Last night (April 10th) a van smashed through the closed level crossing barriers on Fen Road while trying to escape from police. It is fortunate that trains were able to stop or the consequences could have been much worse. The smash again cut off people living beyond the level crossing and shows the need for a long term solution to improve access to this area so this dangerous level crossing can be closed. Please sign our petition!
It's not just terrifying incidents like this that are a problem. Since the opening of the new station at Cambridge North the level crossing barriers have often been down for 40 minutes in every hour. Lib Dem colleagues from South Cambridgeshire District Council and I (Owen Dunn) have worked with Network Rail to reduce these delays, but as the line through Chesterton gets busier as Cambridge grows the problem will only get worse.
Let's Build a Bridge
That's why the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan for a large housing development on the Cowley Road sewage works site is an opportunity we can't let slip. Hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in the area should be made to work for us, by including plans for a permanent bridge over the railway to connect this area to the rest of Cambridge. Only then will we be able to close this dangerous level crossing.
This plan has widespread support from residents and businesses on both sides of the railway, but local Labour councillors oppose closing the crossing. Only Liberal Democrats are listening to local people's concerns.
How much better could Elizabeth Way & Chesterton Road be? How much greener? How much safer?
...and how would you do it?
PUBLIC DROP IN MEETING: 27th February 1800 – 2000, The Waterman, rear shed
In amongst changes being proposed across our area, we think Elizabeth Way and Chesterton Road are a little overlooked and unloved...we want to start talking about them now, finding out what you want to happen and how you think it can be improved, so we can campaign to get the funding needed to make the changes for the better in future.
Join us on the 27th, where we’ll show some concepts and ideas to get conversations started, and collect your views on what you want to happen. Of course, feel free to talk to us about anything else that you feel is important!
Wednesday 27th February, DROP IN anytime between 6pm - 8pm, The Waterman (in the shed at the back)
Major works are planned to replace the damaged bridge expansion joints to Elizabeth Bridge on Elizabeth Way, Cambridge over the River Cam.
The work will take place over 4 weekends:
8th to 11th March;
15th to 18th March;
22nd to 25th March
29th to 1st April 2019.
Work will commence at 8pm on the Fridays and be complete by 5am on the Mondays.
To enable the installation of the new expansion joint and the removal of the old we will install a contraflow lane system over half of the bridge. As the removal of the old joints involves some noisy concrete demolition, this will be restricted to daytimes rather than the overnight periods.
I'm enquiring about what will happen to footways, and whether access to the firing range and/or St John's ambulance will be affected.
Both Cllr Jamie Dalzell and I (Cllr Ian Manning ) are working to respond to this: https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/whitworth-house-saved-my-life-now-they-want-to-close-it-9061552/
This is a a decision driven by County Council cuts, but primarily by the results of a report into provision of this and similar types.
This report was produced based partly on the St Bail's pathway concept - https://stbasils.org.uk/how-we-help/ .
I've asked for a copy of the report, and for what consultation was done with Whitworth and/or Orwell over this.
The Level Crossing on Fen Road in Chesterton is busy and set to get ever busier. With the barriers sometimes down for lengthy periods residents and businesses on Chesterton Fen feel shut out. They deserve better. Many, including children, risk their lives daily jumping the barriers. Network Rail are doing what they can to make things better but in the long run the only thing will help is alternative road access to the homes and businesses on the far side of the level crossing, so that the crossing can be closed.
We believe the proposed redevelopment of the Cowley Road sewage works for housing is an opportunity to address this problem once and for all.
(It's also important that we all respond to the formal consultation on this new development;if you sign this petition we'll get back to you with specifics of what will be helpful to include in your consultation response!)
Sign our Petition!
The City Deal is pressing ahead with its proposals for residents' parking in East Chesterton. This means marked bays on the road in which residents and visitors will need to buy permits to park. To find out what's proposed in your street we've made the plans available by street.
We've done a lot of work with residents to customise and change City Deal parking controls recently, often in the face of Labour councillors determined to press ahead. We've created an FAQ here with information about how these parking schemes work.
The most important thing to highlight is that there will be an overall reduction in parking spaces as a result of these plans - so please consider them carefully.
East Chesterton has been divided into three zones. If you live in a zone you would be entitled to buy a permit to park in any bay in that zone. To make it a bit easier to find out what is planned for your street we have listed most of the streets in the various zones below. Most of the maps have a key in the top right, but the important thing is that double yellow lines are solid red and proposed parking bays are green rectangles.
The South Zone covers everything south of Scotland Road and west of Green End Road. Maps:
These streets are in the South Zone:
- Capstan Close
- Chapel Street
- Chesterton Road (east of Elizabeth Way)
- Church Street
- Dalton Square
- Ferry Lane
- Grayling Close
- Green End Road (odds 179-211)
- High Street (evens 8-238, odds 81-243)
- Logans Way
- Longworth Avenue
- Lynfield Lane
- Maltsters Way
- Mariners Way
- Midhurst Close
- Primary Court
- St Andrews Road
- Scotland Close
- Scotland Road (evens)
- Whytford Close
- Wilding Walk
The west zone covers everything north of Scotland Road and west of Green End Road as far as Milton Road and Elizabeth Way. Maps:
These streets are in the west zone:
- Ashfield Road
- Chesterfield Road
- Cook Close
- Dundee Close
- Edinburgh Road
- Elmfield Road
- Fraser Road
- Green End Road (odds 1-167)
- Heath House
- Inverness Close
- Kendal Way
- Kinross Road
- Laburnum Close
- Milton Road (evens 182-324)
- Oak Tree Avenue
- Pakenham Close
- Pearl Close
- Scarsdale Close
- Scotland Road (odds)
- Sherbourne Close
- Sherbourne Court
- Shirley Grove
- Southside Close
- Sterling Close
- Union Lane
- Warren Road
The east zone covers everything south/east of Green End Road and Water Lane. Maps:
It includes the following streets:
- Anglers Way
- Bourne Road
- Bramley Court
- Cam Causeway
- Cheney Way
- Enniskillen Road
- Fairbairn Road
- Fen Road
- Gainsborough Close
- Green End Road (evens)
- Green Park
- Grieve Court
- The Green
- The Grove
- Izaak Walton Way
- Laxton Way
- Lents Way
- Long Reach Road
- Maitland Avenue
- Mays Way
- Mortlock Avenue
- Moss Bank
- Nuffield Close
- Nuffield Road
- Pearmain Court
- Pippin Drive
- Ribston Way
- Russet Court
- Water Street
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.