New cycling plans in Peterborough A47 upgrade criticised

Cycling and walking plans as part of a major upgrade of the A47 in Peterborough have been criticised.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:59 am
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 5:45 pm

Peterborough Cycle Forum believes a “once in a generation opportunity” is being squandered by Highways England which it has accused of putting forward “unacceptable” proposals.

The Government body is leading a project to dual the A47 between Wansford and Sutton which will also include a new pedestrian and cycling route under the road close to the current junction at Sutton Heath Road.

However, the cycle forum claims the new route will head underneath the A1 before entering a current section which is too steep to be used to by many, as well being “in very poor condition, dark and hidden away”.

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The existing cycling and walking route. Photo and video from Jane Hunt who is not part of the cycle forum

It also accused Highways England of putting forward proposals which do not meet its own design standards, a claim denied by the transport body.

The forum said: “The A1 and A47 have presented enormous, if not impenetrable, barriers for pedestrians and cyclists for decades. The proposed A47 Sutton to Wansford dualling scheme is arguably a once in a generation opportunity to create a new safe and accessible route for everyone.

“However, sadly, the proposed plans from Highways England are unacceptable. Not only do they not meet Highways England’s own design standards, but the main route will be unusable for many people.

“As it stands, a new route will be created alongside the new A47, before dropping down from the former picnic site to go underneath the A1. This may appear fine, but many people will be unable or too fearful to use it because of the gradient and remoteness of the final section.

“We’ve been out and measured the ramp, and not only is it in very poor condition, dark and hidden away, but it has gradients of up to 20 per cent - the steepest gradient on Mont Ventoux in the Tour De France is only 13 per cent!

“This will be the only route available into and out of Wansford, and with a gradient like that many children, families pulling a trailer, older people, and those riding a non-standard bicycle, will not be able to use the route. It will also be very difficult for many walkers and families with children in buggies.”

The cycle forum is calling on Highways England to provide a route over the A1, adjacent but segregated from the carriageway of the A47, which it believes is “the only way a route for pedestrians and cyclists can be created between Sutton and Wansford which is safe, convenient and accessible to everyone”.

It continued: “We also believe that the Peterborough Road heading out of Castor and Ailsworth should have improved provision for cyclists so that anyone from those villages and beyond, whether they’re eight or 80 years old, can safely cycle along this route.”

Highways England has hit back, claiming it has engaged with the cycle forum and that the existing path underneath the A1 does not form part of the current scheme.

It also said a new route over the A1 “cannot be provided due to the safety issues that would present as a result of the current bridge design and parapet height”.

A spokesperson added: “The (new) scheme will provide substantial improvements to the area where there is currently no walking or cycling provisions along the A47.

“All our proposals for the walking, cycling and horse riding route conform to Highways England standards, with them all joining pre-existing routes and public rights of way at Wansford.”

The dualling scheme is due to start in the first three months of 2023 and end either in 2024 or 2025, at a cost of between £50 million to £100 million.