the A14 and traffic diversions

diversionsThey seem to go on forever and they get worse. Or so it seems and recently we haven’t just had night works to make life hell for people who live alongside the A14 we’ve had the road closed and diversions which seem to drive HCVs through villages so that everyone gets a share of the A14 experience.

It’s not just villages though there have also been reports of trucks thundering along Cambridge City streets including King’s Hedges Road. emails have been sent, there have been angry posts on Facebook and Twitter, and questions have been asked in parliament. Something must be done!

So what’s going on? Because of the need to close the between the Girton interchange and the Milton junction there’s a diversion route in place. Rules require that this is along roads of equivalent status, that means trunk roads, and has therefore resulted in a long diversion via the A505 and A11 south of Cambridge. Chances are this doubles the journey time between the Girton interchange and the point at which the diversion ends.

That would be fine. Some disturbance for the people living on the diversion route but what else is there to worry about? That’s when we meet ‘driver behaviour’.

Naturally the HCV drivers don’t want to double their journey times so they use their SatNav and that can take them though Histon, Impington and Milton or across Cambridge which is perfectly legitimate. And because they’ve done that during the recent heatwave with us all sleeping with our windows open we’re aware of it. However it does seem to have reduced and that’s not because the heat wave is over but because drivers have realised that these alternatives aren’t so smart and have spread the word.

It’s also worth noting that some HCVs have a legitimate reason for apparently not following the signed diversion routes. These are the ones making the overnight deliveries on which many of us depend: stocking the shelves at Tesco etc and, inter alia, shipping Amazon Prime orders.

But shouldn’t we have realised that this should happen and been more prescriptive with what drivers can and cannot do? Yes of course but there is a limit. The A14 people put up all the yellow signs they need to and more and across the network there are multiple signs along the lines of ‘A14 closed J27-j28 follow signs not satnav’ and ‘turn off satnav follow diversion’. As the saying goes: you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

It’s also been suggested that temporary HCV exclusions be put in place and perhaps this could and should have been done but that would only work if there was good enforcement and given the stretch there already is on police resources it’s difficult to see that happening.

So: where do we stand? Road closures will come to an end, we will close our bedroom windows now that it’s not so hot, and HCV drivers will get smarter. Given that the A14 is a massive road building project and that such projects can necessitate road closures they’re maybe something we’re going to have to live through but we can be confident that they will come to an end.

But that doesn’t mean that we do nothing. The A14 people are excellent road builders with a focus on delivering the new A14 on time and on budget. We need to recognise this but at the same time to challenge them to do it in a way that recognises the impact which they have on local people. They will only retain their goodwill as long as they’re seen to do this. We do this though our regular A14 liaison meetings with the Integrated Delivery Team and South Cambs, with other less formal meetings such as the one I had to review the above and the visit that several of us made to the site yesterday, and by having the phone number David Bray (the man with the unenviable job of making all this happen) on speed dial (which I have).

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