Monday 9 December 2019

Today: a Once-in-a-Lifetime Event

A journey I make frequently takes me all the way up the M11, then on via the A14 to the A1(M) northwards.  For several years now this has been heavily disrupted by a substantial road-building project designed  (a) to make the A14 three lanes wide for the whole Cambridge-Brampton stretch;  (b) to by-pass Huntingdon instead of over-passing it (the big flyover section there is badly in need of repair, and is only two lanes wide anyway); and  (c) to eliminate the west-of-Huntingdon dog-leg, where the westbound A14 becomes a route rather than a road, encompassing two ugly junctions and significant delays before it carries on past Brampton to Kettering and points west (map here).

The scale of this upgrade is pretty big, starting at Cambridge with some very large and complex new junctions to allow the M11, A14 and several local A-roads to merge effectively; and ending a little to the west of the Brampton new cross-over of the A1(M), with new river and rail bridges as well as the many new junctions.  On Saturday morning, heading north-and-west, we were forced to detour because, not for the first time, the A14 was entirely closed by these works.  I was resigned to a couple more years of this stuff.


Returning south-and-east this morning, to our amazement the entirely new stretch of road is now open (and a very fine road it is, too).  So what? - you ask.  So, ... it's opened one whole year ahead of schedule!

Not, I think, an everyday occurrence in the annals of UK civil engineering.  A modest celebration is in order.


History Corner:   I cannot quickly find online evidence for this; but the opening of the A14 as a direct trunk-road from the east-coast docks to the Midlands in 1982 was part of the first Thatcher government's meticulous planning for what became the Miners Strike of 1984-85.  Until the completion of this route (and various other preparations) was complete, the long-anticipated strike could not be properly fought.  And so the government climbed down from the first confrontation in 1981-82, awaiting the more propitious conditions of 1984.  Fancy that: a government acting with genuine strategic intent ...


Raedwald said...

Ah , that would be the Euroroute E24
(tube style map at )

I have a theory that the DfT, HA and local authorities have been prioritising Euro route road schemes. Any further evidence welcome ...

Matt said...

What alignment of the stars lead to it opening early? Can't be the government negotiating a decent contract can it?

Nick Drew said...

A whole year early is almost beyond belief: either an intelligent change of plan, OR a bent bonus scheme ... (the very opposite of a decent contract!)

Anonymous said...

It's the other option - spin. They've opened a long offline completed section with a big PR fanfare, there is plenty of work to do to finish the remainder (which does seem to be on time). It led to the predictable result of opening three new lanes which then turns into a two and then single lane 40mph limit through the ongoing works near Cambridge. I think the tailback on the new road was clocked at 11 miles, plus massive congestion on the local road network. Shame really as it is good news and they had a Big Name lined up to snip the ribbon and open it - couldn't though due to purdah, and couldn't move the date as it had been announced. So they could have waited a bit longer and finished a bit more and avoided negative backlash locally this week.