The Board of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority has given the green light to several key recommendations from the Transport & Infrastructure Committee.
One of its priorities is the Wisbech Rail scheme where the Board approved the drawdown of £80,000 from the Medium-Term Financial Plan to develop an Options Assessment Report.
The Options Assessment Report, analysing the costs and benefits of different types of connection, would look at heavy and light rail modes, as well as other innovative initiatives, with the aim to provide improved connectivity initially operating between Wisbech and March.
The service would not depend on improvements to free up the Ely rail bottleneck. The Government has not yet made any announcement about funding for the Ely Area Capacity Enhancement scheme.
An Options Assessment Report is quicker and cheaper to produce than a complete business case and today’s vote means that plans to improve Wisbech’s transport links can move ahead, even in the face of the current uncertainty over track capacity at Ely.
Members also delegated authority to the Combined Authority’s interim Head of Transport Tim Bellamy to enter an agreement with Network Rail that will help push the project forward.
Beyond its benefit for the people of Wisbech, providing a link between Wisbech and March will help to address the issues of isolation and exclusion in the Fenland area caused by poor transport connections. In addition, such a link would help to deliver the six emerging objectives of the Combined Authority’s Local Transport and Connectivity Plan, namely productivity, connectivity, health, safety, environment, and climate.
The Board also approved drawdown of £150k of the current £500k subject-to-approval budget to enable continued development of the project to reinstate the Snailwell Loop, and slip the balance into 2023-24.
Interim Head of Transport at the Combined Authority Tim Bellamy told members that there would be no let-up in lobbying for boosting rail capacity at Ely, clearing a bottleneck that was holding back growth for the whole region.
“I continue to liaise with the all-party parliamentary group around Ely Area Capacity to promote that going forward – just so members are aware that this work is continuing and that lobbying is very active. The options were to either pause all work on Snailwell Loop to address the ongoing uncertainty around the Ely Area Capacity or to continue the work and approve the 150K drawdown of the subject-to-approval budget.”
Transforming Cities Fund
The Combined Authority Board yesterday agreed the recommended capital replacement schemes for the Transforming Cities Fund and gave the Combined Authority’s interim Head of Transport, Tim Bellamy, the authority to share the revised TCF programme with the Department for Transport in expectation that the fund will be allocated in full.
Following its transport and infrastructure committee recommendation, the Board also delegated to Mr Bellamy authority to secure a timely sign off for the Grant Funding Agreements with Cambridgeshire County Council and other delivery partners, thereby reducing any potential for delay in the programme.
Rescheduling the Transforming Cities Fund is key to the Combined Authority’s delivery of capital programme for the people and businesses of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
November’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee agreed with the revised programme and the need to continue to work closely with the Department for Transport to ensure the schemes are delivered in good time. With a deadline for the work being the end of the next financial year it was imperative that the programme was agreed by the Board.
Cllr Alex Beckett, chair of the Highways and Transport Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “We have been working with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority on a list of schemes for the government’s Transforming Cities Fund. We put forward 53 proposals across the county for the Combined Authority to consider against the criteria, and we have nine which are being recommended to the board. They will also be discussed at our Highways and Transport Committee on 6 December. If approved, we could see more countywide speed reduction measures and smaller road safety measures, including more school streets. We have put forward these schemes as they are focused on our priorities – improving safety, while tackling climate change.”
The Combined Authority also followed the recommendation of its Transport and Infrastructure Committee and approved the Outline Business Case for the A16 Norwood Improvement Project to push ahead towards the next phase.
Members also voted to keep up the project’s momentum, moving forward plans for dualling the A16 Norwood by agreeing to draw down £1.2million to push on with the Full Business Case without waiting for funding to be secured in the future for the construction stage.
The Committee had unanimously agreed to push on this key development, paving the way for crucial growth in Peterborough’s housing and business.
Through A16 improvements, the Combined Authority seeks to overcome rush-hour jams, high levels of u-turning traffic from Newborough Road, and a high accident rate.
By tackling congestion and improving journey times, the Combined Authority scheme will support Peterborough’s growth, improve biodiversity and reduce and soften the impact of a traffic hotspot on the natural surroundings.
Improving safety and routes for walking, running, scooting, wheeling, riding and cycling are also key objectives of the A16 improvement plan – contributing towards an infrastructure that will provide a viable alternative to provide a viable alternative to private car travel.
The FBC phase is expected to last about 18 months and the preferred improvements include:
• Closure of the Newborough Road junction access on to the A47 (southbound).
• Dualling A16 Norwood between Norwood development roundabout and the
A16/A47/Welland Rd roundabout.
• Partial signalisation of the A16/A47/Welland Rd roundabout (A16 approach).
• Creation of a flare to provide a third lane on the A47 westbound approach.
• Creation of a dedicated left from the A47 eastbound approach to the A16 Northbound exit.
• Realignment/reconstruction of the bridleway north of the A16/A47/Welland Rd roundabout linking the signalised crossing to Newborough Rd.
• Active travel route work from the Norwood site down Welland Rd towards the city centre.
• Landscaping including, wildflower and native tree planting.