Questions raised over how Cambridge will cope if roads are closed
Questions have been raised about how the city will cope when there are roadworks and accidents under plans to cut access to some roads in Cambridge.
Councillors raised concerns about the plans as currently some areas can “grind to a halt” when there is disruption due to the roads already being at capacity.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership is currently consulting on its initial proposals to change the classification of roads based on the type of vehicles and traffic that they are used by in the future.
The plans propose that some residential streets which are currently used as ‘rat runs’ would be restricted to no longer allow through traffic by private motor vehicles.
At a meeting of Cambridge City Council’s south area committee on Monday (June 13), councillors representing wards in the south of the city questioned a representative from the GCP about the plans.
One issue raised was whether the roads would be able to cope with traffic when something goes wrong.
Cllr Sam Davies (Ind, Queen Edith’s) said: “Every time we have planned road works in the south of the city, or emergencies, the road network grinds to a halt because we are already running at capacity.
“I would like to understand how you envisage this system working, such that if there is an accident on one of the primary routes, the city does not entirely grind to a standstill.
“For example, the tragic accident that happened at Addenbrooke’s roundabout, even with the majority of routes in the city being open at this point, traffic was still stuck basically for about three or four hours.
“I absolutely understand the aspiration to make the changes that you want to the fabric of the city, but I am acutely conscious of the lack of resilience in the network if one element goes down.
“In particular on that I note that the proposed classification that you showed, shows one east west route, in the whole of the south of the city, which is Long Road, so I have some questions about how that would work and wonder what sort of approach you are taking to that.”
Cllr Mark Ashton (Lab, Cherry Hinton) also raised this point, stating that when there is an incident, drivers “can not get away”.
The GCP representative said they could not guarantee things would never grind to a halt, but said they are working with other teams to ensure they do a “thorough review” of how the network can be made as resilient as possible.
They said: “We are certainly working with our colleagues to see how we can provide better resilience, but at the end of the day it probably comes down to putting more resources into that, but it is clearly an issue that we need to reflect on as part of the development of this project.”
Another area of concern was whether the changes to the road classifications would actually reduce the number of people travelling in private cars, or simply lead to them using other roads instead.
Cllr Ashton said the “facts and figures” are needed to show what will happen to traffic when a road is closed, and what will happen to air pollution.
He claimed that at the moment if a road is closed the traffic goes elsewhere, and that it did not actually go down.
He said: “All we are going to do is move the air pollution from one street to someone else’s street, so we need to get facts and figures of what we are going to achieve.”
Cllr Davies said she “welcomed the thinking”, but was concerned that without any modelling of what the displacement could be, they could be putting the “cart before the horse” and potentially signing up to something with “unforeseen consequences”.
The representative from the Partnership said that this is only the initial stage of the project, which is looking to set out the “aspiration” for what the road network needs to look like in the future.
They explained that there would be a second part to the process which would look at how the transition could work, adding that there would be further consultation on this.
They said: “Once we know where we want to go, we can then start undertaking the modelling and understand each stage of the process to make sure we are clear on what needs to be done in terms of mitigating any negative aspects that come out of this.”
How will the restrictions be enforced?
Where access restrictions are proposed, Cllr Daniel Lee (Lib Dem, Queen Edith’s) asked how this would be enforced to make sure that drivers did not continue to use the roads as before.
The representative recognised that there are “some difficulties” around this, and said: “You can put up access restrictions with the right signs, but you can not always guarantee that the public will take notice”.
They explained that central government is planning to provide new regulations that would allow authorities outside of London to use more camera enforcement powers for access restrictions.
Cllr Davies asked about how speed limits were planned to be enforced, saying there had been a “mixed bag” so far in “police willingness to enforce”.
The GCP representative said they will be working closely with police as the plans move forward to “see how they respond to some of the challenges that might come out of this”.
The consultation on the new road classification ends at midday, on Monday, July 18. It is possible to access the consultation website at www.greatercambridge.org.uk/RoadClassification2022.