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.
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.
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!
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.
It has emerged that the governors of Shirley School on Nuffield Road were not properly consulted about Labour's revised plans for cycling on Nuffield Road. The Liberal Democrats had won public support for the City Deal providing a proper segregated cycle path but Labour councillors vetoed that in favour of dangerous on-road advisory lanes.
Speaking at the North Area Committee a parent at the school criticised the new plans as not providing safe routes to schools for children, and said that parents and governors at the school were not properly consulted. Neither, apparently, was the Nuffield Road Medical Centre next door. You can watch the parent's question and Labour councillors' replies in Richard Taylor's video:
Parent governor of the Shirley School, Dr Mark Abbas, has written a letter in support of the original proposals for segregated lanes which was delivered to the meeting.
The Nuffield Road cycle lane plans are dangerously bad. We need to do much better to get more kids and adults cycling to school. Paint on the road doesn't make anyone safer, won't encourage anyone to cycle, and won't reduce the congestion on the roads around the school. The City Council and Greater Cambridge Partnership need to look again, work with residents and people who use the road, and provide a safe, segregated, off-road cycle path.
In tandem with this, we need to get goods traffic off Nuffield Road by giving access to the industrial estate from Milton Road via the busway spur. Please sign our petition!
On Thursday 8th February, the County Council's Economy and Environment Committee will consider a study into the future of the A10 corridor: item 7 on this agenda . Along with fellow Lib Dem Councillors I've submitted a response to it.
In addition to the joint response I've stated that the corridor should include segregated cycleways.
It is vital to prioritise the provision of accessible, affordable, attractive, convenient and reliable public transport, with smart ticketing, to encourage modal shift and minimise congestion in the A10 corridor.
High quality mass public transport needs to be at the heart of thinking about the A10 corridor, for economic, health and wellbeing, and environmental reasons.
- The popularity of the guided bus, whatever issues remain outstanding, is
proof of concept that a reliable, accessible public transport system can
achieve significant modal shift. An effective high quality public transport
system with sufficient capacity and interchanges along the route is
- Drivers are not keen to change to a different mode of transport once they
have set out, unless it is significantly cheaper, more convenient and more
attractive than to continue by car. It is important to enable travellers to
start their public transport journey as close to home as possible.
- For many residents, taking the bus to Cambridge is more expensive than
taking the car. Public transport needs to be affordable, and ticketing
needs to be smart and straightforward with cashless alternatives even for
- The growth of employment at locations including Lancaster Way business
park, Ely leisure village and Waterbeach will require attractive public
transport options for people travelling to work other than in Cambridge.
Any proposal for the A10 corridor should maintain connectivity between villages
east and west of the A10, including Chittering, Landbeach, Waterbeach and
Milton, whilst inhibiting rat-running. The Stagecoach 9 bus service which
currently serves these villages on its route between Ely and Cambridge has been
reduced in recent months.
The exact route of the corridor will raise significant questions, including potentially the compulsory purchase of properties fronting the A10 between Chittering and the A14, or the selection of a different alignment across county farms between Landbeach and Cottenham. The choice of route could affect the Amey waste management site, the Cambridge Research Park, Car Dyke historic
monument and other significant features along the corridor.
Ridgeons on Nuffield Road have applied for planning permission to expand the buildings on their site and to extend their opening hours. Nuffield Road is currently one of the major cycle and pedestrian access routes to Cambridge North, and will be a key access point to the Chisholm Trail. Along with its junior school, housing for the elderly, and a doctor's surgery, this makes it unsuitable as access to an industrial estate.
In 2012 the Lib Dems made sure the busway route to the new station was a road, anticipating a future chance to allow road access to the industrial estate.
Growing Ridgeons will attract more traffic including heavy goods vehicles along Green End Road and Nuffield Road, so we propose:
- opening the section of the busway between Milton Road and Nuffield Close to traffic to serve the Trinity Hall Farm estate and Ridgeons.
- closing Nuffield Road off to motor vehicles on the corner, past the entrance to the allotments
Any planning permission granted to Ridgeons to expand their Nuffield Road site should have a condition that they contribute to this scheme.
If unsuccessful, we demand that the City Deal fund this as a measure to reduce the congestion caused by delivery traffic to the industrial estate.
PS You might also want to read about Labour's plans for dangerous cycle lanes along Nuffield Road.
Sign our Petition!