Cambridge Liberal Democrats Oppose A14 Improvements

Monday, December 15th, 2008. 5:22am

Sign counting 281 casualties on the A14 in 2007
The current state of the A14 around Cambridge and towards Huntington is in my view one of the biggest problems affecting Cambridge and the surrounding region. The road is regularly crammed full of heavy goods vehicles using both lanes in each direction. Accidents, when they happen are worse than they might others wise have been due to the involvement of HGVs. Poorly designed junctions, two lanes where three are needed and short slip roads also contribute to the risks associated with using the road.  Accidents, closures and delays are an almost daily occurrence. Many people are injured and killed on the road, as the casualties tally sign near Huntingdon (pictured) indicates.

Consultation on plans to widen some of the existing road, and to build a new section, and improve junctions has been progressing slowly. Far too slowly in my view as it is desperately needed.

Now, in an astounding move, David Howarth our MP for Cambridge has come out in opposition to the proposed improvements. According to a press release on the Cambridge Liberal Democrats website and an article in the weekend edition of the Cambridge News he and Cambridge City Councillor Sian Reid are now opposing the plans which offer the prospect of improvements to the road. It has been reported that they are worried about the delays which will be caused by the work itself, and they want to focus spending on public transport in the city centre rather than on the trunk road.

This is clearly nonsense. We should not throw away the prospect of a permanent solution to Cambridge’s major traffic problem because a temporary period of disruption has to be endured. Though it makes sense to ensure the work is done in a manner which causes minimal disruption.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce who according to the Cambridge News said the Liberal Democrats’ opposition to the proposed improvements was: “the stupidest thing I’ve heard in years”. Andrew Lansley, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, said the Cambridge Liberal Democrats’ comments “made no sense”.

Cllr Reid has given climate change as a reason for not improving the road stating: “I am also worried that the impact of carbon emissions has not been properly calculated especially in the light of new hard evidence that new roads create more traffic.” She appears not to have considered how bad for the environment miles on end of static or slow moving traffic is. She is not going to save the planet by failing to improve a stretch of road in Cambridge, if anything she will deter those who might have come to the city to work in the universities and companies who are developing technologies to help us reduce our impact on our planet.

One of the underlying problems is the amount of freight which is transported by road. I support attempts to reduce this by more use of rail, and think we could also look ways of redistributing imports entering the country though more use of ports elsewhere such as Liverpool, Swansea and others.

I am strongly in favour of improving the A14, and opposed to the contemplated congestion charge in Cambridge. David Howarth appears to have lost touch with what the people in the city he represents want. The Cambridge Liberal Democrat position on both the A14 and the congestion charge can, and I know it is a cliché but its true, now only be described as sitting on the fence. An alternative interpretation would be they are simply inconsistent.

I took part in the consultations following the Northstowe outline planning application, requesting that building ought not be permitted to go-ahead until the A14 improvements were completed. This has now been taken on by South Cambs District Council who accept “The Northstowe application relies heavily on improvement to the A14 announced by the government”.

Map of planned A14 improvements

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