Cambridge roads are gridlocked at rush hour, especially in the afternoon.
The above statement is not a new one. However, we are in lockdown (of sorts) and most people who can are working from home. So why is it so bad?
This situation hasn’t arisen because of more people in their cars. No, it’s because of road closures.
Having a driving job that involves moving around Cambridge and surrounds during the day and then trying to get home in the late afternoon, I’ve had first hand experience of this total failure by those to manage our roads in the city.
The road closures are of two types – scheduled and unscheduled. Two big scheduled closures have impacted the city. In January, works began on Robin Hood junction
to the south – the big crossroads of Cherry Hinton Road / Cherry Hinton High Street / Queen Edith Way / Fulbourn Road. So-called ‘improvements’ commenced in mid-January on this important confluence of roads and are scheduled to last 18 weeks i.e. up to the end of May.
‘Temporary’ traffic controls mean that there is only a single carriageway on each of the above roads so drivers have to wait four times as long as usual for their turn to cross the junction. You can wait 5 mins if you’re in the front of the queue but at rush hour it’s 15-20mins if you’re at the back. During the day I pass through the junction often and very little work seems to be being done. Given the impact why are the workmen not working 24/7 to get it finished?
The second big scheduled closure happened for a week from 26th March when the Newmarket Road was closed
near B&Q to all motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to enable work on a new underpass that will form part of the Chisholm Trail. Luckily the diversion via the A1134 from the McDonalds roundabout and Coldhams Lane meant the closure was just about bearable, although queues and delays were inevitable.
Then on 6th April a huge sewer under East Road collapsed and the road was closed
and is scheduled to remain so until at least 20th April. This unscheduled closure, coupled with the existing Robin Hood junction restrictions has been the coup de grace
to Cambridge’s traffic. As a result of the East Road debacle, traffic is having to go south and round via Robin Hood junction (since Mill Road bridge is closed to all but buses and bicycles), or north via the Backs and the Fen Causeway. Both routes are clogged at rush hour and this has had a knock-on effect all along Hills Road too.
So my question to those who decide on road matters in Cambridge is, why have you not done something about it? Or does this fit well with the woke war on the motorist that everyone in power in the land seems to have joined?
In June 2020, Cambridgeshire County Council (which controls the roads) decided to close Mill Road bridge
to all but buses, cyclists and pedestrians and implement an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) which enables it to ‘make changes to road layouts quickly and amend as needed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic’. According to the council’s website, it was intended to ‘help people social distance and encourage locals to travel actively by bike or on foot.’
Following a failed consultation of residents and public last year, the Highways and Transport Committee has not been able to evaluate the impact of the closure and so the Mill Road Bridge project will now be reviewed by the committee in June 2021, following the May local government elections.
Meanwhile Cambridge is at a standstill at peak times. Doubtless huge additional amounts of glacier-melting CO2 and dangerous nitrous oxides and other gases have been put into the air as the traffic just sits in queues. So this war on the motorist is having the opposite effect. We’re not leaving our vehicles – we need them to travel in.
The solution is simple. Re-open Mill Road bridge at least until the East Road and Robin Hood junction works are completed. This can be done under the same draconian emergency powers as were used to close it. The effect would be instantly noticeable. Traffic jams would lessen, and less pollution would occur.
Come on Cambridge. You aspire to be a ‘smart city’ and you lead the world in technology and science because you’re full of clever people. Use your intelligence and open the bridge!Written by our member, Jon Sawbridge