Angers over Acle Straight safety study

Campaigners are calling for urgent progress on a trial scheme to fill in ditches alongside one of Norfolk's most treacherous roads.

Campaigners are calling for urgent progress on a trial scheme to fill in ditches alongside one of Norfolk's most treacherous roads.

A minister announced the scheme for the A47 Acle Straight, near Yarmouth, in the summer of 2005 following the death of health professional Glenn Fransham, who drowned in his upturned Mazda in a ditch next to the road.

However, since then, despite a further accident in which a baby was rescued after being trapped in his car seat under water for five minutes, no progress has been made.

The �40,000 feasibility study, intended to show whether roadside ditches along the nine-mile stretch can be moved further back without disturbing delicate marshland habitat, has been held up by talks with landowners, and the Highways Agency says it cannot be carried out now until autumn next year at the earliest.

Adrian Gunson, chairman of the A47 Alliance, a pressure group made up of local authorities and business people, said: 'My view is that the Highways Agency has not pursued this with the necessary urgency.

'Had they tried to reach agreement with landowners, who after all must be Norfolk people who understand the problems, they might have achieved greater co-operation.'

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He said the delay to the trial was holding up the possibility of any future major safety improvements because it was an essential first step to winning over environmentalists.

He said: 'I can't forecast when the next fatality will be, but we know it is a constant risk and, sooner or later there will be more people dying in ditches or in head-on collisions because the road has not been improved.'

The call to speed up work on the scheme was backed both the ruling Tory and Labour groups on Yarmouth Borough Council.

Labour group leader Mick Castle said: 'I agree with Adrian Gunson on the real urgency to get the land deals sorted so that work can begin immediately on removing the dangerous roadside ditches.

'I am still of the opinion that all land between the road and the Acle to Yarmouth rail line should be compulsorily purchased to create a transport corridor to accommodate both the much-needed dualling of the A47 and any rail improvements required for the future.'

Deputy council leader Barry Stone said he would not support compulsory purchase but recognised the urgent need for road improvements.

A Highways Agency spokesman confirmed that talks were still ongoing with landowners.

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