up front. Further savings have also been identified which will be explored further if the Board gives its approval.

Mayor Palmer said: “The need for investment in our transport infrastructure is clear and obvious, and people rightly get frustrated by delays and false dawns when it comes to getting them delivered.

“A big part of the responsibility of the Combined Authority and me as Mayor, is to challenge the delays and these unnecessarily long processes that are holding us back. So when Network Rail told me a Cambridge South station won’t arrive until 2025-2027, when Highways England will commit only to dualling two miles of the A47 and when solving the rail bottleneck at Ely is still not guaranteed, I’m simply not prepared to consider this acceptable.

“The interim findings of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) highlighted the excellent growth in the economy in this area, but warned that continued prosperity is at risk unless we invest in upgrading our transport infrastructure. Better connecting the whole of the county will also share that prosperity more evenly, by opening up the economy to more people, and giving them better access to jobs.

“But the CPIER review also supported my belief that the need for this transport upgrade is urgent. We already need a dualled A47 and A10, we already need a Cambridge metro and Cambridge South station and we already need to be investing in other transport corridors that will better connect the Combined Authority area together.

The paper will go before the Combined Authority Board on Wednesday (July 25) as part of a wider transport paper following the Mayoral Interim Transport Strategy Statement in May. The board will be asked to approve officers going away and looking further into how models can be used to accelerate delivery, for reporting back to the September board meeting.

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