Chisholm Trail cost spirals to £14.3m - and lizards mean Newmarket Road work is delayed
Lizards could prolong disruption on Newmarket Road as work to bring a cycle super highway to Cambridge looks set to cost far more than originally anticipated.
The Chisholm Trail is to be a segregated bike route giving cyclists a car-free “superhighway” through Cambridge, allowing them to go from the new railway station at Cambridge North straight through, via a new bridge spanning the Cam, and an underpass beneath Newmarket Road, to the city centre and the central station.
The work to build the Newmarket Road underpass had been anticipated to be finished over a bank holiday weekend, with transport bosses hoping to minimise disruption. The plan had been to build a “box culvert” which could be slid under the road quickly.
Now, however, it looks like engineers will need to think again, as the presence of lizards in the area around Barnwell Lakes means the original plan will need to be abandoned as it is too disruptive to the local wildlife.
Yesterday (February 27), the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s joint assembly met in Cambridge.
A report which went before the joint assembly noted: “Due to ecological reasons the space available at Barnwell Lakes on the south side of Newmarket Road is more limited than first believed.
“This means it is not possible to construct the underpass as originally planned by constructing it in Barnwell Lakes and then moving it into place using self-propelled modular transporters. The underpass has now been redesigned so that it can be constructed in less space at Barnwell Lakes using pre cast concrete units.”
Cycling team leader Mike Davies told the assembly the “ecological reasons” cited in the report referred to the “presence of lizards” in the area which meant engineers would have a lot less space to work with to avoid disturbing the reptiles.
Mr Davies said the concrete sections would now need to be lifted in by crane, which will increase the time Newmarket Road will be closed for while the work is done. He said, however, that it would be possible to only shut one lane at a time while the work is progressing, allowing some reduced traffic movement.
The report also notes that, while the original financial allocation for the scheme agreed in 2015 was £8.4million, the project is now estimated to cost £14.3million. The GCP board will be asked to note the progress made so far in phase one, and will also be asked to approve increasing the budget to match the final estimates.
The assembly heard the construction of the underpass is anticipated to take place in the autumn this year, and that Newmarket Road will be shut for “several days” while work is carried out. Work on the second phase of the route is expected to begin during the summer.
A cycle-themed cafe is also planned for the green belt land off Newmarket Road, near Barnwell Lake.
The whole route is still anticipated to be fully open and ready to use in 2022.