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  Transport in the Eastern Region
 
 

 
This speech was given in the House of Commons on 20 November 2001

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk): I join the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) in saying that the people of our area feel neglected compared with those of other parts of the country. Although the eastern region as a whole has done well economically, that economic benefit is concentrated more in the west of the region, around the Cambridge corridor, than in the east. When I went to Blackpool for my party's conference I found that I would save two hours by taking the train from Norwich to London and thence to Blackpool, instead of going direct from Norwich to Blackpool. That shows what neglect our area has suffered.

Further to the hon. Gentleman's remarks about Lowestoft, I have a good sense of how far east it is because when I was growing up in Worcestershire we used to visit my grandparents in Lowestoft. It was the most interminable journey that I ever had to undertake as a child. Points east in Norfolk as well as Suffolk are disconnected. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Great Yarmouth. We all look forward to the development of the Yarmouth outer harbour and the contribution that it will make to reviving the eastern part of East Anglia.

We are delighted that work on the section of the A11 from Roudham Heath to Attleborough is going ahead and that the Government have announced their preferred routes for the remainder. I understand that there will be one public inquiry to take account of both routes. That news highlights the problem of time scales. I am told that, if things go smoothly, the earliest that we can expect construction to start is 2005 and that dualling of the A11 will not be complete until 2007. That is six years—as long as it took to fight the second world war. There seems to be a wider policy point to be made about the length of time that planning inquiries take. However, we are grateful that progress is being made, albeit slowly.

What is the Government's current policy on bypasses? The residents of Long Stratton, in my constituency, are desperate for a bypass. I invite the Minister to visit Long Stratton to see what they put up with. The A140 from Norwich to Ipswich runs through the centre of that small town and 45,000 cars a day use it. That is wholly inappropriate. The problem has festered for years and we look forward to a rapid solution. The county council will consult on the issue next year and when the process is complete it will assemble a bid for a major project. I hope that the Government will look favourably on that when the time comes.

We should not forget the other kinds of transport that are available. Norwich airport, just outside my constituency, is a vital resource for the area, and for many people is much closer than flying from Stansted airport in the west of the eastern region. The national media sometimes do not bring out the difference between what is happening in the east of the eastern region and what is happening in the west of the region. I hope that the Government will bear in mind, especially in relation to the Cambridge to Huntingdon multi-modal study, the fact that economic development of the region requires better transport links in the east too.

The hon. Member for Waveney spoke about environmental links and striking the right balance. That relates to a more general point that environmental protection can be afforded only if there is wealth. It is not an accident that the poorest countries tend to have the least environmental protection. Greater economic prosperity means that we can better afford to enhance the environment.
 


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