A1 through Huntingdonshire – the forgotten route of the county

buckden_roundabout07:19 Friday 27th February 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: The A1 through Huntingdonshire has been described as a major constraint to growth and in urgent need of an upgrade. In a report to Huntingdonshire District Council, councillor Terry Hayward calls it the ‘forgotten route’ of the county. The Buckden roundabout is a particular source of anguish to people living nearby. Our reporter Tom Horn is at the roundabout now. How’s it looking this morning Tom?
TOM HORN: Yes, morning Dotty. Well we’re right in the middle of the morning rush-hour here at the Buckden roundabout. I’m told this roundabout here at Buckden is actually the last one on the A1 before you get all the way up to Newcastle. Just to give you an idea of where we are, Buckden the village is one side, there’s a Shell garage just behind me. You head North to the likes of Peterborough and South to London. Obviously it’s a very busy morning already, cars struggling to get out of the village. Dotty, with me this morning is the aforementioned Terry Hayward , councillor Terry Hayward. Morning to you.
TERRY HAYWARD: Good morning to you.
TOM HORN: So first of all, what kind of problems do you experience here?
TERRY HAYWARD: Well as you’ve already mentioned, this is one of the main roads in Cambridgeshire. It’s one of the triangular roads, the A14, the 428 and the A1. And we’re the forgotten road quite honestly. As you can see we’ve got trouble getting out of the village onto the A1 here. You’ve got more or less perpetual traffic all day. There was a plan to have a new road way back in 1994, which was put to one side because of lack of money by a new Government. Basically what we need is a new motorway standard A1, stretching all the way from Sandy right the way up to the proposed new A1/A14 junction.
TOM HORN: OK. So of course there’s a constant stream of heavy traffic, cars, goods, freight vehicles, just passing the roundabout here. How difficult is it to get out of the village and onto the A1?
TERRY HAYWARD: Well virtually it’s almost impossible. You and I have been watching it this morning. Give you some example. I live about 100 yards up, away from the A1. On one occasion my wife and I were going into the village. She was driving. I was walking. I got to where we were going quicker than she could get driving, because of the holdup of trying to get onto the A1 and round the roundabout.
TOM HORN: So what’s the solution then Terry? What do you want to see change?
TERRY HAYWARD: Very simple solution. As I say we need a by-pass here. But longer than that we need a whole new motorway standard road, stretching as I say from the A14, the new A14, all the way down past Sandy. I know this is a project in the future, but it needs to be brought forward. It’s been forgotten for far far too long.
TOM HORN: Of course one measure that you have helped to introduce here already is the speed cameras, the 50mph average speed cameras, just a short distance from where we are. Have they made much difference?
TERRY HAYWARD: They’ve made a big difference. I’m Chairman of the A1 Safety Group, which is a group which combines the people from Southoe and Buckden. And we got these cameras put in about a year ago now. It took a long while, four or five years. And it is making a difference. It slows the traffic down. But one of the other problems that we have here is the A14, a notorious road blackspot. If there’s any holdup on there at all, then this becomes a short cut, either through the village or down Perry Road, which we’re atanding opposite. And this then becomes a total snarl-up.
TOM HORN: Terry, thank you very much for your time this morning. Dotty, I’m going to head into the village now. It might take me a while to get out onto the roundabout, as you’ve been hearing.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes. Good luck Tom. Thank you very much for that. Well we can now speak to Jonathan Djanogly, who is the MP for the area of course. The forgotten route of Cambridgeshire Jonathan. Is that a fair description do you think?
JONATHAN DJANOGLY: Good morning. I would say it’s not, not least because councillor Terry Hayward is such a formidable campaigner that the A1 is never forgotten, if only because of his efforts. And of course he did mention that we have been working on 50mph safety cameras. That did take quite a long time to put in place, but the campaign was successful. They are put in place. What I think we’re talking about here is a much more strategic long term issue, bound up in strategic issues like expansion of local housing, more businesses moving into the areas, an improved economy where road use is going to increase in any event. And I think also a more strategic vision being needed for the area, which involves using the Peterborough-Huntingdon-Cambridge triangle to best purpose for regional growth.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We did have of course in Cambridgeshire last week David Cameron, your party leader, talking about the importance of infrastructure.
DOTTY MCLEOD: He mentioned the A14. He mentioned various railway lines. He didn’t mention the A1. Does that worry you?
JONATHAN DJANOGLY: Well fortunately Government has mentioned it, because there are three roads here, as Terry just mentioned, the A14, the A428 and the A1. And the A14 (coughs) building should be starting next year. On the A428 the road is now in the Highways Agency’s road building plan, which means that building has to start within five years. And I can report on that actually that I went with councillor Ian Bates from the County to see the Minister only a couple of weeks ago. And he has promised to provide timetable details by next month for the A428. So that’s all going according to plan. And the third element is the A1. Now what the Government have promised is not actually any firm proposals, but they have promised a full review. So there is a development, and that was in the last couple of months. Obviously we want to push that forward. By the way I didn’t disagree with a single word that Terry Hayward had to say. We’ve spoken about this on many occasions, and I’m working closely with his village and other villages down the A1 route. And his proposal is that we do what I have done on the A428, which is to actually make it .. look at it in more strategic terms, which is to bring together other councils, because of course we’re talking about Bedfordshire for instance, and other MPs along the corridor, and to work together, which is what we very successfully did on the A428.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I think there is this frustration though Jonathan that you have these works going on around the Buckden roundabout at the moment on the A1, which are causing a huge amount of grief for so many drivers. But a lot of people feel that that’s not really going to do anything to improve it in the long run. We need to think bigger here. We need to think a motorway.
JONATHAN DJANOGLY: No we are. And as Terry said there were proposals in 1994 to have a route moved to the West of the current A1. And I think that those should be looked at again. And that is actually what we’re pushing for. But I’m just trying to point out that those don’t get made in a day, and you have to create a campaign.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We know that Jonathan. We’ve seen the A14. Just on a slightly different note, we did hear .. if you could just let me ask the question .. we did hear from John Bridge, the Chief Executive of the Chambers of Commerce in Cambridgeshire last week, saying he doesn’t really think that the A14 upgrade is still guaranteed. He wouldn’t be surprised if it all got called off.
JONATHAN DJANOGLY: Well a new Government could come in and say we don’t want to spend that money.But a lot of money has already been spent, so personally I think that’s unlikely. But these things don’t happen quickly. The A14 took about twelve years. The A428 has taken about four years. I’ve started a petition by the way on the A1 which I would encourage people to sign. It’s so far got about 800 signatures. And I did the same, I used the same method for the A428. By the time I got to about 2,000, I then went to the Minister and I then started putting together a coalition of other local councils. So I’ll do the same thing with the A1, so if people are listening, please do go onto my website would be the easiest way, and sign my petition for the A1. And once I’ve got about 2,000 people, then I think it would be time to put together a coalition of local councils. It worked very successfully on the A428, and I think we can do it again.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Jonathan Djanogly. We’ll have to leave it there. The MP for Huntingdonshire. We did ask to speak to the Highways Agency today. Nobody available unfortunately. They did send us this statement however. It reads:
The Highways Agency fully recognises the economic importance of the A1. We continue to work with our key stakeholders, including Huntingdonshire District Council and local residents. Our proposals for improvements to the route: the Roads Investment Strategy included a commitment to undertake a study of the A1 between the M25 and the North of Huntingdon by the Department of Transport. In the meantime the Highways Agency will continue to monitor and maintain the A1.