Hours left to object to Mill Road Bridge works
A public meeting to inform residents and traders about a proposed closure of Mill Road Bridge is taking place tonight - but this is hours before the chance to comment on the planning application closes
Residents have just hours left to raise objections to planned changes to a railway arch that will see Mill Road Bridge closed for two months.
The public meeting to discuss the plan is being held just 24 hours before the final council decision is due to be made, leaving little time for residents to respond.
Govia Thameslink pulled out of a meeting earlier this month to discuss the scheme. They said this was because the time slot was not long enough. Kevin Parker, a spokesperson for Govia Thameslink, said: “We are not against having public meetings we are happy to meet with local businesses and local people.”
The decision to close the bridge will hang on whether Govia Thameslink’s plan to build an access track to a train wash underneath one of the arches is approved by the city council on Friday (November 2).
Cambridge Independent was invited by the train company to look at their plans which they say will require Mill Road Bridge to be closed for two months next year.
We saw blueprints of plans to widen the arch underneath the bridge so that a track can be laid in the depot for extra-long 12 car trains to to reach a washing and servicing area.
Without this track, Govia Thameslink claims, washing and servicing of the train stock will slow down the timetable for passenger trains on the nearby track.
GTR project manager Bethany Fellowes-Prynne said: “People want more frequent trains and we are supplying them but to have more frequent trains we need to be able to stable them and service them.”
If the plan to remodel the bridge to widen the arch underneath were not approved, Ms Fellowes-Prynne said: “We would still get our full stabling (for the trains) but we wouldn’t be able to wash them and get the flow and therefore would congest the main line.
“Coming off cambridge station and into our yard you only have one route. So if we ever wanted to move trains from here to here (points to either side of the bridge) you would only have one route.”
Meanwhile, Govia Thameslink is calling a joint public meeting with Network Rail tomorrow (Thursday, November 1) at the Double Tree Hilton at 6pm, just one day before the council decision, to explain the need for the works.
Ms Fellowes-Prynne said the planning application for changes to Mill Road bridge had currently received no objections from the public. The plans have been with the council for more than eight weeks. A separate application to close the bridge will be submitted in mid November.
Mill Road Traders’ Association spokesperson, Abdul Arian, said: “The meeting has been called at very short notice and doesn’t give us time to understand the application. It’s not very transparent. Traders have well known objections to the closure, but will the council be taking into consideration things like how children at St Matthews School will travel there every morning if the bridge is closed?”
Ms Fellowes-Prynne explained the closure was “in the best interests of the public. It has been looked into and we have tried to maintain pedestrians on it but we don’t think it is safe.”
Depot manager Paul Marshall added: “The problem is we would have to lift things over with a crane on each side to put the concrete sections in.”
A spokesperson for the county council, which is the highways authority, said they would not have any input into traffic arrangements until the application had been approved by the city council.
When asked why Govia Thameslink had not sited their train wash and servicing area at Cambridge North station, where there is plenty of space, rather than in the city centre where the bridge has to be closed, a spokesperson responded: “Cambridge station is an established regional stabling facility and in order to deliver the extended benefits of the government sponsored £7.5 Billion Thameslink Programme our proposed works will extend
the current rail infrastructure to ensure that more services can run on the Network. This will be a benefit to the local and wider economy.”
Ms Fellowes-Prynne admitted no traffic survey work had been done yet as part of their planning application. But a spokesperson for Govia Thameslink added: “any relevant surveys and research will be carried out and reported within the agreed timelines and planning process requirements.”
Govia Thameslink spokesperson Kev Parker said: “This brings home the bacon for Cambridge. Eventually you will get to the point where you have 24 trains an hour through the core of London and this is a key part of it. It’s a 21st century railway.”
City council planning application reference: 18/1372/CAP18 | Application for Prior Approval