The government's consultation [ http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/dft-20111212/ ] on the future of the A14 has just closed. The Green Party has submitted its innovative response and today is making this public [See below for the full response, with details of the Green Party's alternative transport strategy].
Nobody can doubt that there are problems on the A14. The normal drive to work, slowed to a crawl on most days, the sitting in traffic jams waiting to get into Cambridge, the noise, and pollution, not to mention with all that traffic the amount of CO2 being released into the air. This is indeed a challenge that needs addressing. Which is why the Green Party has sent its proposals to Government on the A14 and what to do about it.
At present the Governments' answer is to build more roads, with an extra lane proposed around Kettering. Will this make a difference to the congestion around the area? Or will it just make things worse? It will certainly attract more traffic onto the road, and will therefore in our view only make for more congestion, more traffic jams, and more waiting to get into Cambridge. There are alternatives, and these would remove traffic, reduce congestion and remove some of the CO2 that would be created by the building of new roads. The Green Party is calling for:
· The use of the rail system to carry more goods, thus freeing up the roads.
· Reducing speeds of traffic to 60MPH thus saving on fuel and money, and making our roads safer with a lower speed limit.
· Better public transport at an affordable price.
· Better use of the guided bus way at Cambridge.
· Rather than driving, make shops local and in walking or cycling distance.
We cannot simply keep building more roads and using a finite resource for fuel, we have to look at ways to reduce. We could have the necessary infrastructure in place at less cost than the building of more roads. Lets make our Eastern Region a truly green and pleasant place to live, and lets start by reducing the vehicles on the road, and, as the advert once said 'Let the train take the strain.' If the government is truly intent on becoming the greenest Government, then it needs to look at the options that are for the benefit of everyone's health and welfare: Sustainable transport links, local shops and joined-up thinking on the rail network.
Eastern Region Green Party Response to 'the A14 Challenge':
An alternative transport strategy.
Prepared and issued on behalf of: Eastern Region Green Party
There are major congestion problems on A14, especially around Kettering and between Huntingdon and Cambridge and with planned housing growth and freight traffic growth this will just get worse. An extra lane is proposed around Kettering and this is in latest govt spending plans announced late 2011. A new road between Ellington and Fen Drayton and upgrades as far as Fen Ditton was previously proposed at a cost of £1.2bn but this was scrapped in the CSR in 2010. Some minor junction works and improved signing have recently been approved for that section.
Instead of creating more capacity on the road - which would simply attract even more traffic - more journeys, for both freight and passengers, should be shifted to rail in order to reduce the amount of road traffic. Adding more lanes or building new roads, whether tolled or free, is not the solution.
Mobility has traditionally been seen as the aim of transport. However we believe that accessibility, rather than mobility, should be the aim. We need transport in order to gain access to shops, work, leisure, friends, etc. By ensuring that people have access to facilities for shopping, work and leisure nearer to their homes we can improve accessibility but reduce mobility, the overall amount of transport that is required. Communities should also become more self-sufficient in order to reduce the amount and distance that goods need to be transported - local production for local needs.
A sustainable transport policy must also aim to reduce the impact on the environment of our transport systems. This includes reducing energy consumption from non-renewable sources, reducing air pollution and protecting the environment. We should also aim to make transport safer and healthier both for those using it and for the whole community.
When assessing the merits of any particular mode of transport we need to consider its social, environmental and economic impact. National transport policy over the last few decades has tended to focus primarily on the last of these criteria to the exclusion of the first two. All three need to be considered.
We need to reduce the overall amount of travel required and shift to less environmentally damaging modes of transport. In the long distance transport context this entails reducing car, lorry and airplane use and increasing travel by a more environment-friendly mode of transport, such as trains.
Land use planning and transport have significant effects on each other. They need to be considered together.
There should be more integration of residential, commercial and recreation facilities. The development of out-of-town hypermarkets should be halted immediately. Measures need to be taken to encourage small local shops on estates and to revitalise town centres. By making shopping facilities available closer to where people live and in places accessible by public transport car use can be reduced as people shift to walking, cycling and public transport. Future large scale developments should be on public transport corridors.
Issues – road
Traffic is already above the normal carrying capacity of such a road and is forecast to increase. There are major congestion problems on A14, especially around Huntingdon and Cambridge. There are frequent delays due to accidents and increased CO2 emissions due to volume of traffic and stop/start behaviour.
About 20% of the traffic is HGVs and 70% cars. However HGVs take up 2.5 times as much road space as cars. When this is factored in HGVs take up 38.5% of the road space and cars 53.8%.
Freight through Haven Ports (Felixstowe Docks and Harwich Bathside) is expected to double or treble over next decade. If the same proportion as now, about 75%, goes by road this would significantly increase the number of HGVs on A14.
Two major freight flows share the section of A14 between Spittals jn (J23) and Girton jn (J29). These are an east-west flow between HavenPorts and Midlands and a north-south flow between North and London/Channel Tunnel via A1 and M11. There should be a rail alternative for each of these flows.
Some journeys on A14 are quite short, for example commuting into Cambridge from nearby villages. Better bus services could reduce the use of A14 for many of these short trips, which tend to be on the busiest sections. CGB might help with this.
Although the road is mostly 2 lane dual carriageway it tends to operate as 2 single lanes, one with slower HGVs and one with faster cars.
Many accidents near junctions due to traffic weaving between lanes.
Interventions – road
Reduce speed limit on section between Huntingdon and Cambridge J21-J31 to 60mph. This will mean that HGVs, limited to 56mph, and cars are travelling at similar speeds. This will make it safer and smooth the flow. There would be CO2 reductions too. Journey time at a constant 60mph is only 2 min 9 sec longer than journey time at a constant 70mph. Since traffic is often stop/start now with a smoother flow resulting from reduced speed the journey time should be about the same as now or possibly improved.
Reduce amount of road traffic by shifting both people and freight traffic onto rail. Reduces CO2 emissions too.
Workplace Parking Levy could be introduced in Cambridge. This would provide an incentive for both employees and employers to make more use of public transport.
Improve bus services between Cambridge and surrounding towns and villages. Now that the controversial Cambridge Guided Busway has been built there should be more bus services on it and more incentives to use them.
There should be more Cycleways linking surrounding towns and villages with Cambridge and the new cycleway alongside the CGB should be enhanced.
Issues – rail
Missing sections of rail network for east-west travel by freight and passengers.
East-west routes not electrified.
Bottlenecks at single track sections and flat (at grade) junctions.
Long stretches where slower freight trains cannot be overtaken by faster passenger services. This limits capacity for both types of service.
Most freight trains between Haven Ports and Midlands go via London. This is a long way round and takes paths that are needed for more passenger services on GEML, NLL and WCML.
Interventions – rail
Re-open whole of East West Rail Link (EWRL) to provide rail route for both passenger and freight services between Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford. This enables passenger services such as Norwich-Ely-Cambridge-Bedford-MK-Oxford-Reading and Ipswich-Ely-Cambridge-Bedford-MK-Oxford-Bristol. Together with services on existing lines such as Ipswich-Ely-Peterborough-Leicester-Birmingham, Stansted-Cambridge-Ely-Peterborough-Leicester-Birmingham and Norwich-Ely-Peterborough- Liverpool there would be a half-hourly service on all of the east-west lines serving Cambridge and Ely.
Interchanges with WAML, ECML, MML, WCML, GWML would provide access to towns in the Home Counties to north and west of London and to most of Midlands, North, Wales and South West. This could significantly reduce the number of cars travelling long distance journeys on the A14. It enables freight services from Haven Ports to South West and S Wales avoiding London and increases capacity for freight services to West Midlands.
The Western section of EWRL, Oxford-Bedford, has recently been given approval and is expected to be in operation by 2017. It is estimated to cost about £250m. The eastern section, Cambridge-Norwich/Ipswich already exists.
The missing Central section of EWRL, Bedford-Cambridge, should now be developed and completed as soon as possible. A number of options for routes are under consideration but the most likely route is to use the existing rail line from Cambridge as far as Letchworth or Hitchin. From there it can either use the ECML to Sandy and then a new line to Bedford, partially on an old alignment, or a new line to Luton, then the MML and a short new chord from north of Ampthill tunnel to Milbrook on the Marston Vale line. Depending on the route chosen, about 10-15 miles of new/re-instated line is required. Cost should be of the same order as for the western section.
Raise line speeds on Ipswich-Ely-Peterborough and Norwich-Ely-Cambridge routes to benefit passenger services. Electrify all of Felixstowe-Nuneaton route.
The Ipswich-Ely-Peterborough-Nuneaton route has recently had the gauge increased to W10 to allow trains to carry 9’ 6” containers on normal flat wagons. However its capacity needs to be increased to allow more freight trains to use that route. Planned interventions will raise the capacity from 10 trains per day (tpd) to 24 tpd by 2014. However to accommodate growth in Haven Ports and more modal shift this needs to be doubled or trebled.
More and longer goods loops to enable freight trains to be overtaken by faster passenger trains on routes between Felixstowe and Midlands/North.
Redouble all remaining single track sections of line between Felixstowe and Nuneaton.
Improve capacity of junctions where freight trains have to cross the path of passenger services. Ideally this would be by creating grade-separated junctions (flyovers) but this is expensive and requires land outside the railway corridor. In short term enhance capacity by providing 3 or 4 track sections at and near the junctions, especially between staggered junctions. Ely North jn should be re-instated as a double junction.
New chords, which are needed at junctions at Ipswich and Nuneaton, are underway and capacity is being increased at Peterborough as part of station improvements there.
The line between Cambridge and Newmarket is mostly single track and has only an hourly service. This line was formerly double track and it should be re-instated as double track. A more frequent service, say half hourly, can then be operated. Intermediate stations at Cherry Hinton and Fulbourn should be re-opened. A Cambridge-Newmarket service could be extended to Soham and Ely. This would require a 0.5km chord to be re-instated just north of Newmarket and Soham station to be re-opened.
The section of MML through Leicester station area, between Wigston jn and Syston jn, is shared by EMT HST passenger services, freight trains between Felixstowe and W Midlands/North West and a variety of other services. It was previously 4 tracks but is now a mixture of 2, 3 and 4 tracks. The whole section should be re-instated to 4 tracks with a pair of freight tracks bypassing the station platforms.
The government has recently announced that the lines between Syston Jn and Stoke on Trent will be upgraded to W10 gauge. This will provide another route for freight trains between Felixstowe and the north west, avoiding the busy areas around Leicester and Nuneaton. There is a need to improve the capacity of junctions on this route where freight trains have to cross the path of passenger services. In short term enhance capacity by providing 3 or 4 track sections at and near the junctions. This would be around Trent South Jn/SheetStores Jn and Stenson Jn/North Stafford Jn.
Another route between Felixstowe and W Midlands via Corby and Market Harborough should be considered. This would require new chords at Manton Jn and Kettering North Jn. The lines from Manton Jn to Kettering and Kettering to Wigston Jn would need upgrading to W10 gauge. The former has 3 tunnels on it, which may be prohibitively expensive to upgrade.
The former rail line between Wellingborough and Northampton could be re-instated. This would enable a Peterborough-Corby-Kettering-Wellingborough-Northampton-Rugby-Coventry-Birmingham passenger service. This would take traffic off the western section of the A14. The only major infrastructure required would be a bridge under the A45 near Wellingborough, where the former trackbed has been obstructed by the construction of the A45.
The capacity for freight trains between the Channel Tunnel and the North of England should be increased. Currently these services have to go around the south and west sides of London on very busy lines and so the number of such trains is very limited. Channel Tunnel freight trains could run on HS1 as far as Barking, where there is a connection to the Network Rail lines, and continue on WAML, ECML, MML or WCML. HS1 already has freight loops to allow freight trains to be overtaken by faster passenger trains. Freight traffic that currently uses the A1-A14-M11 roads could then be transferred to rail.
Most of the HGVs using the A14 are domestic freight, not international. Some of this could be transferred to rail but there is no Rail Freight Terminal (RFT) in the Cambridge area that can handle containers. There should be one. Possible locations would be at Ely RFT or Chesterton sidings. Any RFT should be well away from residential areas and should have good links to the trunk road network. Some of the domestic freight traffic could then be transferred from road to rail.
There should be a charge on all imported containers that leave the port of entry by road vehicle. This would be to provide a financial incentive for onward shipment by rail or water, rather than road, and to raise money for more facilities for them. The ports of entry would include major ports, ferry terminals, airports and the Channel Tunnel terminal. The charge would apply to each TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit). There would be an exemption for any container delivered to a local destination, within 25 miles of the port of entry. The funds raised would be invested in the provision of facilities and enhanced capacity for rail freight and water borne freight.
Most of the former rail line between Cambridge and Huntingdon has recently been converted to a Guided Busway. This is regrettable because it could otherwise have been used as part of another east-west rail route, which would have more closely paralleled the A14. If the CGB fails then the route could be converted back to rail. Alternatively a new rail line could be constructed alongside the A14 road from Huntingdon to Histon, then running alongside the CGB from Histon to the mainline at Chesterton.
Other former rail lines between Huntingdon and Kettering and Kettering and Northampton, together with connecting lines, could then form a new rail route between Cambridge and Northampton, giving onward access to towns such as Coventry. However this would require several sections of line on new alignments and so would be more difficult and more expensive than re-instating tracks on old alignments.