The Campaign for Better Transport has claimed that Norfolk County Council is about to spend £1.7m on computer modelling for a link road scheme it cannot pay for while simultaneously axing integrated transport initiatives that would promote cycling and walking.
“Norfolk had planned to spend just under £1 million building new zebra crossings, adding more cycle parking and sprucing up Norwich's buses. But it's just announced that spending on these programmes will be 'deferred', as part of its plans to introduce cuts totalling £60 million,” writes the Campaign’s Richard George in his blog.
The council has questioned the £1.7m figure – which Richard says includes work on the link road’s junction – but has conceded to road.cc that £750,000 has been allocated for possible spend related to the Northern Distributor Road scheme and that it will be reducing the number of improvement schemes it is undertaking in order to focus on road maintenance.
“We have allocated £750,000 for the coming financial year to spend related to the Northern Distributor Road. That allocation is an estimate based on what work may be required by Department for Transport as part of the Delivery Pool process,” a council spokesman told us.
“The Northern Distributor Road will deliver significant benefits to the economy of Norwich and Norfolk and will greatly reduce rat-running in the northern suburbs. The scheme is one of a number which the Government sees as potentially worthy of central Govt support, but because of the big cuts in public spending has asked for further investigatory work to be carried out ahead of a final decision in the Autumn,” the spokesman told road.cc.
He conceded to us, however, that maintaining the existing transport infrastructure would take precedence over improving Norfolk’s integrated transport system.
“A recent review of the highways capital programme suggested that due to the maintenance backlog, a reduced integrated transport (improvement schemes) programme should be implemented," the spokesman told us.
He continued: “Therefore it was recommended that the recent practice of reallocating £1m from integrated transport to structural maintenance is significantly increased to give much more emphasis to maintaining the existing asset, and to allocate £2m to highway improvements but to retain flexibility to increase this to £3m by reducing the structural maintenance allocations if major scheme cost pressures emerge.”
The Campaign for Better Transport argues that this approach is short-sighted and fails to tackle the long term problems of congested roads.
“I know that Norfolk considers a major ring road to be ‘an integral part of our plans to improve the local public transport network and reduce reliance on the private car,’” writes Richard George. He continues: “But seriously: stop wasting public money on this thing, especially when it comes at the expense of projects which would genuinely improve transport in Norwich.”