Thursday, 20 February 2014

A14 Update

The following notes were circulated by a Longstanton Councillor following a meeting with the Highways Agency and South Cambs District Councillors.

A briefing from the Highways Agency (HA) to update councillors on how the A14 upgrade is progressing. I thought it was splendid that they should come to Cambourne on a Friday afternoon, since this gave the presenters a real live opportunity of experiencing the A14 as it really is.

I sent out an earlier note on this subject on 26 September 2013. Pretty well everything in that email still applies, except that the government has completely dropped the idea of imposing any toll charges. I am not going to duplicate what has not changed since that note.

As before, the major presenter was Mike Evans of the HA.

A14 traffic is forecast to grow by 25% in the next 20 years. (I just hope they are already planning the next upgrade!)

The A14’s safety record is considered to be quite good, but the HA accepts that its resilience (i.e. ability to cope with problems) is a big issue.

One of the HA’s key objectives is to leave a positive legacy (rather like the Olympics).

We were given a brief summary of the outcomes of the consultation process and we were heartened to see how seriously the representations have been taken.

Here are some of the changes that have resulted from the consultations received:
  • Tolling dropped.
  • Better connections across the A14 for pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders (this, in fairness, was what they had in mind when they talked about “legacy”.
  • This has resulted in significant changes to the proposed junctions at Swavesey and Bar Hill, as well as a proposed flyover at Lolworth.
  • Changes to the stretch where the A14 runs alongside the A1 - mainly to streamline the operation of the A1. This is because by 2031 he A1 is predicted to carry 110,000 vehicles per day (vpd) compared to 37,000 vpd for the A14.
We were given an overview of “Development Consent Orders” or DCOs, the new planning application system for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. These are determined by the Secretary of State, not by the Planning Inspectorate. (I think that means we can expect them to succeed.) The timetable is currently looking like:
  • Publish “Statement of Community Consultation” in March.
  • The HA will formally publish their Stage 1 report at Easter 2014.
  • This leads to a 10-week formal DCO consultation between April and May.
  • The DCO will be formally submitted in October 2014.
  • The HA’s Stage 2 report, which identifies their adopted solutions, will be available by March 2015
  • Construction is due to start by the end of 2016.
  • Upgraded road due to open to traffic in December 2019.
That was more or less the end of the actual presentation. As with all these things the main information we learnt was from asking questions.

Q: When will the proposed new junction layouts be available on the HA website for us to see and comment on?
A: They won’t be. What you have seen today is very much “work in progress” and nothing is yet set in stone.

Q: We have recently learnt that the Environment Agency is only allowed to spend money if they can show an 8-fold return on capital. Do the same rules apply to the HA?
A: Similar rules. Different figure.

Q: The previous consultation made no reference to Northstowe at all (it didn’t figure in any maps), other than to describe it at one point as a “village”. Will the third-largest town in Cambridgeshire be taken more seriously this time?
A: We have been in extensive discussions with the Homes And Communities Agency to ensure that this happens.

Q: There was widespread astonishment when the HA managed to find “adequate capacity” on the A14 for the 1500 homes of Northstowe Phase 1. At the time I believe that the HA said that no further Northstowe homes could be accommodated until the A14 upgrade was complete. Does this statement still apply?
A: Yes.

Q: Please can you make sure you include the Northstowe Joint Development Committee in your list of consultees?
A: We will.

Q: Will your traffic modelling fully allow for Northstowe? What happens if you find that the single carriageway Local Access Road (primarily the one between Dry Drayton and Bar Hill) is inadequate?
A: “Modelling will reflect Northstowe and the figures will influence the standard of the design.”

Q: At an earlier briefing in this chamber you were asked about whether the proposed A14 upgrade would be able to handle a new town at Waterbeach. The answer was “probably not”. Yet that development is in South Cambs’ draft Local Plan. What is to happen about this?
A: It is not possible for us to plan infrastructure based on what might happen in future. We can only base it on developments which already have approval. We are looking at how the A14 is designed in order to handle current plans.

Q: Are any changes over the previous proposals in the pipeline for the A428 with regard to the A14, M11 and Northern Bypass?
A: Here is a map of what would be required to do this properly. (Map is displayed.) Unfortunately it is likely to be considered far too expensive to be implemented.

Q: Will you still be looking at ways of implementing connections (thinking particularly of the A428) which you are currently rejecting?
A: Maybe this needs to be covered by the planned A428 study.

Q: You have spent a huge amount of money bypassing the small town of Huntingdon, Yet Cambridge, which is getting 30,000 houses, is getting relatively little spent on it.
A: Our remit is to improve existing roads, not to create new ones. If you want new roads you will have to lobby for them.

Q: The previous consultation suffered from very little relevant information being available on the HA website, and from unmanned exhibitions which contained no useful information.
A: The level of information available on the website and at exhibitions will be far more than was available last time.

Postscript I thought this was a constructive briefing and I am impressed with the commitment shown by the HA to provide the best A14 upgrade possible, though within the fiscal constraints imposed by the Government. I had a sneak look at the list of manned exhibitions proposed in the area around Longstanton, and they include:
  • Bar Hill Tesco
  • Bar Hill Church Centre
  • Longstanton Village Institute