Norfolk wins £213m for new road scheme

16/10/2023
Chris Ames

Norfolk County Council has welcomed what it says is a Government commitment of more than £200m for a new link road, but exactly how much money it will receive – and when – remain unclear.

On Friday (13 October) the Department for Transport (DfT) approved the outline business case (OBC) for the highway authority’s Norwich Western Link project, which will see a new 3.9 mile dual carriageway road built to the west of.the city.

Together with National Highways’ project to dual the A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton, the new road would complete a fully-dualled orbital route around Norwich.

Cllr Graham Plant, the council’s cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said: ‘Today’s announcement gives us a commitment from central government to fund the majority of the cost of the project and will bring an anticipated £213m of national investment into the county, with the potential for the government contribution to be uplifted to cover even more of the costs.’

The DfT contribution represents 85% of the current £251m cost of the Large Local Major (LLM) scheme. The Government’s recent Network North announcement pledged to increase central government contributions to 100% of ‘most’ LLM and Major Road Network (MRN) schemes.

An image of the planned road from the Broadland Northway, which also went well over budget

 

However, this is based on costs at OBC stage and is intended to help councils deal with inflationary pressures since then. Given that the DfT funding is based on what is said to be the current cost, the Norwich Western Link may be one scheme that does not receive a top-up.

In fact, the cost of the scheme has already risen from £153m in a 2020 strategic outline business case to £198m when the OBC was submitted in 2021. Last year, the council submitted an addendum to the OBC revealing that the projected cost had risen to £251m.

In its letter to the council, the DfT noted the Network North announcement but stated that it is currently considering the details of how this will apply to schemes and would write again with further information on this, and details of any increase in its contribution, ‘once the position is clear’.

Similarly, the DfT told Highways that it would discuss individual schemes with local authorities, and details related to funding will be confirmed ‘in due course’ – government code for date in the future that is is unable or unwilling to disclose.

It added that individual schemes are subject to the usual assessment and approval process through each business case stage – meaning that a final decision to fund the scheme is not guaranteed.

As Highways has reported, final funding confirmations for LLM and MRN schemes under the National Roads Fund, which is itself nominally funded by hypothecated Vehicle Excise Duty, have almost trickled to a halt.

Although the DfT has pledged to top up its contribution to ‘most’ 70 local road schemes with ‘redirected’ cash from the truncated HS2 programme, it has declined to state that it has the funds to pay for all the schemes.

Norfolk County Council awarded the contract to design and build the Norwich Western Link road to Ferrovial Construction in 2021.

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