I READ with interest recent reports about the high level of accidents on the A14, usually involving heavy goods vehicles, and the view of a Cambridge solicitor that Highways Agency bosses could risk legal action if they fail to protect the public. In this
I READ with interest recent reports about the high level of accidents on the A14, usually involving heavy goods vehicles, and the view of a Cambridge solicitor that Highways Agency bosses could risk legal action if they fail to protect the public. In this case the problem was road safety.
While recognising the need for reducing traffic congestion on the A14, I consider the Government could best do this by proper investment in the country's rail infrastructure. Putting freight from east and south coast ports back on to the railways has the potential to reduce significantly the high levels of freight traffic in our area (twice the national average) and on roads serving production and distribution centres throughout the UK.
Here in the rural village of Brampton, we await with trepidation the ministerial announcement on the preferred route of the proposed new A14. If given the go-ahead, the result would be devastating for our village. Whichever route is selected, the result would be 10-12 lanes of traffic - in excess of 144,000 vehicles daily - within 300 metres of housing, bringing with it air, noise and light pollution and associated health risks.
Currently, the most serious threat is from air pollution. Part of Brampton has already been declared an Air Quality Management Area by Huntingdonshire District Council due to excessive nitrogen dioxide emissions from traffic on the existing A14 (four lanes). Professor James Gauderman of UCLA, lead author of a report showing that lung development in children living 500 metres from a motorway was significantly impaired by nitrogen dioxide emissions, assures me that Brampton falls well within the criteria for this study under the new A14 proposals.
What hope is there for safeguarding our children's health if current proposals for a new A14, together with demolition of the existing A14 viaduct and widening of the A1, are given the go-ahead? Brampton's wildlife and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (Brampton Wood and Portholme Meadow) were taken into account in the Highways Agency consultation document on these proposals but no mention was made of the adverse environmental impact on the health of Brampton's children - or that of the whole community.
The 1996 International Covenant on Cultural, Economic and Social Rights is legally binding on ratifying states and "recognises the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health". Could the Highways Agency or the Secretary of State for Transport be prosecuted for failing in their duty of care under this covenant? Perhaps the only recourse would be the European Court of Human Rights. Or perhaps Brampton residents could be added to the Environment Agency's list of endangered species.