Hart of the Matter
It looks as
if there may be some improvements to the infrastructure in the East of England
on the way, if we are to believe the manifesto and the subsequent rhetoric of
the new Government.
It will be
interesting to see whether any of this filters down to the Haverhill area, so
often left out of any transportation plans, whether local or national, Tory or
If you map
out East Anglia in terms of railways, motorways, trunk roads and significant
stretches of dual carriageway, there is a great big hole right in the middle,
surrounding Haverhill and north Essex.
Yet we are
always being told that Haverhill is such an attractive place for businesses to
relocate to, and is ideally placed to leap forward in economic terms. The
reality is rather different from the rhetoric, a not unfamiliar situation.
growth has been sluggish here, despite the best efforts of committed investors
like Carisbrooke. Land is cheap, but transport links are just not good enough –
which, of course, is one of the main reasons why land is cheap.
argue that this can be resolved by the complete dualling of the A1307 from
Haverhill to, at least, Four Went Ways, and preferably on to Cambridge. Our MP
has espoused this, and it is seen as an ‘achievable’ aim, whereas the renewal
of the railway is still seen by many as pie in the sky.
County Council seem now to favour the idea, although they still don’t completely
exclude the railway from their long-term aspirations.
There is an
argument from the business side that the road is far more important than the
railway. Businesses need a speedier system for delivery and export by lorry.
The railway is seen as more of a commuter service.
railway aside altogether, because it is a different argument, it is still
arguable how far the dualling of the road will actually achieve what it is
being set out to achieve.
in other parts of the country might lead one to be cautious in the hopes pinned
onto the road scheme. Even if it were completed by 2020, which would seem a
very ambitious timetable and highly unlikely, the rate at which traffic is
increasing on the A1307 and the proposed growth of Haverhill in that time and
for the decade beyond it must give pause for thought.
Take a look
at the news headlines for nearly 25 years ago. A whole lot of scruffy
individuals were engaged in a desperate battle to stop the creation of a new
stretch of the M3 at Twyford Down, now known as the Winchester bypass. They
became famous for five minutes due to their scuffles with Group 4 security
into the 1970s, one can look at the protests at Fairmile in Devon, where the
A30 was being dualled, and campaigners dug tunnels to make it more difficult to
evict them, the most well-known of them, and the last to be extracted, being
known as Swampy.
which many of these early eco-warriors made, was that there were better
solutions - better routes, tunnels, better forms of transport altogether.
were ignored, and both projects went ahead. If you have ever travelled down the
A30 between Honiton and Exeter, or the M3 around Winchester, you will be aware
that both stretches of road create severe bottlenecks nowadays.
concluded shortly after Twyford Down was destroyed, bigger roads just engender
more traffic. Many road schemes were scrapped as a result of this change of
heart by Governments.
now, as with the renewed pressure to build on green belt land in order to
provide the number of houses which are now required, there is renewed pressure
for big roads.
of the A1307 would be a vast project, cutting a massive swathe through the
countryside. It wouldn’t be able to follow the course of the present road
because of the section which goes through the top end of Linton, so it would
presumably take a wide arc around the north of Linton towards Balsham.
would also have to pass north of Hildersham, rather as the Back Road does at
present. At some point it would need an interchange with the A11, which would presumably
need to be fully grade-separated with flyovers and slip roads.
But it would
also have to avoid the most direct and obvious route which lies away from
villages, because that is nearly 2,000 years old and a scheduled monument – the
damage to the countryside is inescapable. But we can leave that aside as well,
because that is yet another argument.
question is whether it would be effective. Looking at the A30 and the M3
nowadays you would have to wonder whether, within ten years, businesses would
be calling for further widening as their lorries were all jammed up in the
continuous traffic jam from Haverhill to Cambridge, this time two lanes wide
instead of one.
I’m not arguing
against the road being improved – maybe even fully dualled – but I think it
would be very naïve to think that this will solve the situation.
business people, I am sure, think it is naïve to imagine that the railway can
ever be brought back. I would argue it is naïve to imagine the problem can ever
be properly solved without the railway being brought back.
the question arises – do we really want two huge swathes of countryside torn
up, maybe even side by side? Cambridgeshire isn’t the most beautiful county in
the UK, but this little south-east corner is one of its best bits.