In December the final details of the A14 improvements will be publicised at exhibitions. (For dates, please see our Diary.) These will not only show the final line, but changes to side roads and rights of way.
Several meetings have been held with stakeholders, and the non-motorised users combined to meet the Highways Agency, Atkins (as designers) and representatives of the County Council in early November. Of course I wouldn’t start from here, but the final line of the new wider A14 is decided, and the existing road provides an almost impenetrable barrier for walkers, riders and cyclists, so we were out to see what we had and could gain.
Really out in the sticks for us, Brampton is separated from Brampton Woods by the existing A1. A parallel bit of the new A14 seems to make a restored right of way extremely unlikely in the present scenario, given other needs. But if it is not included it will almost certainly be brought to a public inquiry.
Nearer to Cambridge some new rights of way would be created along tracks parallel to the A14 to allow access to farms and ‘balancing ponds’ (to catch storm waters and release the flow more gradually to surrounding ditches and streams). Horse riders were concerned at the narrow width of some overbridges that they might share with motor traffic. Paths may be created on wider verges to link ‘offset’ rights of way on existing roads that will need alterations.
At Swavesey a major junction over the new A14 looked as if it would create problems, as cyclists, walkers and horse riders would be expected to cross the fast slip roads. ‘Cages’ were suggested to control horses (and cyclists?) and the Highways Agency realised that if flows increased, traffic lights might be required. We suggested that an alternative would be a ‘box’ tunnel under the slip road with a zig zag path up to overbridge level to avoid an ‘at grade’ crossing of slips. Riders felt even if only a 2.4m clearance could be obtained, most would prefer to dismount rather than cross fast traffic. Between Bar Hill and Cambridge cycle routes may be provided on both sides of the 12-lane road (outside dual lanes for all purpose local traffic with dual 3-lane A14 in the middle). At least one right of way for non-motorised users should be tarmac, but I fear the proximity of an extremely busy A14 will not lead to a quality route.
At the spaghetti junction with the M11 and A428 a bridleway will be closed. The Highways Agency have powers to purchase land compulsorily for an alternative route, but only adjacent to land for the road. Some negotiations are ongoing to see if a new route, away from traffic and more direct than the one Highways Agency could provide, can be agreed.
I was concerned that a meeting with the Highways Agency could be confrontational, but there seemed a sense on both sides that with agreement we might both win, with the riders, walkers and cyclists getting back routes that have been effectively closed, and the Highways Agency getting a bit of positive PR rather than flak.