One of the biggest investments in our part of the world in the last few years was the decision to complete the dualling of the A11.
After a long campaign we were allocated the money in 2010 and it opened in 2015, reducing traffic, improving safety, and transforming the quality of life in the villages bypassed, whose daily life had been split in two by the congested old road.
But the improvement left a smaller but still serious problem with the Fiveways roundabout at Barton Mills outside Mildenhall, where the faster traffic made a tricky roundabout much worse. You may have experienced lengthy delays on the approaches to the Fiveways roundabout. I certainly have been caught in traffic jams there more often than I’d like to recount. It became almost impossible to join the roundabout from Mildenhall and Brandon, so the big improvement brought a new challenge.
In 2015, an online petition was started and eventually garnered over 2,400 signatures. The petition said that the majority of people locally would like to see traffic lights at the roundabout or a flyover, as these improvements would ease traffic congestion and help accessibility for all motorists which in turn would reduce the risks of accidents.
In addition to the delays at Fiveways, the roundabout has been proven to be an accident hotspot too. According to the Department for Transport, in the five years up until 2016, there was one fatality and three serious accidents on the roundabout itself. As recently as last month, officers were called to the Fiveways junction at Barton Mills to reports of a crash between two cars on the northbound carriageway. These numbers are in addition to the numerous accidents that have very sadly occurred on the approach roads to the roundabout, and the minor accidents that don’t make the figures.
During the past few years, I have campaigned tirelessly, initially for the dualling of the A11, and more recently for safety improvements and the addition of traffic lights to Fiveways. I have spoken to constituents, written and spoken publicly about the issue and met government ministers and officials from Highways England about this problem. Following my meeting at the end of last year with roads minister John Hayes, he asked for a study to be conducted by Highways England to look at the impact of placing traffic signals on the Fiveways roundabout as well as for suggestions from Highways England as how to relieve congestion in the short term.
But now we have had even better news – Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced last week that as part of the Congestion Relief Programme, Highways England will deliver further smaller schemes, including the provision of £400,000 for signalisation, i.e. traffic lights, at the Fiveways roundabout. I warmly welcome this announcement which highlights the government’s commitment to improving our regions road network and improving journeys for many people in West Suffolk. I’m delighted to see these improvements as part of a £220 million fund to tackle specific pinch-points across the nation.
These improvements will undoubtedly bring higher levels of safety as well as reducing congestion on the roundabout and on the approaches to the roundabout. We must now get the lights installed quickly, so the safety of our roads is improved for everyone, and keep an eye on the situation, so that the problems of Fiveways can be put behind us.
If you would like to contact me about this issue or any other matter, or you feel that there is a problem I could help you with, please do get in touch. I am always keen to hear from constituents and will do my best to help. I can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone on 01638 576 692.
-- Matthew Hancock is MP for West Suffolk