Controversial Hitchin rail flyover given green light

A CONTROVERSIAL rail flyover has moved a step nearer to being built in Hitchin, after being given the green light by the transport secretary this week.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond approved the Network Rail Scheme to remove the railway bottleneck in Hitchin, creating a flyover to alleviate rail congestion.

The �62million scheme will accommodate trains on the East Coast main line between Cambridge, Peterborough and London Kings Cross, as well as the stations in between.

It means that the Wilbury Hills Road will be widened to allow lorries to safely travel down the road.

The speed limits will also be reduced, both on the Wilbury Hills Road and Stotfold Road, which joins onto it.

The decision has been met with disappointment from nearby residents, who have campaigned against the proposals, claiming that vehicles delivering building materials to the site will cause traffic congestion and impact on residential areas.

“We’re very disappointed. The secretary of state has basically thrown out 75 per cent of what the inspector had brought up,” said Alan Hinchliffe, chairman of the Hillcrest Park residents’ association.

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“We hope that, where they have said the Willbury Hills Road will be widened, they will return it back to it’s original width.

“It’s been said that the problems are outweighed by the benefits, in other words, that we don’t count.

“We knew at the beginning that our chances of winning were very slim. We don’t have the money that Network Rail does, but we hoped that the government would see sense.

“We’re going to get in touch with councillors and MPs and see if we can get a little bit of sway, to see if we can get the speed limit reverted back to normal when it’s all finished with.”

The two kilometre single track railway will be constructed on a combination of viaduct and embankment, joining the Cambridge branch line at Stotfold Road.

Works on the link is planned to start later this year, with trains predicted to be able to use the new flyover in early 2014.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) said that it was looking at the details of the secretary of state’s decision.

“The secretary of state’s decision has now been announced and we are looking at the detail of this,” said David Scholes, NHDC strategic director of planning, housing and enterprise.

“NHDC recognises the importance that the project has in terms of reducing journey times and delays because of the Hitchin junction.

“The council made its objections to various aspects of the scheme at the public inquiry in May last year and these were considered by the independent planning inspector who reported it to the secretary of state.

“We will need to work with Network Rail and its construction contractor to ensure that the numerous conditions are complied with.”

Herts County Council (HCC), which has always been in support of the project, said that it was pleased with the decision.

“We have always supported the scheme and were keen to ensure that the impact of the construction phase on local people is minimised,” said a spokesman.

“We believe that this decision does this.”

Network Rail said that the decision was great for commuters and would makes its services more reliable.

“As passenger numbers continue to rise it’s essential that we maintain investment in our rail network to provide extra capacity and support economic growth,” said Richard Lungmuss, Network Rail route director.

“The new rail link at Hitchin will bring quicker and more reliable journeys on the line to Cambridge and King’s Lynn and helping to reduce delays on the busy Easy Coast main line to Huntingdon and Peterborough.”