This winter I have heard endless reports on the radio of Whittlesey being effectively cut off by a combination. That is a nonsense. The economy of the county is being affected and it must be a nightmare for locals putting up with this huge disruption.
Common sense must prevail. It was not difficult to get political agreement to act now especially as this project has been on the drawing board for 30 years or more. Given we expect more rail traffic not less in the coming years it is now time to act.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet is expected to support a plan (March 5) which will bring a solution to the traffic problems caused by the King’s Dyke level crossing at Whittlesey.
Cabinet will consider a report which spells out the problems and identifies a joint funding approach that can be pursued. This would lead to the level crossing being bridged to avoid severe traffic delays when the crossing is closed to vehicles.
County Council Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, Councillor Ian Bates, said: “The need for a solution to the traffic delays is clear and the situation will only get worse if as anticipated the number of trains using the crossing increase significantly in the future.
“I am pleased that the County Council has been able to find a way forward and identified a way of funding a joint scheme to bridge the King’s Dyke level crossing which can be developed further with Network Rail. This joint approach shows the County Council’s commitment to tackling major transport issues in the north of the county and we will push forward with this work as quickly as possible.”
Currently around 100 trains a day use the line and this is could increase to 244 trains daily – an increase of 150% by 2031. In addition some 11,000 vehicles use the A605 at King’s Dyke daily and long tail backs build up regularly when the barriers are down.
During winter months the problems caused by the level crossing are made worse when the alternative route to Peterborough via the B1040 is closed because of flooding.
Whittlesey County Councillors Martin Curtis and Ralph Butcher who have both campaigned hard for a bridge at the level crossing, said: “We are delighted that the County Council has found a solution to the problems caused by the King’s Dyke level crossing which is a big issue locally with the traffic delays impacting on the whole town.
Working with Network Rail to secure their financial support will be crucial to delivering this scheme, and discussions are already under way.
Currently, the amount of time the crossing barriers are closed means that in peak periods the crossing is closed to traffic for up to 15 minutes an hour – with the increased rail movements those closures could increase to 38 minutes per hour.
North East Cambridgeshire MP, Steve Barclay, added: “The problem of the King’s Dyke crossing is a major issue in an around Whittlesey and it is already having an impact on economic and community growth in the area – I am delighted that the County Council has found a way to relieve the traffic congestion caused at this location and I would urge all parties to work together to get this moving as quickly as possible.”
It is anticipated that the cost of a bridge will be in the order of £10-£15m – exact details of the contribution by each party involved will developed if Cabinet approves the recommendation. Subject to that further work it is hoped that the scheme could be complete within three years.