Hart of the Matter
After a month away in NeverNeverland, followed by the best
part of a week walking around like one of Captain Hook’s pirates due to an eye
infection, and so unable to use a computer, I finally return to the land of the
living to find the biggest talking points seem to be the town centre and the
A1307. Plus ca change….
Never mind. Both debates seem to be moving on a bit.
Cambridgeshire embracing the A1307 seriously as part of its transport
responsibilities was in the wind, but not confirmed, so it is good to see some
What we would now like to see is genuine cross-border dialogue
about how this will affect or benefit Haverhill. Of course Cambridgeshire’s
prime concern is to reduce the traffic pressure on the routes into and out of
the city at peak times, but Haverhill has a part to play and a voice to be
Whether or not Haverhill representatives will be able to do
that remains to be seen. After all, who should Cambridgeshire be talking to? St
Edmundsbury? I think we all know that is unlikely to achieve the best results. Suffolk
County Council? Even less so. They have hardly even allowed the issue onto
their radar at all.
The current default mode for St Edmundsbury, when faced with
an irritating Haverhill issue which they wish would go away, is to pass it over
to ONE Haverhill to deal with. Is that a potential solution? If so, what vested
interests will surface there?
ONE Haverhill is not purely a representative democratic
body, although it has several elected members. There is strong representation
on there from the private sector, agencies, utilities and local businesses.
There have been strong pressures from some areas of local
business for the road to be dualled throughout its entire length from Haverhill
to Cambridge. MP Matthew Hancock has favoured this solution, and it would
probably be popular with many who sit in traffic queues from 7.30am onwards one
way, or 4pm onwards the other.
The problem is that no one quite knows whether we should be
trying to make it easier to use the road, thus encouraging more and more
traffic, or trying to persuade people not to use it by making the buses more
regular and able to complete the journey quicker.
Cambridgeshire, assuming they have any sense, would
certainly favour the latter. The last thing they want is to spend umpteen
millions of their City Deal money from the Government on a road scheme which
actually makes the traffic congestion on the edge of the city worse – and a
complete dualling could well do just that.
It would need to be combined with an absolutely crucial
outer ring road for the city, allowing motorists to pick their own entrance and
exit access roads within it. This is where that monumental idea for tunnelling through
the Gog Magog Hills came from.
But that in turn has huge implication for the city’s green
belt. How can you try to preserve a green belt which has a whacking great
six-lane motorway running through the middle of it (and it would need to be six-lane,
like the corresponding northern ring road known as the A14)?
Developers would instantly be interested in the land between
the city and the ring road and with the pressure for housing in Cambridge
impossible to resist even now, the countryside would almost inevitably be the
loser. You can already see what has happened north of Cambridge, and that is
just the beginning of what is planned.
Nevertheless, from the Haverhill business point of view, we
are told, the dualling is vital. I suspect this actually means the dualling
from Haverhill to Four Went Ways is vital, because that is where all the
lorries delivering to, and transporting from, Haverhill will be joining or
leaving the A1307.
One can see the argument. But the counter-argument is that
if you make the buses more efficient, more regular and a lot quicker by
creating an express busway, that will take a lot of the current traffic off the
road and make it quicker and easier in turn for the big lorries to thunder
along to and from Culina or wherever else they are heading.
The busway could either be beside the current road, part of
the current road, or on a completely new alignment across country. There might
be a park and ride interchange created along it. It would be good to think this
would be close to Haverhill, but one fears Linton would be the more likely
If the busway went across country, perhaps somewhere on the
Linton-Balsham road would be a convenient linking point. After all, the Romans
went that way and they knew a thing or two about route-making.
How the bus would be powered is another area of debate. Would
it be just the current buses on a new, or newly-prioritised, bit of road? Or would
it be that curious hybrid creature, the guided bus?
Cambridgeshire has been bitten on the bus already by the
cost of its first guided one, but maybe it will be felt that the teething
problems have now all been smoothed out. After all, with Paris trying to ban
diesels from the city, ecological Cambridge might want to follow suit in the
not unforeseeable future.
It’s all such a massive problem, a minefield of challenges
and difficulties which could in turn create others, and so on into the ensuing
decades. If only there were some simpler solution! If only someone could invent
a quick, easy and sustainable way of getting large numbers of people from A to
B! Where is a chap like Isenbard Kingdom Brunel when you need him?