Speaker’s Corner: A balanced transport policy for Peterborough

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
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The column that shouts about views and issues concerning Peterborough from a variety of perspectives. This week, Peter Chivall, vice chairman of city of Peterborough Liberal democrats...

In the National news this week are a number of announcements from the Government apparently linked to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on roads, including the A47.

Improvements to the Wansford junction with the A1 are necessary – dodging HGVs thundering over the blind hill under the bridge when joining the A1 northbound is no joke. Having it re-announced is not needed – we just need them to get on with the job.

Liberal Democrats would welcome such ‘Pinch Point’ improvements, as we did over parts of the A14 improvements when announced in the summer and some of us put in reasoned objections in the public consultation.

What we opposed was the proposal to demolish the recently strengthened Huntingdon viaduct and force us all onto an 8 lane superhighway that would have added 7-10 miles (and minutes) to our journeys.

We opted for Option B in the Highways Agency’s consultation, and of course, no tolls.

Many hundreds of Peterborough people would have joined us if they had known the options, but our City Council didn’t consult them, they just agreed to hand over up to £100million of our money for the superhighway option. They didn’t even oppose the toll proposals – it was left to Councils in Northants and Suffolk to knock that on the head. (Option B, by the way, was some £200-£300m cheaper than the original Option A and had a better Benefit/Cost ratio.)

By contrast, we are linked to Cambridge in a Local Enterprise Partnership that earlier this year published its Strategic Economic Plan.

While the Transport section of that Plan included promotion of the roads improvements mentioned above, it gave equal weight to the need to improve our Rail links, both on the East Coast Main line and Cross Country to Ely, Ipswich and Cambridge.

In the context of ‘expansion beyond Cambridge of technology businesses’ it promoted improved services to Peterborough and the North from Cambridge and Stansted Airport by increasing the speed and frequency of trains across the Fens.

Some of this will come about in due course with the investment of £80million along the freight route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton, which passes through Peterborough.

However, this line urgently needs upgrades to its signalling if trains on the line are to be able to run at anything like their 110mph potential speed.

Cutting the travel time to Cambridge from 55mins – 1hr to a potential 35mins-40mins could encourage some of those High Tech firms to expand outside their currently overcrowded locations and see Peterborough as a suitable place to relocate or expand.

We need a City Council that has higher ambitions for our City than just a ‘dormitory with warehouses’ and part of that must be to improve all our transport links and not just as a cheerleader for an A14 superhighway.