The argument for dualling the A10 from Ely is that it requires more capacity to cope with population growth; that slow commute times put fewer jobs within commuting distance and reduce economic productivity (though, for most people, it is family and social time that is curtailed).
Outline planning consent is being sought for 6,500 new homes on the site of Waterbeach Barracks, right next to the A10. And the Local Plan envisages a further 12,500 homes being added later. Add this to the 18,000 vehicles/day that already use the A10 and it’s easy to see why dualling looks like the answer.
But capacity doesn’t depend only on the number of lanes: junctions are a limiting factor. The Milton Interchange and other junctions down Milton Road are already at capacity, so feeding twice as many vehicles into the network would just mean twice as many cars tail back along the A10 past Milton.
Fortunately there’s another transport option: the railway line that runs close to the A10 offers fast and reliable journey times to Cambridge, Stansted Airport and London. The maximum theoretical benefit of dualling (1,300 extra vehicles/hour) is the same as running an extra two 12-car trains/hour.
So, rather than spending £20m or so on dualling 19km of the A10, local authorities should invest in increasing capacity and improving access to the railway.
Fixing Ely North rail junction is the first priority. That will enable more passenger and freight trains to run, relieving pressure on the A14 as well as the A10.
Secondly, improve access to the railway at Waterbeach by building a new station to the north, with longer platforms, a small car park, and protected cycle/walking links to the village, Waterbeach Barracks and Cambridge Research Park. A shuttle bus, connecting with trains, could serve all three of those and Landbeach.
Thirdly, build a new bus link from Milton Park & Ride via the ‘spare’ A14 underpass behind Cambridge Regional College. This would allow X9 and P&R buses to bypass the A14, Cowley Rd and Cowley Park junctions.
These investments would be future-proof, unlike dualling the A10.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 5 April 2017.