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Hundreds sign petition against bridge closure

By Alex Spencer

Traders and residents attended a public meeting about the closure of Mill Road Bridge
Traders and residents attended a public meeting about the closure of Mill Road Bridge

More than 300 people have signed a petition to keep a city bridge open to pedestrians if it is closed to traffic next year for works to the railway depot beneath.

Mill Rd Traders Association members against the closure of Mill Rd, from left Abdul Arain, Piero, Pamela Wesson and Shapour Meftah. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mill Rd Traders Association members against the closure of Mill Rd, from left Abdul Arain, Piero, Pamela Wesson and Shapour Meftah. Picture: Keith Heppell

The petition was set up by Romsey Ward Labour Group following a public meeting at which rail companies heard from local residents about their opposition to plans to close Mill Road Bridge.

Around 100 local residents attended the meeting last Thursday (November 1) held by representatives from Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway. It was a forum to discuss a planned eight week closure of Mill Road Bridge starting in May next year so that GTR can build extra access for trains to their servicing and train washing areas.

Cllr Dave Baigent, who organised the petition, said: “I think Govia Thameslink and Network rail are beginning to understand the strength of feeling local people have about this.

“They can’t just cut a bridge in half in the middle of a city and think that nobody is going to be concerned about that. I think the rail people heard what was being said and they will go back to the drawing board.”

He has requested that the planning committee at Cambridge City Council looks at Govia Thameslink’s application to an access staircase to the bridge. A side effect of this will be that campaigners have more time to talk with developers.

At the meeting, residents expressed fears that the closure would separate the two areas of Romsey and Petersfield, which lie either side of the bridge. And they demanded that at least pedestrian access be maintained over the bridge to allow children to continue walking to school, local people to visit shops and residents to be able to reach vital services such as GP surgeries.

Richard Wood, Treasurer of Mill Road Bridges Community Group said: We have had quite a huge turn out at somewhere that is remote from Mill Road with less than seven days notice that shows the level of concern and anger about the lack of consultation.

If the whole bridge has to be closed for sound engineering and safety reasons it is totally unacceptable that pedestrians and cyclists should be made to detour via Carter cycle bridge. It will mean that cafes, restaurants and pubs in short walking distance of people from one side of the bridge who patronise on the other will now be a long walk away. Those people will lose trade and could fold within two months.”

Meanwhile campaigners for CamCycle backed calls for pedestrian and cycle access across the bridge and suggested there could be a ‘legacy’ investment by developers to widen the bridge and make it safer for cyclists.

Camcycle’s Executive Director and Romsey resident, Roxanne De Beaux, said, “Camcycle supports improvement works to the bridge to expand train services and enable further development of the Chisholm Trail. However any disruption as a result of this work must be offset by adequate mitigation of the impact on people walking or cycling. The proposed diversions will place an excessive burden on pedestrians and fail to recognise that people walking and cycling over the bridge are vital to local trade. We want to see imaginative ideas from local councillors to encourage activity on the street during the closure and would like to see an appropriate investment in this from Network Rail.”

Representatives from GTR and Network Rail told the meeting “nothing was a done deal” in terms of the proposals for Mill Road bridge and that they would look into the possibility of providing pedestrian access and consider moving the work to August, when roads are less busy and traders say business is quiet.

Petersfield Councillor Kevin Belncowe said: “Picking the time of year is highly relevant in cambridge. Summer holiday time may be a sensible time to look at this.”

But he added: “Network rail and GTR have some work to do to convince people that this can work. They need to answer the county council on how it will work without gridlocking Mill Road and surrounding roads as well.”


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