Tuesday, February 13, 2007

South of Thickthorn

Highways Agency Pockets Your Cash!

News that the long-awaited Attleborough by-pass improvement has opened was greeted with less than enthusiasm by the EDP when they discovered that the costs had risen from the published £22 million to £30! Now they want some answers. I suppose it is better late than never, but I would have thought the time for asking questions was a long time ago!!

I don't k now why we should be surprised. The cost of building roads in Norfolk is a scandal and always has been .

You may remember that the reason the Attleborough by-pass had to be improved is that the loonies who were in charge when it was built decided that one bit would be single carriageway. That's the bit they have just dualled. The fact that everyone in Norfolk told them that they should have built it as dual carriageway has, seemingly, been forgotten. Maybe some enterprising EDP journalist would like to add this to his list of questions to ask!

You may remember a similar story afflicting the Thetford by-pass. One section was originally built as single, only to be dualled a few years later. What a waste!! Building a road is not something you can do with a bucket and spade. So, while you have the men and equipment there, why not do the job all at once! Too sensible. Too simple.

That's the main reason why we are still waiting for the whole of the A11 to be dualled today. It has been 25 years in the expectation, planning, building a bit and pausing.

Much better to go away for a few years while the costs rocket. Then, have a lengthy planning process whilst the costs continue skyward. Then, attempt to scrimp and save by cutting a valuable part of the original plan (like the Besthorpe junction) thus ensuring that the original plan is emasculated in order to save a paltry sum. Finally, spend £8 million more than planned on “preparation, supervision, land compensation claims and land costs” and pretend that no-one will notice! Are they seriously saying that they didn't think that there would be any costs to do with planning, supervision or buying land when they started? How can they get away with this!

We may not live long enough to see the last bit done. You know the bit – from Thetford to Barton Mills. Must be all of 5 or six miles. Perfectly flat. Farm land on either side. No rivers to cross. Me and Paddy could do it with a wheelbarrow! Cost? By the time they ever got to it, I suggest it will be £50 million. It is a scandal!

There's a phrase for this: highway robbery.

Maybe the lads who rallied around Kett's Oak and marched on Norwich had the right idea. Only when the Norfolk Dumplings get mad enough to hang a few Highways Agency bean-counters from the walls of Norwich Castle might we get any sensible answers and sensible plans!

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting.

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