A14 widening to go ahead despite legal challenge

WORK to widen the A14 and build a new southern bypass for Huntingdon remains on track to start in 2009, in spite of an unsuccessful legal challenge to the consultation, the chief executive of the Highways Agency promised last week. And even before that £4

WORK to widen the A14 and build a new southern bypass for Huntingdon remains on track to start in 2009, in spite of an unsuccessful legal challenge to the consultation, the chief executive of the Highways Agency promised last week.

And even before that £490million scheme begins, there will be other schemes to improve capacity on the existing road, Archie Robertson told The Hunts Post.

"But people should not expect that this is about predicting demand and providing capacity to meet it," he added. "We are in a new world."

Time is about to run out for applicants from the Offords for a judicial review of the consultation to ask the House of Lords for leave to appeal the ruling against them in the High Court.

They argued unsuccessfully late last year that the agency had erred by not including the indicative line of route in the Cambridge-Huntingdon Multi-Modal Study, published in mid-2001, as an option.

Instead, the only line in the consultation - for technical reasons, including the inability to build a six-lane highway across and unsettled landfill site - took the route about half a mile nearer the villages than they had been expecting.

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An engineering study of the future of the A14 viaducts through Huntingdon and Godmanchester is due to be published shortly. It will inform the agency's decision on whether to build the southern bypass with six lanes or save £20million by reducing the width to just four lanes and keeping the existing route as part of the strategic trunk network. The latter option would wreck Huntingdonshire District Council's plans to develop the area and improve traffic flows in the town.

Mr Robertson said the road would be built in stages. But until a contractor had been appointed to work up proposals, possibly later this year, he could not say what those stages would be.

Pressed by HDC chief executive, David Monks, to build the new bypass as a first stage, he would say only: "The phasing is up for consideration, not just in managing capacity but in getting the biggest bang for our buck".

But that may have been a coded "yes". It is easier and cheaper to build roads on greenfield sites - in this case from the existing A1 between Brampton and Buckden to the Cambridge Services junction at Swavesey - than to widen existing carriageways and provide parallel local roads.

"Not everybody is completely enthusiastic about the development of the A14. We need to recognise that and take account of it," he added, probably referring to residents of the Offords and Hilton, who fear increased noise, light and atmospheric pollution.

He told Cambridgeshire County Council's environment and transport chief, Brian Smith, that the Huntingdon-Cambridge guided bus, on which work is due to be completed early in 2008, would take some pressure off traffic management during widening work between Swavesey and Fen Ditton.

Mr Robertson said the scheme was crucial to plans to provide up to 421,000 new jobs and 478,000 new homes in the East of England by 2016.

Around 47,500 of those homes are planned for the Cambridge sub-region, which includes most of Huntingdonshire.

But he warned that some parts of the trunk road network would continue to suffer severe congestion at peak times, including the A428 and A1 near St Neots, which would have more traffic than they were designed for by 2016.

He promised that the Highways Agency would use smart technology to make better use of existing capacity - there is general agreement that £1million computer-controlled traffic lights at Huntingdon's A14/A141 Spittals interchange have been far more effective than was feared. A similar system is promised for the A1/A14 junction at Brampton Hut, and extra CCTV coverage is to be provided on the A14 at Godmanchester. In addition, a £300,000 package of safety signing is being installed on the road between Thrapston and Brampton.

But the longer term solution was for sustainable developments in which people both lived and worked in their communities, reducing the need to provide capacity for people to commute in or out to make a living, he insisted.

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