Central to my agenda as Mayor is my desire to connect the north of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough to the south. This will only happen if we’re prepared to overhaul our transport infrastructure, both road and rail. Arguably the most significant component of this will be extending the M11 northwards from the Cambridge area to join the A47 creating thereby a Peterborough-Cambridge-London corridor.
Not only would the extension of the M11 northwards slash north/south journey times in the area I represent but the new transport corridor would also open up the possibility of significant amounts of new housing. I’ve previously written about the ways in which the M11 extension might be funded. The use of a Land Value Cap is a way of funding the extension that could lead to a proliferation of new affordable housing along the corridor. The benefits of the M11 extension to the Greater Cambridge economy and to communities in the north of the county have been much discussed, as has the potential for the extension to relieve congestion on other major A roads in the area.
However, what has not really been considered are the positive implications of the M11 extension for the residents of Huntingdonshire. Whilst many have pointed out that an extension of the M11 could ease congestion on the A10, little consideration has been given to the significant potential that the extension of the M11 could offer in terms of easing congestion on the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge. In fact, in my view, the extension of the M11 would likely have a far more significant impact on alleviating congestion on the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge than it would on the A10 between King’s Lynn and Cambridge.
Clearly it is early days regarding plans for the extension but it is highly likely that, if the extension were to go ahead, the new motorway would kiss the eastern border of Huntingdonshire, providing many Hunts residents in places such as Ramsey, Warboys and Earith with an alternate route into Cambridge. With the increase in housing we’re likely to see associated with development at Alconbury and elsewhere in order to tackle the housing crisis we currently face, it is likely that the current upgrade to the A14 will be insufficient in the long term. Other alternatives to getting into Cambridge are needed. Undoubtedly some of these alternatives will not be road based but, in my view, some will have to be.
Though there will be some who currently use the A10 as their principal means of getting into Cambridge who would no doubt use a new M11 extension, for example in places such as Haddenham; my view is that there would not be a significant enough number of drivers using the M11 extension to have a major impact on relieving congestion along the A10. There would be a far greater impact on congestion on the A14.
The residents of Huntingdonshire therefore have far more reason to show an interest and be supportive of a possible M11 extension than may initially seem to be case. It would provide a viable alternative for getting into Cambridge which would likely lead to a significant easing of congestion on the A14. At the same time the new corridor could provide thousands of homes for young people desperate to get onto the housing ladder in the area. Not to mention the opportunities for new business premises.
The plan to extend the M11 is an ambitious one and it will take bold and imaginative thinking to come up with the funding package necessary to make the extension possible. However, my plan has always been to be an ambitious Mayor and I can see no reason why a motorway that was originally meant to go all the way up to the Humber cannot become the new transport spine for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough. The M11 extension would open up the north of the county to new inward investment and to the booming jobs market of Greater Cambridge for those right across the county and would offer the possibility of thousands of new homes.