Azara Blog: The Newmarket Road area of Cambridge is a complete mess

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Date published: 2005/05/11

The Cambridge Evening News says:

One of Cambridge's busiest roads could have a much-needed facelift.

Consultants have been called in to tackle the Newmarket Road traffic nightmare.

The news is a welcome boost for residents, traders and shoppers in the area who have become increasingly frustrated with the often gridlocked road.

A preliminary study has been launched as a former Cambridge mayor has called on council traffic chiefs to act now to reduce "ridiculous" traffic congestion.

John Durrant, city councillor for the Abbey ward, is calling on Cambridgeshire County Council to bring an end to the "chaotic" situation.

Mr Durrant said: "The highways committee have allowed a situation to happen that really should not have happened and changes are needed to improve traffic flow.

Mr Durrant wants the council to look at issues such as traffic light re-adjustments and the pedestrian crossing sequences on the road, to reduce the build up of traffic and improve traffic flow.

The East Cambridge road is one of the city's busiest areas after a Tesco superstore was opened in 2002 and the recent development of the Coral Park Shopping area.

Changes were made to the layout of the road system in 2004 and since then the road has descended into chaos.

A bus lane introduced last year between River Lane and the entrance to the Tesco superstore has caused much confusion.

Drivers have been ignoring clearly-marked lane restrictions where the road has been reduced from two traffic lanes to one, and a bus lane, and it has become a dangerous flashpoint as cars change lanes erratically.

Traders in the area have also complained of losing money because of a lack of parking and the increased congestion.

Brian Stinton, Traffic Engineer for the Cambridge project, said consultants have completed small scale research into the traffic flows in Newmarket Road.

He said: "Without doubt there is something of an issue so the first thing was to look at the problem and to see what the causes of the problem were and to see if we can put them right."

They looked at "typical weekday and weekend flows" and at the layout of the roads linking the area.

"The road has got a lot of traffic on it at the moment and it is struggling to cope. With the retail parks which have opened relatively recently adding to the flow we have to find a way of altering them," he said.

Mr Stinton said depending on the results of the survey more research may be carried out.

There are two obvious sources of the problem, as mentioned in the article.

First, the council allowed the near doubling (or more) of the amount of retail capacity in the Newmarket Road area without adding any road capacity. This is because some clever consultants decided that all Cambridge retail should either be in the centre of the city, or in the Newmarket Road area, or in the Grafton Centre area (almost) connecting the two. This forces the entire world to go there to buy pretty much anything. In particular there are no major shopping areas west of the Cam, which forces all those people who live west of the river to cross it to shop, already a big bottleneck. (The city could, for example, have put a retail park in Arbury Camp next to the A14, but interested parties managed to stop that.)

Secondly instead of adding road capacity they introduced some ridiculous and wacky bus lanes on Newmarket Road which vastly reduced the road capacity, including introducing turbulence into the remaining car traffic flow. The bus lanes start and stop in the most bizarre fashion every few meters, and in some cases to turn into a retail park you need to be in the bus lane, and it's also not even obvious if the bus lanes apply all the time (they ought not to, but the Cambridge traffic planners have put no signs up indicating so one way or the other).

The Cambridge ruling elite has only itself to blame for the current situation.

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