After many months of campaigning by residents and the local school, the Greater Cambridge Partnership (City Deal) has agreed to think again on its plans for dangerous advisory cycle lanes on Nuffield Road.
Liberal Democrats had won public support for segregated cycling facilities on Nuffield Road, to provide pedestrians and cyclists with safer access to the school, medical centre, and Cambridge North station. But Labour councillors blocked these plans, leaving the City Deal with a plan for advisory cycle lanes only: paint on the road which will make nobody safer.
In an email to Cllr Ian Manning the County Council officer responsible for the project wrote:
"We received a number of negative responses to the consultation on the proposal for on-road cycle lanes, particularly from the Shirley School. We recently met with both the chair of the school governors and the head who are disappointed that the proposal for a segregated cycle route has not been taken forward. We would aim to undertake any work on Nuffield Road during the summer school holidays and so, given the ongoing discussions, are delaying any work until at least next summer."
This is now an opportunity for the City Deal and Labour councillors to look again and develop plans for Nuffield Road that meet the needs of vulnerable road users and residents alike. There's space for a good plan, and ambitious ideas to make Nuffield Road a street for people again; it just needs Labour councillors to abandon their "won't can't shan't" and start to engage constructively. Here's hoping they will.
I've received notice that an emergency order has been applied to close Fen Road around the level crossing between 0030 and 0830 on the 27th May.
The full order is attached. I've asked for an explanation of why, and I'm very conscious that this with a lack of notice could exacerbate the problems in the area.
The next meeting of the Chisholm Trail "local liaison forum" - the public facing meeting about the project is on the 15th May at the Shirley School.
THe meeting will consist of three items:
Project update - Mike Davies
Ecology - Tabitha Boniface
Landscape - Henry Casement
If anyone is very new to the project and has more general questions, then we will try and accommodate that on the night.
On Tuesday 1st May Cllr Anna Bradnam and I took time out of our election campaigns to talk to Network Rail about Fen Road Level Crossing. Along with local business owner Ian Litterick we asked them about barrier downtime, the effects of crime and anti-social behaviour on the crossing, and how they see the crossing's future. They have made some improvements in the area, will be trialling others, and are committed to keeping us informed about changes.
This followed my investigation into the operation of the level crossing and a supportive letter from the Department for Transport
The key in all crossing operations is safety, and the signalling system is designed to enforce that. It's very hard (going on impossible) to set the system to allow something dangerous to happen, so the signallers can't do very much to improve barrier downtime. However, there are some things they can do and we investigated those with Network Rail.
How does it work?
The crossing at Fen Road is operated directly from Cambridge Signalbox, a building just behind the Earl of Derby pub on Hills Road. CCTV cameras monitor the crossing so that when a train is scheduled to pass over the crossing signallers can check the crossing is clear and lower the barriers. In this view from the equipment room we can see the barriers on our level crossing in the top right.
The barriers on these crossings have to be closed before a signal is set to allow a train to go over the level crossing, and can't be raised again until the train has passed. There is an override (in case the train breaks down or something) to allow the signaller to raise the barriers, but because it's not safe to allow traffic to cross the railway while a train is scheduled to go over it, there's a delay of 3 minutes before the override takes effect. This not only gives the signaller a "Did you really want to do this?" prompt but also gives some protection against the expected train appearing again!
To raise the level crossing a signaller holds down a button next to a display on this enormous panel on the signalbox operations floor:
Obviously how quickly the signaller will react to situations at the level crossing will depend on how many other things they have to do, so this can sometimes mean barriers are down sooner than they need to be because a signaller has to concentrate on another part of the area they're responsible for.
More Signalling Staff = More Attention to Level Crossings
Network Rail have decided that the level crossings on the line need more human attention to operate them safely and effectively so they have decided to split the area around Cambridge into two and employ six extra staff to operate it. This will mean that from August, Chesterton level crossing (and some others nearby) will have much more attention from signalling staff.
Level crossings are misused frequently. While we were watching we saw a cyclist attempt to dive under closing barriers on Cherry Hinton High Street, and the signallers report that incidents like this happen every day at Chesterton too. Misuse has increased since the opening of Cambridge North station. People try to beat the barriers on bikes or in cars, and children are often seen climbing over the barriers, apparently sometimes then using the railway bridge over the river to get to Ditton Meadows! When this misuse happens the signaller has to keep the barriers down and advise every train to cross the crossing at walking pace until they're sure the trespassers are safely out of the way. This obviously increases the amount of time the barriers are down and makes trains slower.
Unfortunately the image quality of the CCTV at the level crossing is not good enough to read number plates or identify drivers. Network Rail do have some level crossing CCTV systems which have higher resolution and can read number plates. I encouraged them to upgrade Chesterton crossing to use this equipment.
Network Rail are very keen to engage with the community about the dangers of level crossings, and share my aspirations for alternative routes over/under the railway for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians.
At the moment trains starting at Cambridge North station travelling towards Cambridge have the signal set to green and the level crossing barriers closed considerably before the train departs. Network Rail have agreed to trial an alternative sequence which should only close the barriers when the train actually leaves Cambridge North.
There is a set of railway points on the railway south of the river whose speed limit is currently 15mph. These are used by trains starting and stopping at Cambridge North platform 3. They have recently been improved to increase this speed limit to 25mph which should also improve barrier times.
New timetables are coming to this area as we get new longer trains and through routes to Brighton and Gatwick. May's timetable should not affect the level crossing timings much, but December's will bring a significant increase in the number of trains running over the level crossing. Network Rail have committed to produce some estimates of how the December timetable changes are likely to affect the amount of time the barriers are down.
Network Rail are also happy for us to contact them with queries about excessive barrier downtime, so if you've been held at a barrier for too long, let us know when and we'll chase it up with them.
There is a planned workshop, run by Cambridge Hack, on the City deal Local Liason Forums. It asks attendees to answer a number of questions, and I'm interested in what resident attendees think.
What training would help you to fulfill your role [on the LLF] better?
What do you believe are the top three strengths of the current LLF set-up?
Top 3 improvements you would like to see?
What is the single impedement to effectiveness of the LLFs as they currently operate?
What would make this work shop a success for you?
Lib Dems are getting things fixed for you all around the city. Here a collapsed wall on Mortlock Avenue in East Chesterton that some of you had let us know about is now being repaired. The resident had been trying to get it fixed for several months, but after intervention by local Lib Dem Owen the area has been cleared up and repairs are in progress!
If the council isn’t getting things done for you we’re always happy to give them an extra nudge to get things fixed! Just get in touch and we’ll try to get the wheels in motion!
2 Votes for Owen and Shahida are votes for Councillors who will constantly fight the Labour Council's poor response on issues like this. Please support Owen and Shahida on May 3rd
Nuffield Road - Safety First
The Labour-run City Deal are still proposing dangerous on-road cycle lanes for Nuffield Road in spite of opposition from the Shirley School and Cambridge Cycling Campaign. If you’re concerned too, please contact the Greater Cambridge Partnership by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01223 699906 to let them know. And sign our online petition to make Nuffield Road a safe street again by separating it from the Industrial Estate!
I’m writing to update you on the situation with proposals for parking controls in your streets.
As you’re aware Jamie Dalzell has supported me, Cllr Ian Manning, in two meetings I held recently.
The plans developed by your previous Labour Councillor, are generally regarded as unacceptable, and a number of suggestions came out of those meetings. Read more for what a refresh on what came out of the meetings and the next steps.
These plans were:
Springfield Road to George Street
Chesterton Hall Crescent to Hawthorn Way
We are keen to progress plans more quickly, but the initial plans were understandably unacceptable for some areas and therefore we are now working to ensure that the scheme has a stronger foundation plan before going to formal consultation.
Jamie Dalzell writes:
Surveying to find out how many commuters are currently using the area
Ian has managed to get agreement between the County Council and the DVLA such that we can pass them a list of number plates and they will give the first four letters of the postcode of the owner – allowing us to know how many are residents and how many are commuters.
If you can help with this survey please contact Ian and I using the details above.
Having a ‘zone’ rather than marked bays
There was some hope this would mean that there wouldn’t be such a loss of parking along the narrower streets (like Herbert Street), if we could turn the street into a cul de sac. However, it would only be the bays that go, the 1.8m width requirement for a space to park is still there: once parking controls are in place, the Council takes liability for blockages of the road; hence they have to stop parking on the other side to ensure the road isn’t blocked.
I’ve suggested to Ian he investigates whether a residents scheme could be drawn up such that the contract moved this liability onto those using the scheme, in order to allow controlled parking both sides, and he’s following that up.
Getting some extra parking spaces on Chesterton Road
After checking, both sides of Chesterton Road are part of the DeFeville parking scheme – so any spaces would become part of that. The only option to alter that would be altering the DeFreville scheme which would require a full consultation with those residents.
Other options: a number of people asked about becoming part of the DeFreville scheme – this would require agreement from residents there.
We’re going to keep following all this up, but as we’re about to enter the election period, it’ll be harder for us to update you. I do hope I’ve shown that I’m dedicated to helping you find a solution that isn’t imposed on you, keeps you fully informed and hopefully gives you a real choice for improving the area – a vote for Jamie Dalzell in May is a vote towards getting the best available solution for everyone.
We've worked with residents of the Fen Estate (roads off of Fen Road) to collate reports of crime and harassment on Fen Road recently, and with the Police to get some detailed feedback on what happened in each case. It's important that resident see a reason for reporting to the Police, and we hope this detail will help support that!
The collated spreadsheet residents put together is still being updated, but the form we passed to the Police was
The Police have let us know that the driver of the S123 VOO was arrested for drug driving, but not charged; the reports of the collision was investigated but filed as no one was able to identify the subject vehicle.
However - great news - the driver of NJ63BYP has been arrested for a series of incidents were items have been thrown at various people across the city. It is still being investigated at this time and the Police are hopeful of a number of charges at the end of it. They have also seized the van are working towards the court disposing of it as part of the investigation.
Tivoli plans sent back to the drawing board
Unpopular plans to convert the Tivoli on Mitcham’s Corner, former cinema and pub, into luxury apartments overlooking the river have today been rejected by City Council planning officers.
Jamie Dalzell and Cheney Payne, pictured alongside the now derelict cinema with former City Mayor Ian Nimmo-Smith, who they have been working with to campaign for better plans.
Community groups from across the city objected to the proposals from J.D. Weatherspoons as they claimed that they failed to meet a number of local planning requirements.
Local Lib Dem campaigner Jamie Dalzell welcomed the decision, noting that: “following today’s decision, the Tivoli remains a fantastic opportunity for developing the North of the city. We hope now to see plans which reflect residents’ desire for more amenities in the area and which build on the growing success of locally owned businesses.”
The Lib Dem response to the planning application can be found here.
Following the research I (Owen Dunn) did late last year into the operation of the Fen Road level crossing I sent a letter to the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, asking whether anything could be done to improve the situation. I've now had a reply from the DfT's policy lead on level crossings.
Bertie Bricusse from the Department for Transport writes:
I recognise that there may be scope for reducing the amount of time the barriers are closed, including the suggestions raised in your letter. I have asked Network Rail to consider these options and to contact you directly, so that you may be able to take these ideas forward.
I look forward to talking to Network Rail to see what we can do for the communities and businesses to the east of the railway line, and I'll also be discussing these problems with the County Council in the next couple of weeks. Needless to say, I'll post updates here when I have news.
You can read my original letter to the Minister and the Department for Transport's reply.