Devolution success with opening of £32m Kings Dyke crossing
- Credit: Mayor Johnson
Ralph Butcher began the campaign in the 1960s, former county council leader Nick Clarke re-ignited the vision nine years ago, and today devolution produced the completed project.
The long awaited King’s Dyke bridge and crossing that Clarke thought a budget of £15m would cover, eventually came in at £32m.
But it is thanks to devolution that the bridge became a reality.
Former Mayor James Palmer and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority pushed for it, challenged county council estimates, before finally contributing 80 per cent of the cost.
Former council leader Clarke had pushed it back to the top of the political agenda with these simple words:
“How on earth can we not get on and deal with something that after all is just plain common sense?”
There was no dissent over need but it took devolution, and a major responsibility for transport infrastructure being given to CAPCA that unlocked the funding needed.
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Even then Mayor Palmer challenged county council estimates, at one stage warning that the latest price increases for the project "leaves me with no confidence in the management of the project as it stands.
"It is a preposterous cost escalation that no responsible mayor could agree to meet,” he said
Mayor Dr Nik Johnson reminded guests at the opening of the important role played by CAPCA.
"This is a triumph for everyone who has worked to make it happen,” he said.
“Helping get landmark projects like this off the ground is exactly what the Combined Authority was created for.
“We’re here to support ambitious schemes that will benefit all the community and turn sustainable growth into reality for all.
“With Combined Authority backing, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can think big and deliver real change for the wider public good.”
CAPCA chipped in £24.4m towards the bridge and crossing.
Although the bridge is open – six months ahead of schedule – there will still be delays on the A605 for a while.
Main contractor Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK says it will now focus its attention on the existing A605 as work enters the final stretch of the £32 million scheme.
This includes completing the eastern roundabout tie-in, which Jones Bros can only action when traffic is using the new road.
“There will be approximately three weeks of two-way traffic lights, operating 24 hours a day while this work is completed,” said a county council spokesperson.
Further works include the construction of an embankment near Forterra, works at Funtham’s Lane, landscaping, and the closure and removal of the level crossing.
Jones Bros began on site in July 2020 with works expected to continue until the end of this year.
“However, commuters will notice significantly reduced travel times and disruption after the eastern tie-in works are completed, with no further traffic management planned on the new road as part of the scheme,” said the spokesperson.
Cllr Alex Beckett, chair of the council highways and transport committee, said: “Please bear with us for a little longer while the final pieces of work are finished.
“I’d also like to thank the teams at Jones Bros and the county council for all their hard work and keeping residents informed with fortnightly updates which I know have been well received.”
And while there will be huge relief that the new bridge has been delivered sooner than expected and on budget, there will be a timely reminder of the delays which used to be such a cause of frustration thanks to a time capsule burial which took place last November.
This saw memories including postcards, letters, photos and newspaper cuttings stored in one place by former pupils of New Road and Park Lane primary schools in Whittlesey about what life used to be like for people travelling across the level crossing and when it was built during Covid-19.
Fenland District Council put forward the suggested name of the Ralph Butcher Causeway.
The council said that streets named after prominent persons are not normally considered to be suitable in Fenland.
However, the council felt “a departure from that guiding principle would be reasonable and appropriate having regard to the significant and instrumental role that former Councillor Butcher played in securing the delivery of the scheme”.