The Highways Agency recently issued draft orders for the A14 upgrade. The closing date for objections is 6 Jan 2010.
At this time we want as many people as possible to object to the scheme. This applies whatever the grounds you wish to mention -- whether you object to the principle of the scheme or the details, whether you are concerned about the climate change impact, the cost, or its local effects. The message we need to project is "Think Again" -- and to do this we need to puncture the idea that the scheme is too urgent to warrant further consideration (which is where the more global objections are particularly important).
Full details of the scheme can be seen at public libraries and local authority offices in the area, or on the Highways Agency website. Objections should be sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, c/o A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton Team, Highways Agency, Woodland, Manton Lane, Manton Industrial Estate, Bedford MK41 7LW, to arrive by 6 Jan 2010.
If you are intending to object, please let the Coordinator know, so that we can send you any details of meetings, references to web pages or other updates that may help you prepare your objection.
Probably the most cogent ground for objection is climate change, which, of course, is relevant to everyone wherever they live. The Highways Agency's own figures show that the scheme will increase traffic in the area by about 9%, generating about 36,000 tonnes of carbon per year. This is equivalent to about 132,000 tonnes of CO2. At the same time the Highways Agency don't have a validated methodology for estimating induced traffic (i.e. vehicles which are only making journeys because of the scheme), and it has a record of either underestimating or overestimating traffic growth -- the former resulting in building roads to a higher standard than the traffic warrants, and the latter making the climate change impact worse than expected. The Campaign for Better Transport shows the A6 (Clapham and Great Glen bypasses) as examples of the former and the A6 (Rushden bypass) and A46 (Newark-Lincoln) as examples of the latter.
There must also be questions about how the Government assesses the costs of the climate change impact. The most plausible measure is the opportunity cost of reducing emissions elsewhere in the world economy, i.e. the market cost of permits under an emissions trading system. However this cost will be determined by the balance between supply and demand, and all the evidence suggests that if the world really gets to grips with climate change (by setting a low limit for permitted emissions) it will be a sellers' market, with few permits for the road transport sector of our economy to buy. Of course it may be that the world won't get to grips with climate change and will move steadily towards disaster -- the A14 scheme being one step in this direction -- but should we really decide policy on this basis?
Another ground which affects everyone wherever they live -- at least if it's in the UK -- is cost. At the time the scheme was conceived, which was following the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study (CHUMMS), the cost was estimated as 192m. The Highways Agency were on the steering group of CHUMMS, so they had a responsibility to use their expertise to ensure that this figure wasn't wildly out of line.
However, when they entered the scheme into the roads programme the cost had rocketed to 490m. The cost has continued to rise since then, and is now estimated as between 1.2 bn and 1.3 bn.
At the same time, other areas of the public sector are bring starved of money. For example, Central Bedfordshire Council has been considering axing all support for evening and/or Sunday bus services. The saving? A mere 1-200,000 per year. If this goes ahead to what extent will any traffic relief on the A14 be offset by a general increase in congestion as people who live in or visit Central Bedfordshire find they need an extra car (which will of course further increase greenhouse gas emissions)?
Part of the problem is that the scheme seems to be designed with a background of ever increasing traffic. Yes, the section of the existing A14 through Huntingdon will be detrunked, and will carry less traffic, but it will still intrude on Huntingdon's commons and act as a magnet for traffic growth in the town -- complete with some brand new local roads, also across the commons, to link with it. CHUMMS called for part of the existing A14 between Fen Drayton and Huntingdon to be used as a "public transport corridor". This has been ignored, and the road will remain a dual carriageway all purpose road, inviting further traffic growth.
Soon after CHUMMS another multi-modal study was convened -- the London-South Midlands one (LSMMMS) -- covering a wider area. One of its recommendations was for a rail link between Cambridge and Bedford by the most direct route following the A428/A421 corridor. This has been consistently ignored by the Government, who refused to reopen the Great Barford Bypass public inquiry (which was under way when the LSMMMS report was released) to consider the effect of the LSMMMS recommendations, and it was only at the inquiry into the A428 upgrade west of Cambridge that they admitted that they hadn't even considered this issue so were not in a position to provide evidence about it.
How is this relevant to the A14? Well such a rail link would have to find some route across the north side of Cambridge, and one possibility worth considering is to follow the A14. But will there still be room for this if this section is widened, as the Highways Agency propose?
We are of course aware that this option is not being pursued by the East-West Consortium, the group of local authorities and other organisations which is hoping to restore a rail link on the corridor. However they are constrained because the principal source of finance for the scheme which they are hoping to tap is developer contributions, and this may not stretch to the cost of a 30 mile or so route, even if it does make the railway much more competitive with road, and serve Cambourne and St Neots, with possibilities for connections with Inter-City trains on the East Coast Main Line at the latter.
We have always taken the view that the fulfilment of the East-West Consortium's project should be seen as only a first step towards the creation of an integrated transport network for the Cambridge-Oxford arc. There is no way that a single route can provide for all east-west movement needs to/from centres in the area, including Aylesbury, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Bedford, Luton, Stevenage, Cambridge and Stansted Airport.
Another problem with the scheme is its interaction with the proposed Cambridge congestion charge. Does it really make sense to clamp down on demand within Cambridge city while encouraging traffic growth elsewhere in the sub-region? Isn't there a danger that this will lead to migration of businesses and facilities out of the city, causing yet further traffic growth as people find they can't get to their jobs easily by public transport, bike or on foot?
Here is a list giving the main problems we have identified with the scheme, from east to west.
1. East of Girton: Widening of northern bypass will attract more traffic to the Histon and Milton junctions, and thence towards the city centre. This will also reduce the putative benefits of the guided busway, as guided buses will approach the city centre along Histon and Milton Roads (as opposed to conventional buses on the A14 corridor which will continue to use Huntingdon Road).
As we suggested above, there may also be implications for the east-west rail link.
2. Girton interchange: There is an opportunity to take traffic off Madingley Road (outside the M11) by providing slip roads between the A428 and M11 in both directions. Not only is this not being done, but the redesign of the interchange will make it much harder to provide an A428 to M11 slip road in future.
Another problem relates to the public right of way between Girton and Dry Drayton villages. We believe that under a sustainable transport system such footpaths should be valued not only for recreational purposes but also because they facilitate movements between local villages. At present there are separate rights of way from Dry Drayton and Girton to the A14/M11. It isn't clear from the map whether one can get across. We believe that any rebuild of the road network in the area would provide an opportunity to provide a safe crossing.
In fact a safe crossing will be provided -- on reaching the A14 from Dry Drayton walking along the A14 for a short distance, turn right to cross the A428, then left along a track (not a right of way), then left again to cross the M11, then across Huntingdon Road, finally reaching Girton by an existing footbridge over the A14. We estimate that this will almost double the distance -- hardly likely to encourage people to walk rather than drive.
3. Girton-Bar Hill: Local traffic on this section will be provided by one way roads, eastbound north of the A14 and westbound south of the A14. The provision of 4 lanes in total for local traffic, on top of the 6 for through traffic, represents a massive increase in capacity which can only encourage the people of Northstowe, when that gets built, to rely on their cars for almost all their mobility needs (e.g. choosing jobs in places that can only easily be reached by car).
Furthermore, as a result of this one way operation, there will continue to be no stop for eastbound buses near the Crematorium. Passengers will have to get on or off at Oakington Turn, which is quite a long walk away.
4. Bar Hill: At present there is a public bridleway between the site of Northstowe and the A14 north of Bar Hill. This corridor is likely to become considerably more important as Northstowe is developed, and it is reasonable to ask for a bridge across the A14. In fact the Highways Agency are providing such a bridge. However it is west of the B1050 rather than east, so any cyclists between Northstowe and Bar Hill will have to negotiate traffic on the B1050, and this traffic will also be growing considerably as a result of the development (and also because of the extra capacity between Bar Hill and Girton, see above). Why couldn't the bridge have been put east of the B1050?
5. Fen Drayton-Godmanchester: The opening of the new road on this corridor was seen by CHUMMS as providing an opportunity for a public transport corridor on the existing road. This would entail removing more traffic from the existing road by designating the crossing of the A1198 as the entrance and exit point for traffic between Huntingdon and the east. However, traffic will not be able to use this route as no east facing slip roads will be provided at the A1198 junction. So the existing road will continue to carry substantial volumes of traffic, if less than now. With relatively poor bus services people will be encouraged to rely on their cars, and relief to noise in Fenstanton will be less than hoped for as traffic grows to fill the space available.
Incidentally, we believe that there is no need for a dual 3 lane road west of the A1198.
6. Godmanchester-Huntingdon: At present historic Godmanchester sees large volumes of through traffic as motorists exit the A14 east of the community and drive through en route to Huntingdon, crossing the old Town Bridge. Traffic through Godmanchester will be reduced under the new layout, but not by as much as it could be if the opportunity were taken to close Town Bridge to ``general'' traffic (not buses, bikes or certain other classes).
This is in addition to the missed opportunity to reclaim the Huntingdon commons from traffic. The existing road east of the railway does need to be retained to achieve the benefit of the removal of traffic from Godmanchester. But no comparable benefit will result from its retention between the railway and the Spittals Interchange. We would like to see this section closed completely, also avoiding the alleged need for yet another road across Views Common to link up with this road.
7. Brampton: There used to be a public footpath crossing the A1 west of Brampton, linking Brampton West End (served by bus from Huntingdon and St Neots) with Brampton Wood. This was officially closed some time ago, though it can still be followed if one is able to negotiate the A1 traffic (which is often possible) and the ditch that has been built to the west of the A1.
The role which the footpath could fulfil increased considerably when the Ministry of Defence sold Brampton Wood to the Wildlife Trust, where it is now open to the public -- if they can get there -- as a nature reserve. It is Cambridgeshire's second largest ancient woodland. The alternative route by road is about twice as long.
The A14 is scheduled to run close to the A1 along this stretch, and many Bramptonians are calling for the inclusion of a bridge to span both these roads so that they can enjoy the delights of Brampton Wood without having to get their cars out.
In addition to the above arguments, there are arguments of more local import. The people of Hilton, the Offords, Brampton and Buckden will suffer increased noise if the new A14 alignment is built. However the people of Fenstanton, Godmanchester and some parts of Huntingdon will benefit -- though not by as much as we would have liked (see 5 and 6 above). Our group does not wish to take sides on this issue. We welcome objections from the people of the villages which will lose out, though, as they reinforce our main message which is "Think Again".
We now summarise the above grounds for objection.
We believe that many of the problems of the A14 can be solved by methods which don't encourage traffic growth. These include the following:
(a) Upgrade the east-west freight route. There are two aspects to this -- loading gauge (e.g. the maximum height of trains that can use the route) and capacity (the maximum frequency of trains). Work to upgrade the loading gauge between Felixstowe and Nuneaton is already programmed. There is also some work to improve capacity, but not enough.
A fully signalled double track route can take trains every 5 minutes or so -- that's 288 trains per day. There are various factors which mean that the actual freight capacity is less (passenger trains, junctions, level crossings) but one can say that it would be possible to upgrade the route to carry all the traffic on offer. Of course we need first to eliminate the single track sections and the reversal at Ipswich.
(b) Upgrade the north-south freight route. The A14 also carries a lot of traffic from the Channel Ports (and tunnel) to Yorkshire and beyond, linking as it does the M11 and A1. There is no freight route for this traffic that is not both circuitous and subject to constraints. There should be. One option might be to run via the High Speed 1 route to Rainham, then Barking, South Tottenham, Seven Sisters, Cheshunt, Ware and by the new link to Stevenage proposed as part of a Stansted-Oxford route (see article on East-West Rail in Newsletter 101).
(c) Restrain car commuting in the Cambridge area. The proposed congestion charge would be a start, but we believe it might be necessary to go beyond this, in particular to tackle the problem of traffic that doesn't enter the city. How about a workplace parking tax covering the whole of the Cambridge sub-region?
(d) Provide a long distance passenger route.} We suggest a bus route between Cambridge and Rugby, linking the Ipswich-Cambridge and Rugby-Birmingham rail routes. The bus would also serve Huntingdon, Thrapston and Kettering, plus other worthwhile intermediate points. We estimate that in terms of journey time it could undercut the existing rail service between Cambridge and Birmingham and become a more attractive option for people who might otherwise drive.
We start by mentioning our AGM which will this year be held in the Secretary's flat starting 10.30 for 11.00 on Sat 28 Nov. See above for further details.
Impact. As a registered local group of the Campaign for Better Transport, and Transport 2000 before that, we have been receiving copies of their newsletter "Impact", and "Transport Retort" before that. We have been passing these on to those members expressing a wish to receive them (in return for payment). Now we have been told that we will no longer be getting copies to distribute, instead they will be sending them direct to their supporters. Meanwhile we have deleted the option of receiving "Impact" from our renewal slips.
Incidentally the Campaign for Better Transport has moved its office.
Membership. If you haven't paid since 2007-8 then we said last time that you would receive no more newsletters. We are however extending this for one more time because of the importance of maximising the number of objections to the A14 scheme. But, unless something equally important turns up, this really will be the last. We hope that at least some of you will renew for 2 years (2008-10) or 3 years (2008-11) -- renewal slip enclosed.
If you have paid up for 2008-9 but not since then we are treating you as current members. Because of ongoing problems with the postal service, unless we have an email address for you you will be receiving this newsletter 1st class (unless delivered by hand), to ensure you have adequate notice of our AGM. However you will only receive our financial and activities reports for 2009 if you have renewed by the time of our next newsletter. A renewal slip for 1 year (2009-10) or 2 years (2009-11) is enclosed.
If you have already paid to 2010 or 2011 then you are, of course, being treated as a full member, and likewise will be getting this newsletter 1st class unless it is delivered by hand or we have an email address.
And if you get our newsletter on a "freebie" basis, you of course will not get a renewal slip. But, except for coordinators of neighbouring local groups, neither will you get a meeting flyer. You may nevertheless wish to turn up at the Secretary's flat at the date and time given above.
Other events. It is a pity that our AGM is being held the day before the guided busway is scheduled to open (see below), so that we will not be able to discuss any practical experience of its operation. However later dates were subject to clashes. On 5 Dec Railfuture holds its annual Cambridge meeting (14.15 at Alex Wood Hall, Norfolk St, Cambridge). Also there will be a major rally in London calling for international action on climate change in the runup to the Copenhagen climate summit -- see stopclimatechaos.org; Cambridge Carbon Footprint is hoping to organise a group to go to this -- if you are interested contact the Membership Secretary, details shown on the front page.
This rally is not the Climate Change March, which will take place, again in London, the following Saturday.
Incidentally, if you attend any meetings about climate change, or write to any politician about the issue, be sure to mention the importance of reforming our transport system as part of our solution to the problem. They must be made to understand that vague promises to reduce emissions are not consistent with ever increasing levels of aviation and road traffic.
Bank account: Our new bank account is now in full operation and we hope to have closed the old one down by the time of the AGM.
We have received details of bus changes planned by Stagecoach's Cambridge and Huntingdon operations from 29 Nov, including the start of services on the guided busway (which may not be till the 30th, as we don't know yet if any guided buses will actually run on Sundays). Whippet will also be running guided buses (route C, below). Here are the main details we were given:
C1 Kings Hedges-Cambridge-Addenbrookes-Fulbourn: Will go via Queen Ediths Way, not Wulfstan Way.
C2 Milton-Cambridge-Addenbrookes: Reduced to every 15 minutes and will go via Wulfstan Way, not Queen Ediths Way.
C4 St Neots-Cambourne-Cambridge-Orchard Park: Orchard Park, which is on the guided busway, to be served only Mon-Fri daytimes, and Cambourne will lose its Sunday evening service.
C5 Cambridge-Bar Hill, C6 Cambridge-Oakington and 15 Cambridge-Willingham-St Ives: 1 journey each hour on route C5 is extended from Bar Hill to St Ives replacing 15 (and, we believe, using the same route). On Sundays C5 will run via Oakington replacing C6.
C7 Cottenham-Cambridge-Sawston and beyond: Reduced to every 15 minutes on the main section and will no longer serve Station Road, Histon. Saffron Walden will continue to be served hourly; Duxford and Whittlesford will be served by two separate extensions from Sawston, each hourly, instead of the current half hourly loop; and Pampisford's service will be reduced to hourly.
13 Cambridge-Haverhill: All evening buses to serve Cambridge station.
20 Fenstanton-St Ives Park and Ride: New half hourly service.
21 Chatteris-Ramsey-Somersham-St Ives: Peak journeys to be replaced by new guided busway service.
55 Huntingdon-St Ives-Cambridge: To be replaced by guided busway service.
18, 29, 30, 35, 66: Minor timing changes.
A Cambridge-St Ives-Colne: New route, every 20 minutes from Cambridge to St Ives via guided busway, with three peak journeys extended to Earith and Colne.
B Cambridge-St Ives-Huntingdon: New route, every 20 minutes, forming a 10 minute service to St Ives with A.
C Cambridge-St Ives-Somersham: New hourly operated by Whippet.
We haven't been told what services there will be on the guided busway in the evenings and on Sundays. Presumably the B, which replaces the 55, will continue to offer an hourly evening service. On Sundays existing services between Cambridge, St Ives and Huntingdon are run by Whippet (route 1A), but they also serve Bar Hill, off the busway, which has no other evening service. On the other hand, Longstanton, on the busway, currently has no Sunday service and we believe deserves one.
Remember that this network is just the first phase of the guided busway project. The section to Trumpington and Addenbrookes has still to open. In addition, the Council's prospectus said that buses would be running through to Hinchingbrooke, and through Cambridge city centre to the rail station if not going to Trumpington or Addenbrookes. We hope that these extensions will actually happen.
What do we think of it all? Well there does seem to be some evidence that the guided buses are seen as abstracting traffic from existing buses rather than getting people out of their cars -- see the changes to routes C2, C4 and C7 in particular, which will cause inconvenience to many who live in or travel to places on these routes which are not served by the guided busway. And there seems to be a distinct lack of compensating advantages.
There have been a few changes in Milton Keynes and Northants that are worthy of mention. We add changes in Warwickshire, some of which date back to June.
1A (Milton Keynes-Olney-Northampton): The section beyond Olney is now run by Stagecoach as route 36. Connections between the two parts are poor.
RL 1-4 (New rural routes covering the area between Banbury and Northampton): These routes improve significantly on existing provision in the area by routes 250/1/5, GA 05 and the Cheney Taxibus, and do provide some access for leisure users.
4S (Stamford area demand responsive route): At the other end of the county, Lincs CC's Interconnect network has extended to cover villages in Northants as well as Lincs (but not yet Peterborough, apart from Burghley House, nor Rutland). Ring 0845 2343344 or visit lincsinterconnect.com for details.
X9 (Milton Keynes-Olney-Lavendon): New 2 hourly service with extra peak journeys, running direct between MK and Olney. Does not connect at Lavendon with P1 -- nor at Olney with the 36.
X34 (Milton Keynes-Ampthill-Flitwick): New 1-2 hourly service providing a useful link. But we would have liked to see the route serve some intermediate villages, and in particular provide access to Woburn Abbey. Linkage with route 200 between Biggleswade and Ampthill/Flitwick, run by the same operator, would also be worthwhile.
50A (Stratford-Shipston-Banbury): Some journeys on route 50, between Stratford and Shipston, are extended to Banbury replacing route 480.
72 (Rugby-Daventry): Stagecoach now offers an hourly service to supplement Amos's Rugby-Banbury service, also hourly.
77/277 (Banbury-Fenny Compton-Leamington): A slight improvement on the 510 which used to link Banbury with Farnborough, but there is still a marked lack of services for purposes other than basic shopping trips, including visits to Farnborough Hall (National Trust).
88/X88 (Northampton-Oxford): This Stagecoach route is terminated at Silverstone, continuing to run hourly from Northampton (as 88). The X88 is a new route operated by Walters Coaches at a slightly lower frequency. Connections are advertised, but inevitably journey times are slightly increased (and considerably increased from when the service ran express all the way between Northampton and Oxford). One major boon is a new Sunday service.
499/508 (Banbury-Brackley via villages): These services are recast as circular routes, the 499 running anticlockwise via Kings Sutton and back via Sulgrave (where the ancestral home of George Washington can be visited), the 508 running clockwise, each 2 hourly.