the A14 and traffic diversions

diversionsThey seem to go on forever and they get worse. Or so it seems and recently we haven’t just had night works to make life hell for people who live alongside the A14 we’ve had the road closed and diversions which seem to drive HCVs through villages so that everyone gets a share of the A14 experience.

It’s not just villages though there have also been reports of trucks thundering along Cambridge City streets including King’s Hedges Road. emails have been sent, there have been angry posts on Facebook and Twitter, and questions have been asked in parliament. Something must be done!

So what’s going on? Because of the need to close the between the Girton interchange and the Milton junction there’s a diversion route in place. Rules require that this is along roads of equivalent status, that means trunk roads, and has therefore resulted in a long diversion via the A505 and A11 south of Cambridge. Chances are this doubles the journey time between the Girton interchange and the point at which the diversion ends.

That would be fine. Some disturbance for the people living on the diversion route but what else is there to worry about? That’s when we meet ‘driver behaviour’.

Naturally the HCV drivers don’t want to double their journey times so they use their SatNav and that can take them though Histon, Impington and Milton or across Cambridge which is perfectly legitimate. And because they’ve done that during the recent heatwave with us all sleeping with our windows open we’re aware of it. However it  does seem to have reduced and that’s not because the heat wave is over but because drivers have realised that these alternatives aren’t so smart and have spread the word.

It’s also worth noting that some HCVs have a legitimate reason for apparently not following the signed diversion routes. These are the ones making the overnight deliveries on which many of us depend: stocking the shelves at Tesco etc and, inter alia, shipping Amazon Prime orders.

But shouldn’t we have realised that this should happen and been more prescriptive with what drivers can and cannot do? Yes of course but there is a limit. The A14 people put up all the yellow signs they need to and more and across the network there are multiple signs along the lines of ‘A14 closed J27-j28 follow signs not satnav’ and ‘turn off satnav follow diversion’. As the saying goes: you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

It’s also been suggested that temporary HCV exclusions be put in place and perhaps this could and should have been done but that would only work if there was good enforcement and given the stretch there already is on police resources it’s difficult to see that happening.

So: where do we stand? Road closures will come to an end, we will close our bedroom windows now that it’s not so hot, and HCV drivers will get smarter. Given that the A14 is a massive road building project and that such projects can necessitate road closures they’re maybe something we’re going to have to live through but we can be confident that they will come to an end.

But that doesn’t mean that we do nothing. The A14 people are excellent road builders with a focus on delivering the new A14 on time and on budget. We need to recognise this but at the same time to challenge them to do it in a way that recognises the impact which they have on local people. They will only retain their goodwill as long as they’re seen to do this. We do this though our regular A14 liaison meetings with the Integrated Delivery Team and South Cambs, with other less formal meetings such as the one I had to review the above and the visit that several of us made to the site yesterday, and by having the phone number David Bray (the man with the unenviable job of making all this happen) on speed dial (which I have).


One comment

  1. Dear David
    In your article you mention the importance of having the improvements done for the A14 in both directions and I totally agree with you on that point since it is a vital motorway in the East Anglia Area.
    On the Question to the Cambridgeshire County Council Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee from HRARA regarding if the County Council had given permission for the HGVs to divert into Histon Road, a B-road B1049, following reply was received within 3 days:
    “We have been working with Highways England to support them on the A14 major upgrade project. This has included assisting them with diversion routes on roads that we are responsible for and we have given permission for local and non-motorway traffic.”

    However, the planning for the diversion routes and the night traffic effects on the local residents have been a very slow awakening for the Highways team. I sent a Twitter report/complaint to East Highways Team and received a reply from David Bray 20 days later (quoting the same promises as the councillors in the area had received from Sonya Hansen) at which time I sent the whole complaint documentation to our MP Daniel Zeichner for his actions.
    After one month’s complaints the Team started to look at various improvements, and after a further couple of weeks there was some implementations of additional signage. I still have not been able to find the 13 signs for “A14 closed J27-J28 follow signs not satnav” and/or “turn off satnav follow diversions” even though I have been on coach trips along A14, M11, and A428 in the last couple of weeks. Only MVA sign showing the “Happy” or “Angry” face was on Huntingdon Road by Eddington.
    Report August 16th from resident living on Histon Road:
    “Hi HRARA – A14 report! Last night I saw (a very distinctive) container lorry travel up Histon Road towards the A14 (at around 21:15), only for it to travel back down again in to town about 5 minutes later, presumably because it got to the roundabout and found both slip roads closed! There were at least 10 container lorries travelling along Histon Road in the 10 minutes I was out there. So things don’t appear to have improved ;( “ ( see picture 4765 for confusing signs)
    Report from Huntingdon Road August 21st:
    “1. 2 weeks ago I did 1.45am – 2.45am and there were 22 HGVs all going through …there were 8 exceeding the speed limit (measured by Jon driving through at 32 MPH taking to the count of 8)
    4 took less than 7 and 4 took less than 6 ie first 4 going close to or about 35 MPH and the other 4 definitely going at closer to 40.

    2. Last week on Monday night I did the same and the number of vehicles was 17 of which 5 took less than 7 … 4 of which took less than 6.

    The noise was largely caused by the number of vehicles breaking the speed limit going out of town …ie leaving Cambridge. I wonder if this might also be true for the Histon Road. Most of those vehicles were going up to and around mid-night, many of them were taxis and at least half of them went at less than 7 and some even went at less than 5 ie travelling at nearly 50 MPH. “

    On 26th of August I took some photos (attached) around the Histon Road/A14 Junction area and found out that “from August 16th the slip road east will be closed for 21 nights between 9pm – 6am (4762 image). That is that the diversions will continue at least until September 5th. But ……

    Unfortunately, I happened to mention during the Highways Committee Questions that we had been fortunate some weeks not to have as many HGVs thundering down the road since Gas Works were digging up the road for maintenance of pipes. This was apparently not known to the Committee and thus resulted in following actions:
    HRARA has had following message from Carol (a Histon Road Resident) regarding the GAS Works. “Afternoon Carol,
    We are in the process of removing spoil and materials from the junction with Warwick Road, and this will be cleared over the course of next week. We wouldn’t be leaving spoil in situ until October!
    It has been mutually agreed with tRIIO and Cambridgeshire HA to cease work on Histon Road until October (actual start date to be confirmed), with the road closures in the Junction with Victoria Road commencing 20/10, planning to complete 28/10. This is due to the A14 overnight closures. Although Histon Road is not the official diversion route, I am led to believe it is for non-motorway traffic. I have someone visiting site in about an hour, with a view to having the temporary traffic lights removed from site. This is reliant on reinstatement being completed, allowing a safe, two way flow of traffic.
    I will keep you updated with start dates when they are confirmed. Hope this helps.”

    So, dear David regarding your hopeful estimation that the road works will soon come to an end is not shared by the residents on Histon Road.

    We now also have the answer from our MP Daniel Zeichner and it is quite a pessimistic reading:

    “Dear Lilian,

    I am writing to you to update you on the A14 Huntingdon-Cambridge upgrade, and the resulting diversions which have led to Heavy Goods Vehicles driving through the city overnight instead of following the official diversion.
    As you may know, I brought this matter to Parliament after receiving scores of emails from constituents about the disruption that the issue is causing to their sleep, their mental and physical health, and their lives – including damage to property from the heavy loads and asthma attacks from increased pollution.
    The Minister assured me that she would make sure that Highways England and the Department for Transport publish data about the number of lorries driving through the city at night. You can read through the debate here:

    Unfortunately, it took a while for this promised data, monitoring the scale of the problem, to come through, and it remains patchy and incomplete – we still only have two counters, when at least six roads are being affected in a major way. I am pushing both Highways England, and the County Council, to adequately address this issue, and to make the official diversion extremely clear.
    I am disappointed that both Highways England and Cambridgeshire County Council are not sufficiently well-resourced to manage this project in a way which minimises impact on residents. I am in continuing conversations with both organisations as to how to improve the situation and allow Cambridge residents respite from this disruption. Astonishingly, I am told that the police cannot afford to spare the policing staff needed to oversee the diversion due to cuts to the force, even though Highways England have budgeted to pay for the police time – there are simply not enough police available. This is another consequence of austerity, and shows the unintended consequences on public infrastructure projects of cutting public services.
    Highways England have informed me that the 5 night a week diversions will come to an end by the end of this month. After that they say that the closures around the city will be sporadic as they move onto the next stage of the infrastructure upgrade. I will continue to monitor the situation but please get back in touch should you feel the disruptions do not subside in the coming weeks.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Daniel Zeichner MP “

    The future planning for such an important infrastructure project as A14 surely must be known by the Highway Committee and when it starts locally again there must be ensured that all the signage and information is communicated well beforehand it starts. I would also like to know what “non motorway traffic” encompasses. Our local stores such as Aldi, Iceland, COOP, Murketts Car Sales etc all have night time restrictions between 10pm to 6am.

    What could have been done to improve the noise and air pollution situation which was not done by the County Council:

    Police enforcement
    Not one single hour was spent on e.g. Speed Watch during several months due to lack of funding;
    Nor could they utilize the present speed camera to give fines to the speeding vehicles (that is check registration numbers) – you don’t need to know the weight to do that.

    Highway Maintenance
    No priority was given to fix the pot holes on Histon Road although everyone knew that the HGVs hitting those pot holes caused the worst of the slammering/banging/crashing sounds.

    It is clear that when such technical engineering projects as A14 are planned there is very little included regarding environmental and health of the residents, damage to their houses etc actually funded. Reservations have to be made in any future budget for these issues as well as for policing and maintenance of diversion routes.

    Lilian Rundblad, Chair HRARA


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