Gridlock Bedford: Anger as major road projects all come at once


Bedford motorists have been reacting angrily to current and future roadworks across the Borough, saying those behind the upheaval aren’t working together enough to minimise disruption.

The flurry of frustration came to a head after we reported that Bromham Road bridge will close completely for almost a year.

Read: Bromham Road bridge to close completely for almost a year

Commenting on the Bedford Independent’s Facebook page, reader Maxine Wraith said: “Has anyone asked Bedford Borough Council Highways Department why they have allowed roadspace (sic) to be taken by both Network Rail works & the works on Manton Lane at the same time?”

Meanwhile, local businessman Stuart Runham added: “Sheer lunacy that the promised ‘improvement’ works elsewhere haven’t been completed before this starts…”

So what exactly is going on around Bedford?

Aside from the usual minor roadworks in various areas, there are three big projects causing Bedford’s road users anguish.

These include works on the A421, but the biggest concern surrounds two in the west of the town.

Manton Lane/Clapham Road

Start date: Late April (first phase)/TBC (second phase)
Expected to end: Late Autumn (first phase)/TBC (second phase)

The road works currently taking place at Manton Lane are all part of Bedford Borough Council’s £18 million Transporting Bedford 2020 plan.

They’re designed to improve the way traffic signals control traffic at the junction of Brickhill Drive/Manton Lane and will install three-way traffic lights at the junction with Bedford Modern School.

They’re also replacing the footbridge at the end of Manton Lane and will widen the road to ease the flow of traffic.

Bromham Road Bridge

Start date: 24 June
Expected to end: Spring 2020

Work around Bromham Road Bridge has been taking place since early March, with the bridge partially closed at various points so prep-work can be carried out safely.

The bridge needs to be rebuilt to make way for electric power lines that are part of the Midland Mainline upgrades.

These will electrify the line from London to Kettering and Corby.

The main issue with the closure of Bromham Road bridge, is that the diversion route sends motorists directly towards the roadworks in the Manton Lane/Clapham Road area.

And those roadworks aren’t due to finish for up to four months after Bromham Road Bridge is closed.

Read: Road works to improve Manton Lane traffic begin this week

Motorists already know the area is heavily congested and the current roadworks have made it worse while improvements are made.

Bromham Road bridge
Bromham Road bridge will be closed from 24 June and won’t reopen for almost a year.

Add to it the traffic that normally travels out of town via Bromham Road and it is easy to see why motorists are predicting a miserable few months.

However, Bedford Borough Council and Network Rail say they are taking into account each other’s priorities and they’ve tried to do as much as possible to minimise disruption.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that these planned works will overlap somewhat with Network Rail’s work on Bromham Road bridge.

“We have worked with Network Rail to minimise disruption as far as possible. We apologise to motorists for any inconvenience these will cause.”

Whereas, Network Rail said: “Unfortunately, a project on this scale [bridge demolition] does take a long time…

“We do work closely with Bedford Borough Council with regards to the impact of our work and how it is scheduled.”

We also asked Network Rail if they took other roadworks into consideration.

Manton Lane Improvement Works
Bedford Borough Council say the second phase of the works in the Manton Lane/Clapham Road area won’t start until after Bromham Road Bridge has reopened.

They did say they work closely with the council to keep them updated about the project and necessary road closures.

But, when asked specifically if they took other roadworks into consideration, they simply told us to ask Bedford Borough Council about other roadworks as, “it’s only the closure at Bromham which is to do with Network Rail.”

Bedford Borough Council told us they have little say in when Network Rail carry out their works and they have taken steps to help motorists as best they can.

“To relieve some of the pressure on road users, the Manton Lane works have been split into two phases,” a council spokesperson told us.

“This first phase is on Manton Lane itself, which is not on the diversion route for Bromham Road, and is expected to be complete by October 2019.

“The works on the Clapham Road and Bypass roundabouts will follow at a later date; after the Network Rail project is complete.”

But there is one small piece of good news.

The gas works on the Clapham Road roundabout, currently being carried out by Fulcrum Pipelines, are due to finish before Bromham Road bridge closes.

A421 users won’t escape misery

On the other side of town, motorists using the A421 won’t escape misery either, thanks to major maintenance on the Castle Mill Viaduct between Renhold and Cardington.

A421 – Castle Mill Viaduct

Start date: End of May
Expected to end: End of June

Highways England are carrying out a £400,000 project to replace a massive beam that supports the bridge that carries the A421 over the River Great Ouse.

During the road’s downtime, Highways England will also be clearing gulleys, sweeping lanes, and resurfacing the road where needed.

Meanwhile, others will be carrying out road inspections and lighting maintenance.

With the Highways England media release being copied and pasted by other media outlets, the impact has been consigned to the footnotes of their articles.

While we’re sure everyone agrees replacing bridge supports is vital, the 45,000 motorists who use the road every day will likely endure long delays due to:

  • Left hand lane closure east and west bound between Cardington to Renhold
  • Occasional Black Cat Roundabout to Elstow full carriageway closure, mostly overnight
  • Renhold westbound entry slip road closure
  • Occasional Cardington to Renhold eastbound full carriageway closure, mostly overnight
  • 40mph limit through the roadworks
Roadworks A421 Castle Mill Viaduct
Motorists using the A421 between Cardington and Renhold will be restricted to 40mph through the viaduct works.

As all these projects come to an end, we are being promised by planners that the lives of motorists will be all the better for it.

But, for now, the ongoing onslaught of roadworks across Bedford will certainly continue to test motorists’ patience.

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