Works on bridge at King’s Dyke Level Crossing could begin in September - new Peterborough to Whittlesey relief road to be investigated

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Works on a bridge at the King’s Dyke Level Crossing to alleviate the traffic nightmare for residents travelling between Whittlesey and Peterborough could begin in September.

The long-awaited project has been heavily delayed after costs with previous contractor Kier escalated from £13.6 million to more than £38 million, prompting Cambridgeshire County Council to seek a new partner.

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Whittlesey residents demand bypass to end traffic nightmare after new masterplan for the town is unveiled

King's Dyke sign near the crossing EMN-200221-162007009King's Dyke sign near the crossing EMN-200221-162007009
King's Dyke sign near the crossing EMN-200221-162007009 | JPI Media Ltd Resell

And it has now been revealed that a new contract will be awarded in April with the council approaching the end of its re-tendering process.

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Cllr Chris Boden, leader of Fenland District Council and a member of the county council, Whittlesey Town Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, told the Peterborough Telegraph: “There will be an announcement in Whittlesey around April 23.

“There was a larger number of expressions of interest than expected. A shortlist process took place and we have every confidence we will have a contractor chosen in April.

“Works won’t begin later than December and could begin as early as September.

“The completion deadline is the end of 2022 but I will be extremely disappointed if it takes that long. I’m expecting it to be the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022.

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“We can’t go beyond the end of December 2022 as that is when the funding arrangement with the combined authority ends, but it should be sometime before then.”

The news will be a relief to fed up residents in Whittlesey who have suffered not just from delays at the level crossing - where the barrier can be down for between 12 and 23 minutes per hour - but from frequent closures at North Bank and the B1040 due to the risk of flooding.

Future plans by the rail industry to increase the number of trains travelling along the route, and planning approval for more homes nearby, are set to further increase traffic delays.

The King’s Dyke project had originally been due to finish in late 2017/early 2018, but regular setbacks had prompted calls for a bypass to be prioritised instead.

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However, Cllr Boden insisted that it is “not a case of either/or” and that a business case is likely to be prepared to analyse the options for a relief road linking Peterborough and Whittlesey.

He said: “They are two different projects but both are needed. We are taking action to establish an outline business case for the relief road, and hopefully in the next few weeks that will be on the agenda.

“There’s no guarantee for the road, but we intend to employ specialists to look at the options and given an outline indication as to the possibilities and how they can be funded.”

Although he said it is too early to know where the relief road could go, Cllr Boden added: “The most logical place would be the roundabout at Morrisons in Cardea to run to the A605 at the other side of Coates, or between Coates and Eastrea.

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“But we have to see what is technically possible and financially possible.”

Funding from the combined authority for the business case is likely to be bid for by the town and district councils together.

The two authorities are also likely to bid for funding in the next two months from the county council to establish interactive signs to alert motorists when North Bank and the B1040 are closed.

If successful, one of the signs would be at the roundabout by Kellyvision in Whittlesey.

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“I’m really keen to see that happen,” added the district council leader, who also revealed an investigation had been carried out by an outside authority to see if North Bank could be raised to prevent the need for the road to be closed after heavy rainfall.

However, it was quickly established that this would cost millions of pounds.

Speaking about the transport problems in general, Cllr Boden added: “I can understand why people get outrageously frustrated. This should have been sorted out a long time ago. What’s changed is the combined authority has come in and we can access its money.”

The combined authority is led by Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer and has responsibility for major transport schemes in the county.