A14 - revive the ‘northern route’

SO the A14 is to receive a �20million investment. “Something will be done at Spittals”. Perhaps heavy artics will stop charging the lights – cue for general rejoicing.

But stop a minute. You do not spend a seven-figure sum if the route is to be abandoned within a reasonable time. That is confirmed by the recent statements that “the complete replacement of the Huntingdon viaduct is not necessary and in-situ repair is possible”.

I do hope that whichever bright spark, who almost certainly doesn’t live round here, is thinking of “in-situ repairs” will have an alternative route in place well before the “Lane Closed” signs go up. Otherwise we will become permanent gridlock corner.

The implications of keeping the viaduct route open indefinitely are seriously bad news for Stukeley Meadows residents who already suffer from poor air quality. They are even worse for residents of Godmanchester who, in addition to poor air quality and serious noise pollution, have the twice daily misery of the Post Street traffic snarl-up to live with.

The only small tinge of a silver lining is that this news should make the ridiculous claim that Bearscroft Farm can ever be “nil detriment for the A14” much harder to say or implement without provoking widespread derision. Hopefully this ludicrous scheme will now be consigned to the waste paper basket where it rightly belongs.

Various pessimists have stated that more capacity is needed. The viaduct cannot be expanded. The only way to get this part of the country moving again is another route. The problem with this view is that a new crossing of the East Coast Main Line and the River Great Ouse is precisely the scheme that was deemed too expensive. There is no cheap way of doing it.

Various optimists have floated various “solutions”. Rail – commendable idea but does not make sufficient difference to the traffic load; duelling the A428, another good idea that ought to be done anyway, but is some years off; ban lorries from overtaking on our two –lane stretch, might help, but not a lot.

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Road traffic is diminishing as remote working and ever-higher fuel prices bite, so wait and see if the problem melts away. Too risky. More message gantries at the eastern end of our stretch could alert drivers to traffic jams ahead and give them time to divert to other routes, thereby reducing the time taken to clear the jam.

Variable compulsory speed limits such as they “enjoy” around Heathrow is worth further consideration. A steady 50 mph is preferable to a heart stopping acceleration, slam-on-the-brakes ride that we so often see now. It certainly improves traffic flow, is relatively quick and cheap to install and could well buy us some time for the expanded rail option to take effect so that we can see if it will remove “only” one per cent of HGV traffic on the A14.

While we are thinking about options, consideration should be re-opened on the northern by-pass route. This was proposed by Lib Dems at the time when they were being ridiculed for suggesting that RAF Alconbury should become a mixed-use development.

Urban and Civic are now implementing just such a mixed –use scheme. Unless U&C can prevent many of the new workers living to the east of the site, unless few of the new residents want to work or shop in St Ives or Cambridge, and unless the 5,000 new jobs generate no significant number of HGV movements, then the expansion will generate extra load on the viaduct.

The northern route could make sense. It should be included in the mix of options to be considered.


Huntingdon Liberal Democrats