Residents have been complaining about the barriers on the Fen Road level crossing being down more than they should be, and more than they were before Cambridge North opened. Working with Cllr Manning and Milton's Cllr Anna Bradnam, I (Owen Dunn) have been investigating how much of a problem this is. The short answer is that in the hour I picked one December morning the barriers were down for 45 minutes.
Like many Chesterton residents I've been looking forward to Cambridge North for a long time and supported local Lib Dems in their campaign to get the station opened. I'll continue to campaign for more and better services at the station, but I believe we need to ensure that the communities on the far side of the railway don't suffer as the train service improves.
Many were reassured when Network Rail promised that the level crossing barriers would be down after Cambridge North's opening no more than they were before. However, the publicly accessible timetable data tells a different story. Here is a visualisation of the timetable on 21st November 2016, before Cambridge North opened.
Every diagonal line is a train timetabled to pass, and if they go between the Cambridge and Cambridge North horizontals on the diagram they will cross the level crossing. I make that eight trains between 07:00 and 08:00.
Now look at this visualisation of the timetable on 20th November 2017, after the opening of Cambridge North.
That's eleven trains between 07:00 and 08:00 with the period around the top of the hour being particularly congested.
So that's how many trains. But are the barriers down any more than they need to be? Some tell me they've been waiting for up to twenty minutes and others that they've been able to phone the signaller to get the barriers raised. I spent a slightly chilly hour one morning in December to observe the level crossing to find out. Here are the results; the crossing is closed in the blocked-out times.
Totting that up, the level crossing was closed for 45 minutes in the hour 6:50-7:50. There are some periods where the barriers are lifted for a minute or less, but waits of about 5 minutes are usual and there can be much longer closures. It's not surprising that some feel the railway excludes them.
Cllr Bradnam and I are seeking to meet Network Rail to discuss changes in timetabling or signalling operations to improve the situation. However in the long term it's clear we need to provide a better route to the areas east of the railway line so that residents and businesses aren't shut out.
The Chisholm Trail and new cycle bridge access should be adjusted to provide cyclists and pedestrians with routes to avoid the level crossing.
The Cambridge Northern Fringe development (on the sewage works site) is an ideal opportunity to improve car and lorry access to the Fen Road area and I will be pressing for this to be included in the plans.
Highways works planned until the end of the year affecting the wards in the north of the City include Green End Road and Highworth Avenue...
HIGHWORTH AVENUE CAMBRIDGE SOME C/W INCURSION 18-Dec-2017 20-Dec-2017 Vehicle Access Mead Construction
GREEN END ROAD CAMBRIDGE STOP/GO BOARDS 18-Dec-2017 19-Dec-2017 Installation of x6 speed cusions and Double yellow lines.
I've asked for more detail about the second planned work.
Stagecoach have announced a number of changes to bus services across Cambridgeshire - table attached.
One of the rights Councillors have is to submit written questions to full Council requiring an answer.
I've (Cllr Manning) submitted two to the next full Council on topical matters.
How many legal cases has the County Council lost in the last three years against families claiming it should fund SEN when the County Council contested this? What has been the total cost of legal bills in each year?
This is based on a specific bit of casework I've assisted a constituent with. I need to find out if this a major issue or an isolated one.
As of writing how many minor highways schemes (ie those funded in whole or part by the Local Highways Initiative or Third Party Funded) has CCC not received payment for yet? How many have been completed? Please break this down by the year of submission of the scheme and include data for at least the last three years.
I'm aware of several schemes that haven't been invoiced for several years. I want to know how widespread this is.
I wanted to add another update on the recent issues around Fen Road, including plans to start a new community group I'm supporting.
I met with interested residents (those who have responded to previous blog posts, have emailed me, or responded on twitter) and one of our local PCSOs last Monday.
- Police have taken a number of extra actions in the area, supported by British Transport Police, the Road Policing Unit and Special Constables
- As a North Area Panel priority, it is discussed every week at a regular meeting
- We confirmed that multiple reports made to Police have reached them, and in some cases action was taken
- It was highlighted that it's worth reporting non-urgent crime even after it has happened, either via 101 (which can take a while!) or via the force website http://bit.ly/reportcrimes
- In relation to CCTV: this has been of limited use - either individuals have not been identifiable, it has not been possible to trace vehicles or prove who was driving them at the time
Apart from increased Policing, I believe we need to improve the community ties across the whole area, including both sides of the level crossing. Those few people causing the serious problems need to feel like they are on the outside of acceptable behaviour.
To that effect I'm supporting residents in setting up a new community group for the area - with a view to doing a Jo Cox Great Get Together event ( https://www.greatgettogether.org/about/ ) in summer 2018.
Please get involved - I'll help residents organise the first meetings soon.
On Tuesday the County Council's Highways committee considered four parking issues (click on the link for the report):
- the ending of the parking charge at the Park & Ride sites
- on-street parking charges
- residents' parking scheme permit charges for both residents' permits and visitors' permits
- a plan to develop more residents' parking schemes in the city
Up to this point Labour and Conservative Councillors had been pushing upping permit charges and pushing parking schemes, with Lib Dem Councillors more cautions on both fronts, and objecting in principle to the stratospheric 88% rise in visitor permits.
The ending of the P&R charge was agreed, which is very good news, as we have been campaigning against it within the Lib Dems since its introduction.
The on-street parking charges and residents' permits were agreed, but the 88% rise for visitors' permits has been referred back to officers for further work. The Conservatives and the Independent on the committee accepted the Lib Dem case that the rise was too high and that provision needed to be made to protect vulnerable/ elderly people.
So that is good news too: while we don't know what they will come back with, at least the massive price hike was not voted through.
We will be seeking input into the process to come up with a new plan.
The extension plan for residents' parking schemes was agreed.
This means that nearly every area in Cambridge will be consulted on residents' parking over the next year or so, whether people in those areas have expressed interest or not! At present, the Council is consulting in four areas: Newnham, Accordia, Coleridge West and Victoria. Coleridge west was going to be in the first wave, but has been delayed following evidence of strong opposition amongst residents.
As readers will know we are very concerned about the Victoria scheme and will be arranging some workshops with residents soon.
Further to previous posts, I wanted to provide an update on issues along Fen Road for residents.
Please continue to report all incidents to the police; non emergencies can be reported via their online form here: http://bit.ly/reportcrimes
There has been an increased Police presence in the area, including a van at the level crossing. CCTV was installed at one end of the road, but nothing actionable has been caught.
Discussions are ongoing with network rail about the frequency of closures of the level crossing.
I am holding a meeting on Monday evening for any residents interested in working together to try and improve things - please email me for details - email@example.com
I've had notice from various residents of incidents such as :
- A truck driving along the new cycleway
- Car wing mirrors being damaged
- Intimidation of motorists
Although there has been upsurge I should note the area is generally peaceful, but please do be careful and be alert.