MATTHEW HANCOCK: A11 bypass is already delivering

Column by Matthew Hancock MP
Column by Matthew Hancock MP
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Being woken by the dawn chorus in the countryside might seem like one of life’s simplest pleasures. In Suffolk it is easy to take for granted the enchanting songbirds in the early hours.

But for the residents of Elveden, the sound of the birds at 5am one Monday morning was more than just music to their ears. It marked the first time in a generation that the village had heard their own wildlife sing.

At the end of April the much-needed A11 bypass was finally opened. To begin with there is just one 40 mph lane in each direction, but it’s a sign of progress, and for some, it has already made all the difference.

For decades the population of Elveden has seen its village split in two; the pub on one side, the church on the other. Despite what may appear a stroke of divine intervention, the good and the bad were divided by none other than a congested, dangerous road that ran through the middle.

The momentary frustration of motorists in traffic was magnified by the permanent buzz of vehicles endured by locals. The new A11 has not only created better access to areas across East Anglia, but it has transformed the village of Elveden after years of unending traffic.

I was excited to see the A11 bypass in action and to meet Richard Turnball, the Project Director at Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK, to discuss their great progress. Some areas in East Anglia have already noticed the welcome difference the new bypass makes, but for many the full effects are yet to be felt after the road is fully completed later this year.

This £130 million project started in June 2012 is set to dual nine miles of the A11 in Suffolk between the Fiveways roundabout and Thetford. This means that journeys from Bury to Brandon, from Mildenhall to the Fiveways roundabout and between Norwich and London will be smoother and safer for all travellers. The new road will reduce journeys by nearly half an hour at peak time. And of course it means it’s easier to get from Bury to Brandon, too – with a new bridge instead of the interminable traffic lights. I think the new A11 will create greater access to areas in West Suffolk, attracting more people to our towns and in turn helping maintain local businesses and families.

In celebration of regaining their village’s tranquillity, residents from Elveden joined other participants to be the first – and almost definitely last – to run 5km along the new A11. Accompanied by one particularly distinctive runner dressed as Elvis Presley, 30 keen locals consecrated the bypass. As teary, joyful runners crossed the finish line it marked the beginning of a new – and much-needed – era for Elveden. But, as the King of Rock and Roll said himself, ‘if you cry when you’re in love, it sure ain’t no disgrace’.

A huge number of people worked to get the A11 project off the ground. Winning the bid was a great moment back in 2010. Now it is being delivered ahead of time and under budget. Already, it has changed lives for the better in one small village. I hope that’s just the start of what will be a whole series of benefits when the new A11 is finalised by the end of the year.