Home Page Would damaging dual carriageway be a long-term solution to the A1307? 16/05/15

Haverhill Poll
Haverhill Poll


Mailing List

Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

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 Labour.

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.

Economic 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.

Some will 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.

Cambridgeshire 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.

Leaving the 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.

Experience 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 staff.

Going back 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.

The argument which many of these early eco-warriors made, was that there were better solutions - better routes, tunnels, better forms of transport altogether.

But they 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.

As was 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.

However, 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.

A dualling 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.

Maybe it 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 Roman Road.

So the damage to the countryside is inescapable. But we can leave that aside as well, because that is yet another argument.

The biggest 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.

Some 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.

And then, 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.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
© Haverhill-UK | Accessibility | Disclaimer