Cambridge 1950: proposed Cambridge road bypasses

Cambridge 1950 home page | legal notice

All modern cities need road bypasses (or ring roads). Even early in the 20th century it was realised that Cambridge could use a northern bypass. Before the Second World War one route was proposed which was east of Madingley Hill. The authors of the 1950 report modified the route to instead go west of Madingley Hill because of the location of the American war cemetery there (the road might have spoiled the view, since the cemetery is on an east-facing slope).

The northern bypass was eventually completed in 1977 and was originally known as the A45 but is now known as the A14 for the (more important) eastern section and as the A428 for the western section. The western section of the 1950 proposal was not far off the eventual route but the middle section is north of that shown (which is approximately where King's Hedges Road ended up) and the bypass extends eastwards towards Newmarket and beyond, rather than connecting southwards towards Newmarket Road. (There also have been many other proposals over the years to build that section of road, in order to connect Milton Road to Newmarket Road via Ditton Meadows. The section south of Newmarket Road was built, and is called Barnwell Road.)

In 1950 there was deemed little economic reason to build the northern bypass but the authors already saw then that it would probably eventually be needed. With hindsight the main economic reason for building it turned out to be the Felixstowe docks (one of the only non-unionised British docks in the 1970s, hence one of the most profitable), and later the Cambridge Science Park, located off Milton Road right next to the A14. (As it happens, Trinity College owns some of the land containing the Felixstowe docks and most of the land of the Cambridge Science Park: rent from these provided the foundation for much of its current wealth.)

The pre-war proposal for the western bypass is not far off the eventual route of the M11 motorway, which opened in 1980. The main difference is that instead of cutting through Grantchester village and ending in Trumpington it stays west of Grantchester and continues southwards to London. North of Madingley Road the M11 continues along much the same route as the original pre-war proposal for the northern bypass (it is cut into the earth near Madingley, and so does not spoil the view from the cemetery, but it is definitely audible, so in some sense has spoiled the atmosphere).

Although the A45 and M11 were completed within a few years of each other and were connecting to an existing road (the A604, now called the A14), the (lack of) design of the interchanges means this is a textbook example of how not to build an integrated road network (there are many other examples of awful design up the A14 towards Huntingdon, which is one reason why it is known locally as the "road from hell").

In the 1950 report the authors also proposed a partial southern bypass from the A10 in Trumpington to Hills Road near the Addenbrookes Hospital site (which did not exist in 1950). Similar proposals are still being made today (one of the few roads actually being advocated by local transport planners).

Cambridge 1950 home page | legal notice