Wisbech: A town in splendid isolation.

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Without either shame or embarrassment there continue to be occasional “consultation” on public transport, even encouragement to make more use of it, despite there being none to be had.  A minimal bus service which barely meets “peak” demand and offers nothing of a meaningful night time or weekend provision either to or around Wisbech.  Despite a decent number of cyclists – and I would venture a significant potential for many more – there is still an absence of a cycle network, and also any encouragement for safe and enjoyable walking.  Over recent years some political noises about pavement parking and speeding in pedestrian areas but still the Tories oppose 20mph limits and have failed to offer any alternative.  At the same time car journey times have increased, and the additional retail parks – without junction improvements – has added to both congestion and risk to all road users.

Despite the noises being made in the run up to the 2015 election it would seem again to be the truth that Wisbech (and presumably by association, if not consequence, all the market towns of The Fens) is not worthy of infrastructure investment both promised and inferred.  My assessment remains this as much about the lack of innovative thinking and dampened ambition by the majority of local politicians as it is due to the dominant ideology of reliance on corporate plans and capital to fund growth.  The only public investment seemingly being made in support of projects derived from large enterprise – definitely neither needs of community or pursuit of any social or environmental agenda https://deanlreeves.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/wisbechreboot-the-resurrection-of-a-market-town/

Every major route into Wisbech hits a poorly presented and planned junction which only seem to add to delays.  All of the large retail developments have been permitted with minimal planning consent regarding traffic control; these means at ASDA, Morrisons and all the development along Cromwell Road (including the new housing) there are delays to all traffic joining and leaving the main roads.  There are also necessitated turns across hatched areas which clearly should not be permitted and present all road users with additional risk.  Residents will know the notoriety of flooding to the main raods of Wisbech – it seems incredible that even new developments no improvement is obvious to the management of water.  Why the rush to complete such projects with so little thought to journey impact or the environment?

Providing the much needed transport links both to, and around our town, is not about reducing travel times – it is the foundation stone for re-imagining what the town can do, and will do in the future.  How can we – on a highway which links East Coast to the industrial heartland of the midlands and beyond be anything other than a success with all types of opportunities possible and providing supporting services viable.  However, it is the link to Cambridge which excites me the most – providing our young people with learning and job opportunities, and for the research and development companies to have easy access to our resources and businesses too.

The problems presently faced by our town is the legacy of the lazy economics, and what in the past has been considered a success in financial terms is now laid bare for all to see.  A town bereft of infrastructure, stubbornly reliant on the low-wage and low-skill employment provided by industrial agriculture, food production and supermarkets.  It so desperately needs infrastructure, both to deliver the needs of the current local population but also being able to attract the businesses and opportunities it desperately needs in pursuit of sustainable and qualitative growth.

We currently have a local road network which struggles at peak times, and during any bad weather the whole town can quickly grid-lock.  Many residential roads, simply due to their age, are very narrow and the absence of parking enforcement means that potential problems for emergency vehicle access.  Many residential roads are subject to routine anti-social driving (possibly due in some part trying to avoid queues) presenting not just hazards but absolute nuisance to people  of live there.

bikesThere is an almost zero provision for cyclists, in a town where there is enormous potential for cycle use with the number of factories for example, as well as the distance travelled by many students.  Pavements are often in poor condition and again due to failure to enforce parking often presents problems of access for pushchairs and wheelchairs, and incredibly too many parents continue to ignore safety advice outside schools – we need high kerbs and bollards.  Not just for transport but for leisure too, it would be wonderful for families to be able to safely cycle to the park amongst the many other parts of our town and nearby villages.

The loss of the rail link I have written many times previously https://deanlreeves.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/why-we-need-public-transport-and-why-we-all-should-pay-for-it/ it has no doubt proven to be a large part of the economic decline of the town.  A renewed link would bring new and more importantly different businesses to town, it would encourage young people to seek learning and career opportunities further afield, and tramwould help to free up the currently closed housing market allowing people to live outside the town to travel to work as well as perhaps a growth in people travelling to Cambridge and perhaps further.  We are only 35 miles from Cambridge but it can feel like the other side of the country; of course we should be sharing the success of this great city and more importantly the towns of the Fens making a contribution to the work, and participating in the many opportunities there.

Transport policy must be part of a wider strategy, we need to consider what businesses we want here https://deanlreeves.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/the-renaissance-starts-herewith-a-little-ambition/ where future housing will be located, and all of this within a framework of principles.  It is critical that our plans are sustainable, that they are built and maintained in harmony with the local environment and integral to the identity of our town even down to the naming of roads, parks and other developments.

At present, every development in place seems isolated, piecemeal and opportunistic and in no sense presents or promotes an identity for Wisbech https://deanlreeves.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/wisbech-do-we-still-want-to-be-a-market-town/ we can and must change this but the point I am seeking to underline is that a holistic solution is required.  Therefore, these are my Top 5 high level transport proposals, the detail can only work as part of the bigger strategic plan:

1. The re-opening of the railway to the national network (perhaps in stages but ultimately it must link to Ely, Cambridge and beyond).

2. A northern relief road to remove traffic (HGVs specifically) from A17/A47/A10 routing.  To prohibit HGVs from town centre except for deliveries.

3. To install a comprehensive cycle route linking parks, tourism points, factories and schools (and railway station!).

4. Improvements to footpaths, specifically use of kerbs and bollards to encourage appropriate parking and ensure access for all.

5. Introduction of 20mph speed limits outside of schools, medical centres and subject to consultation residential roads. https://deanlreeves.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/time-to-reclaim-the-streets-for-all/

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