Superficial roadworks

This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 113.

On 3 February local councillors in Newnham were told that starting the next Monday, 10 February, the county council would be resurfacing Newnham Road and Barton Road from the Fen Causeway roundabout all the way to the city limit, with one-way traffic permitted in to the city centre, and outbound traffic diverted via Trumpington, between 9.30am and 3.30pm daily. This was clearly a pretty major, and totally unnecessary, project – while many roads in Cambridge which carry heavy bus traffic are falling apart, this route sees one bus an hour each way if we’re lucky and was in perfectly good condition.

City councillor Rod Cantrill agreed with me that it was unnecessary, and said the very short notice was annoying – and it turned out that since the start of January he and I had both been reporting what I thought was the most scandalously unrepaired of the city’s potholes, the one outside John Lewis at the St Andrew’s Street traffic lights, in which the sensor wires for the lights were being torn up by every passing bus.

Left: ( On 26 January I saw that a derisory spadeful of tarmac had been thrown into this pothole. Right: ( Not surprisingly, this is already being torn up by the buses.
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Left: Since 12 December I’ve also been trying to get the trench fixed which confronts cyclists turning left onto Station Road. Right: ( and since 15 January the three potholes in a row on West Road.
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( – again, with no result.
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There are plenty of other potholes around Cambridge, none of which is being repaired at the moment, and yet it seems that the Highways Department has the money to resurface main roads at will. I can’t help feeling that the county council wants to be seen to be spending money by people from surrounding villages driving in to park at the Grand Arcade, but has no interest in fixing roads for people who actually live here. Or alternatively, that the Highways Department is running a make-work scheme for itself and its contractors, with no effective political oversight.

Meanwhile the roadworks on Newnham and Barton Roads have caused long tailbacks from Trumpington Road across Fen Causeway – especially when they were still in place at 4.45pm, instead of ending at 3.30pm as promised. Signage has been totally car-oriented, with nothing to tell cyclists coming out of Newnham Croft that they could still use the cycleway on the north side of Barton Road to head west, even though drivers could only go straight ahead on to Newnham Road.

(,( And did anyone know or care that the Sheep’s Green pedestrian/cycle bridge was closed for rebuilding at the same time, adding to problems for cyclists?
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Mac McGuire, Deputy Leader of the county council (with responsibility for Highways and Community Infrastructure), has not responded to my emails. As I said to him, if you want to apply a little strategic thought to the resurfacing programme, just look at the roads which have heavy bus traffic, especially approaching stops and junctions, and fix the obvious damage there.

Tim Burford