Meeting organised by Patrick Joyce the County Council’s Cycling Officer to discuss cycling issues in and around Ely. There were presentations and updates from Greater Anglia, Travel for Work Partnership, Sustrans, Bike It, Ely Cycling Campaign and the County Council’s Road Safety Engineering Team.
Nigel Brigham (Sustrans Regional Director Chaired), John Stanley (Sustrans Bike It Officer), Andrea Haslock (Road Safety Engineering Team for CCC), Alan Neville (Ely Station Manager), Geraint Hughes (Greater Anglia), Mark Webb (Travel for Work Partnership), Jane Thompson (ECDC), Jeremy Friend-Smith (ECDC Councillor, Ely South Ward), several members of Ely Cycling Campaign, sustrans rangers, other cyclists (approx 20 in total)
Patrick Joyce (Cycling Officer CCC) was unable to attend due a personal matter.
Nigel Brigham chaired the meeting in place of Patrick.
Update from Greater Anglia
Geraint Hughes reported on the various projects Greater Anglia is undertaking with regards to cycling across its network and Ely in particular.
Ely is in a unique position and with over a million people using the station (inc. connecting passengers) each year. The station is served by four different rail operators who need to co-ordinate any changes.
The plans for extensive improvements to cycle parking at Cambridge Station are well advanced, with new secure cycle parking to be created under a new building that will hold a hotel.
Ely was also due to get better cycle parking possibly housed in the currently derelict building in the corner of the car park. This site would also be used for the “Cycle Hub” which the CCC is promoting, which would have facilities for bike repairs, parking, bike hire and possibly retail.
Greater Anglia and its sister companies in other parts of the country (who are all owned by a Dutch rail company) are looking to create a national network of cycle hire points at stations across the country. These will be based on the Dutch OV fiets (literally translated: public transport cycling). Greater Anglia are looking at starting with 15 stations (plus Cambridge, Norwich and Colchester) and it’s likely that Ely would be included in the scheme.
There was discussion about access from the forecourt to the platforms. Alastair asked whether the side gate could be unlocked again to ease congestion through the ticket hall which at times completely blocked. Alan Neville said that the gate was now locked to reduce cycle theft from the station and that this had been very successful, with thefts dropping dramatically. Colin raised the possiblity of opening the gate at peak hours, Alan said he would look into this but didn’t currently have spare staff to monitor the gate. In the longer term there are plans to widen the entrances to the ticket hall and move the ticket counters back making the ticket hall larger. These plans have a good business case but suitable funding (within Greater Anglia) needed to be found.
The Ely North track junction is going to be upgraded which will mean more trains can use it per hour. The junction is currently a bottle neck that severely restricts the number of trains coming though Ely from the North, this is made worse with the large number of freight trains that come through Ely which is set to increase.
Geriant said that he is working on a cycling strategy document for Greater Anglia and to aid with this they are setting up a cycle forum for the whole of their network, cycling organisations and camapign groups from across the region would be invited to attend. Ely Cycling Campaign has been invited to take part. The consultation process will enable groups to propose ideas for both short and long term solutions.
Christine asked if there were plans to improve space provided on the trains for bikes and Geraint said there were no plans. The main reason being was that they are under pressure to get more passengers on the trains so dedicating spaces that take away seats is not their priority. There are clearly instructions from central government to the train companies to maximise passenger numbers and improve links with better cycle hire, public transport etc. Christine added that off peak trains in Holland have a bike parking area fit for approximately 10 bikes which would go down better with other passengers as the passengers aren’t keen on sharing carriages with bikes like we currently have. Geraint Hughes said it was very unlikely this would be taken into consideration but there’s no harm in putting this in the up-coming consultation. Geraint mentioned that although there are currently no restrictions on full-sized bikes on trains from Ely this may need to change in the future. Folding bikes (like Bromptons) would continue to be allowed on all trains even if full sized bikes were barred from some.
Update from the Travel for Work Partnership
Mark Webb from the Travel for Work Partnership spoke reiterating what he said last time about encouraging businesses to get their employees to use more sustainable travel options. There are a growing number of schemes including schools, public and private sector businesses in the area. If anyone works somewhere that doesn’t yet have the Travel to Work Partnership, they should contact Mark as there is plenty of scope to increase participants.
Sustrans Bike It Scheme
John Stanley spoke about the Bike It scheme run by Sustrans. He is hoping to expand the scheme that currently runs in schools in St Neots and Cambridge by recruiting primarily primary schools in the Ely area. The scheme runs courses with the pupils to learn basic bike maintenance and road safety. More info at Bike It in Cambridgeshire
Ely Cycling Campaign
Andy Shaw from the campaign spoke about our projects;
- 20’s plenty
- better signage
- increased cycle parking
- Back Hill to station route.
There followed a discussion about Back Hill – the campaign is pushing short term for signs and long term for a dedicated route from the top of Back Hill all the way to the station. The route would involve making Back Hill one-way (uphill) to motor traffic. The discussion widened out to a more complete one-way system (down Fore Hill one way going down and along Broad Street).
Points were raised regarding that and the 20’s plenty project. Andrea Haslock mentioned that one problem that arises with one-way systems is cars start to travel faster as there is less to avoid, like cars coming in the opposite direction, making it necessary to put in chicanes, traffic calming and more obstacles which then bumps up the cost; making it an expensive operation. 20’s plenty is gathering momentum on the Shape Your Place website.
There was some confusion about where the funding for the signs on Broad Street and Station Road would come from. Jane Thompson thought that perhaps Nick Ball had assumed he could use some of the S106 siansbury’s money.
Ely Crossing (the level crossing and underpass on the A142)
Nigel Brigham talked about the plans being given the go ahead for the A142 by-pass and said that Sustrans are pushing for the underpass on the current A142 to be closed to motor traffic and used only for bikes and pedestrians. Geriant pointed out that closing the level crossing was a necessary part of the by-pass project to free up the expenditure of maintainng it for Network Rail.
Andy Shaw mentioned that making the underpass more pedestrian friendly might be of interest to Kings School as they currently have to bus their pupils down to their playing fields.
Potentially the by-pass would mean that with no level crossing or route out to the south by the Station, the area would be significantly quieter traffic wise. Some residents may object to this on many grounds ranging from it being radically different to what they’ve done all their life to not wanting to go via the new by-pass or Prickwillow to get from the eastern side of Ely to Soham.
It is expected that Tescos will want to move to the new roundabout and business park planned where the new road would join the current A142 on Angel Drove.
If Tescos were to move there would be an opportunity to re-develop the area in front of the station, this is refered to as the “Station Gateway” by ECDC. This would give better access to the staion, better parking, public transport access, cycle parking, cycle hire and so on. The idea is this area will become a pleasant and prosperous place to shop, hang out by the river and for visitors to make their way on foot, cycle or bus up to the city centre and Cathedral without having to cross busy roads.
Other Highways Issues
The issues of the cobbles on Silver Street and the area at the top of Back Hill were brought up by several attendees. The cobbles are uneven and the filling between them has eroded leaving tyre size gaps which have caused damage to wheels and even accidents. Andrea Haslock from CCC said she would take an interest and promised to look into the issue.
She also said that she welcomes suggestions as to what to do about the Back Hill junction and any other problem areas we might help her to identify and improve.
All in all it was a very positive meeting. It was useful and encouraging to meet with others who are also working for better cycling provisions for Ely as well as those who have some influence in making things happen on the ground.