A14 pollution fears for Huntingdon and Brampton

HUNTINGDON would see a surge in air pollution and traffic congestion if plans to demolish the A14 viaduct are carried out, campaigners have warned. Traffic on Brampton Road, in Huntingdon, will double after the viaduct is demolished, with more than 4,000

HUNTINGDON would see a surge in air pollution and traffic congestion if plans to demolish the A14 viaduct are carried out, campaigners have warned.

Traffic on Brampton Road, in Huntingdon, will double after the viaduct is demolished, with more than 4,000 vehicles an hour using the route at peak times.

The figures have been compiled by consultants working for the contractors designing the £940million Ellington-Fen Ditton A14 improvement scheme to which the Government last week committed finance.

But campaigners believe the viaduct should be retained, giving Huntingdon an additional bypass and preventing thousands of extra cars blocking Brampton Road, the ring-road and other routes into the town.

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A Buckden Parish Council working group, which includes a former regional director for the Department of Transport, is pressing for the viaduct to be retained.

Predictions by transport consultants Atkins for the Highways Agency show that in the morning peak nearly 4,100 vehicles an hour will use Brampton Road, near the railway station, in 2015 after the viaduct has come down. If it were left in place, there would be fewer than 2,200.

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Between the peaks, an average of 3,400 vehicles an hour are predicted, compared with fewer than 1,550 if the viaduct remains intact.

But the worst problems are forecast for the evening peak when more than 4,400 vehicles an hour will be on the road, compared with just 1,745 if the viaduct remains in place.

Former district and parish councillor Terry Hayward, who chairs the working group, told The Hunts Post: "We think the existing road is a valuable asset, and we are not against the new bypass being built as a six-lane road. But we believe there will be terrible pollution from all the extra queuing traffic, as well as additional and unnecessary congestion."

The group points out that the journey between the A1(M) at Alconbury and the A1198 at Godmanchester will be three miles longer by the new A14, which will encourage drivers, including those of HGVs, to travel through Huntingdon.

In addition, traffic between the A141 at Spittals and the A1198 will add to the congestion.

Mr Hayward is strongly backed by his neighbour, civil engineer Ieuan Evans, who, as Eastern Region director for the Department of Transport, presided over the design and construction of the A14 between Brampton Hut and the M1 in the 1980s.

"There's no need to demolish the viaduct," he said. "Only one span needs repair and it would not cost nearly as much as originally predicted."

His main concern is the pollution from queuing vehicles. "What councillors forget is that this is highly detrimental to motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. When you're assessing pollution you need to take account of the distance from the source. If you're walking by the side of it, it's more dangerous."

The group is also urging the Highways Agency to reconsider the line of the new A14 at its extreme western end, between Brampton and Ellington. It argues that moving it further west - on the line of the Brown route consulted last year - would not only reduce the polluting effects for Brampton residents but would leave space for a future project to move the A1 further west, away from Brampton and Buckden.

But A14 campaigner John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce and chairman of British Hauliers, is adamant the viaduct should come down when the new bypass is complete.

"It's past its sell-by date, and we don't want the maintenance cost passed on to local councils," he told The Hunts Post. "It's not going to be fit for future use. I don't think there's any alternative to removing it. And you won't have people circling round the ring road all the time."

Nor would the Highways Agency be moved on the decision to remove the viaduct, but it promised to improve Brampton Road to compensate for the extra traffic.

A spokesman said: "Demolition of the viaduct will result in improved access to the railway station and to the town centre, as part of the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton improvement scheme. It has the support of both the county and district councils and was a key recommendation of CHUMMS (Cambridge to Huntingdon Multi Modal Study).

"The viaduct has a limited lifespan and would require major repair work if it were to be retained. The intention is to remove the viaduct and replace it with links to join the severed ends of the old A14 into Brampton Road. The short length of Brampton Road at the junction will be improved to accommodate the additional traffic it will carry.

"Our contractor is working on the detailed design of the scheme, and the plan is to publish draft Orders in the spring (2009).

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