Floods prompt calls for a Welney workround

Locals want action on massive diversions

flood08:20 Thursday 14th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Drivers are continuing to face diversions of up to 35 miles because of flooding at Welney Wash. The road’s regularly shut following heavy rain. In fact between late-2012 and early-2013 it was closed for around 50 days. Electronic signs now warn drivers on approaching routes when the road is impassable, but progress on any physical alterations to the road like raising it have been slow. The MP for North East Cambridgeshire Steven Barclay will once again raise the issue at a flood summit on Friday. Our reporter Tom Horn is on the Cambridgeshire side of Welney Wash this morning. Tom, is it snowing where you are?
TOM HORN: Good morning Dotty from a misty and pretty freezing Welney Wash. We’ve had a bitter mix of sleet and snow and rain over the last 45 minutes or so since I’ve been here, but it’s just turned to absolute biting cold wind here. I’ve seen swans from the nearby nature reserve fly overhead since I’ve been here as well. I’m just pulled over on the side of the A1101 just before it is flooded. The landscape here Dotty ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: Tom I’m really sorry. I think we’re going to have to leave it there, because the signal in Welney is letting us down a little bit this morning. Apologies for that. Tom though has been speaking to a few drivers on the road this morning. Here’s what one of them told him.
TOM HORN: Where are you on your way to this morning then?
DRIVER: Wisbech.
TOM HORN: Yes. Wisbech. Where have you come from?
DRIVER: Heathrow.
TOM HORN: Heathrow. So you’ve been on the road already a bit this morning.
DRIVER: Yes. Since four this morning.
TOM HORN: So you’re trying to cross Welney Wash just here, but the road ahead of you is closed so you’ve pulled over. Talk me through what’s happened.
DRIVER: Well I don’t know. There’s been nothing on the radio. I’ve obviously got Travel on all the time. It picks up your local station as well, and nothing. No warning. And the sat-nav hasn’t picked it up either which it should do because it’s live. What do I do now?
TOM HORN: Did you notice any of the electronic signs on the way here at all?
DRIVER: None at all. Was there?
TOM HORN: There is one just about near Littleport I think and there’s another just behind us, but that’s right on where we are, isn’t it? So what is it now? A case of diversion? Have you got somewhere to be for a certain time, obviously Wisbech ?
DRIVER: Well I’m alright for time, but just trying to work out another route now I suppose.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We have had reports this morning that some drivers are ignoring the signs and driving along the road regardless. The diversions that are in place, if you’re journeying between Littleport and Wisbech, you either have to divert via Downham Market which is 25 miles or so, or Chatteris which is 35 miles or so. So not an insignificant inconvenience really. But this has been going on for years hasn’t it? Twenty three minutes past eight. Let’s talk to Louise Villis who’s the owner of a children’s party supply store on the Norfolk side of the wash. Morning Louise.
LOUISE VILLIS: Good morning.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what kind of problems does it cause you when this road is closed?

LOUISE VILLIS: The impact of it is actually very huge, because for attending meetings you don’t have any of the main link roads that are easily accessible. You have such a huge detour, and it’s a journey that actually I have to make at least twice a day, which you can imagine. The mileage does add up. So as well as the meetings we also have problems with deliveries as well.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So which diversion do you go for? Do you go for 25 miles or 35 miles?
LOUISE VILLIS: (LAUGHS) It depends on which side I want to get to really. I tend to go the A10, because along the Sixteen Foot it’s quite a treacherous road, and especially when it’s icy and snowing as it is today. It’s not a route that I like to take particularly.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So even the diversion routes actually aren’t really up to much in themselves.
LOUISE VILLIS: No they’re very very busy routes anyway, and I think with the impact of the additional traffic, it does make them fairly treacherous really as well. The roads aren’t actually suitable for the volume of traffic going along them.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And have you been living in the area for a while Louise?
LOUISE VILLIS: We’ve lived here for eighteen years now, and whilst I suppose when we first moved in Welney was I suppose a more remote place, nowadays it’s a lot more populated. The traffic has increased incredibly. And investment into the area as well with additional housing, it’s certainly a very busy road. And an A-road as well, which I think is wrong that it can be allowed to be closed for the duration of time that it can be. It has been known to be closed for about ten weeks ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: Which is just crazy, isn’t it, for a road that people need to use.
LOUISE VILLIS: Absolutely. For me in a day it can add actually 140 miles or so to my journey, just because I have to do the route so many times, when you can actually .. it’s almost a stone’s throw. You can stand at one side of the Wash road and you can see across to where you want to be. But you know there’s only two routes round, neither of which are particularly good. I think the impact on businesses in the area as well, you’ve got local pubs, you also have the general stores as well, all along the A1101. And I know that is has an impact on them with the passing trade, because obviously you don’t get that when the Wash road is actually closed.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you have any hope Louise that anything will change, that there will actually be some kind of change to the road, raising it or something?
LOUISE VILLIS: I really wish that they would. I know it’s something that they have looked into, and I know that local businesses, I think there was a transport company whom it impacted quite heavily on, and they had looked at putting an investment into it, into what could be done. But it seems to be something that they go down the road of and then it seems to get shelved, and nothing seems to be done. But I think that it is time now, with the increase in traffic, that actually they seriously do look at the possibilities of it. Whether they put a bridge across, they lift the road and put pipes or something underneath to allow the water through.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Just some kind of solution. Yes. Louise, I’m going to have to leave it there. Really nice to talk to you this morning. Thank you. Louise Villis there, who owns Kids Do Party, which is near Welney. There is a flood summit which is talking place tomorrow, which the MP for North East Cambridgeshire Steve Barclay is involved with. He has given us this statement this morning. He says:

“Many constituents locally are impacted when the Welney causeway closes. I’ve campaigned for a feasibility study to consider whether a causeway offers a solution to avoid the disruption to local business, and the impact on time for motorists from the long diversion.. The meeting on Friday offers an opportunity to get an update from Norfolk County Council and the Environment Agency on this work.”