South of Thickthorn – the end is nigh – or is it?
The most entertaining anecdote in Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island occurs when he discusses the English preoccupation with roads and their preoccupation with the best way to get from one place to another. For anyone who has ever been regaled by the locals encyclopedic knowledge of the road network this is a must read. It reminds me of the apocryphal Irish story of the local Paddy who when asked how to get to Carrickfergus replied, “Sure, I wouldn't start from here.”
In a self-congratulatory wave of over optimistic balderdash, the EDP announced that the government had at last agreed that despite the desperate economic times, the remaining stretch of the A11 south of Thickthorn would be dualled; thereby finally linking Norwich with the rest of the world. Whiskey, foxtrot, zulu!
Let us leave for a moment the drip drip drip of irony so thick it makes molasses in January seem positively runny and rejoice!
Wait a minute – let's not crack the champagne quite just yet.
With considerably less fanfare and with a complete lack of journalistic integrity, the EDP soon announces that the construction work is unlikely to start before 2012-13. Ministers, when quizzed, confirm that the money to dual is definitely committed, but not quite so committed that it is actually available. Confused? You ought not be. Governments are very good at dissembling information with enough caveats to make the average football manager seem positively erudite and the epitome of linguistic elegance.
Amidst all the balderdash has anyone actually noticed that this “battle” was lost over 30 years ago when some eejit decided that the M11 should go from London to Cambridge – despite the fact that the A11 goes from London to Norwich. With a stroke of the bureaucratic pen, Norwich was condemned to sit on the side lines and wait for a government hand out in order to get a descent road link. Hello – we're still waiting!! To add insult to injury Look East reports on a new link road to provide fast access from a Cambridge business park to the M11!! Where are the reporters asking how money can be found for this, yet the A11 will have to wait? Call themselves journalists?
I can see Rivers of Blood as the A11 money (yes, it's definitely committed says the Minister over and over again and again) is pushed further and further into the future – perhaps till after the next general election when, low and behold, certain facts will have come to light which were not available when the original decision was taken and must be investigated thoroughly with another public inquiry which can not possibly report until 2014-15 – but the money is definitely committed, says the Minister. Ad nauseum.
So, where do we go from here?
Probably nowhere, slowly.
Suggest you get Bill Bryson's book and have a good read.