50 mph signs set for a speedy return to river road

Sixteen Foot Bank. Christchurch. Picture: Steve Williams.

Sixteen Foot Bank. Christchurch. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A campaign has begun to restore 50mph speed limit signs put along a Fenland river road and then removed after police said the restriction couldn’t be enforced.

Investigations by the Cambs Times revealed a 50 mph limit introduced along the Sixteen Foot Drain in the late 1980s is still in force, but the signs were removed within a year of it being implemented because there was no way of policing the speed of vehicles.

Now road campaigner Graham Chappell has pressed Cambridgeshire County Council to think again and has been to the parish councils that cover the Sixteen Foot to enlist their support.

Investigations by the Cambs Times revealed a 50 mph limit introduced along the Sixteen Foot Drain in the late 1980s is still in force, but the signs were removed within a year of it being implemented because there was no way of policing the speed of vehicles.

Now road campaigner Graham Chappell has persuaded Cambridgeshire County Council to think again and has been to the parish councils that cover the Sixteen Foot to enlist their support.


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All four councils: Chatteris Town, Wimblington and Stonea, Christchurch and Manea are in favour of the speed limit signs being reinstated in a bid to cut the number of accidents along the notorious river road, which has claimed numerous lives over the years.

Only last week a driver had a lucky escape when his Ford Fiesta left the road and plunged into the river in high winds.

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The 21-year-old managed to grapple his way out of the submerged car and scramble up the riverbank to seek help. Luckily he suffered only minor injuries in the accident, which happened last Tuesday (October 21) between Bedlam Bridge and the Padgett’s Road junction at Christchurch.

Mr Chappell, Fenland Road Safety Campaign chairman, who travelled the road on the same day described how the wind coming across the Sixteen Foot was shaking his car and was “quite unnerving”.

He has fought tirelessly to get safety barriers along the Fens’ river roads since 2008 when he started the campaign in memory of schoolgirl Charlotte Walker, who died in an accident on the Sixteen Foot.

Russell Wright, clerk to Wimblington Parish Council, said members had discussed it at their recent meeting and were all in favour of the signs being put back up.

But he said enforcement was still an issue and suggested there should be average speed cameras installed similar to those in operation along the Forty Foot Drain, to ensure drivers stick to the 50 mph limit.

“It may deter a few people from driving too fast, but unless the limit is enforced there is no point. The average speed cameras have worked really well along the Forty Foot and it may be an idea to have them put along the Sixteen Foot. It may be something all the parish councils could push for together as a Local Highways Improvement scheme,” he said.

Chatteris Mayor James Carney agreed enforcement was the key. He said the town council had given the reinstatement of the speed limit signs overwhelming support but had raised the issue of policing it.

Nigel Russell, chairman of Christchurch Parish Council, believed the signs had only been up about 12 months when the speed limit was first introduced in the late 1980s.

He could not say exactly when they had been removed, but said it was done because there was no way of making sure drivers stuck to the limit.

Mr Russell said the council was pushing to have an old farm building at the Christchurch junction off the Sixteen Foot removed as that was a major problem for motorists turning right on to the river road and had been a factor in some accidents.

“My wife and I own the village shop and we collected a petition of I don’t know how many A4 pages of signatures calling for the building to be removed. It was put to a local highways panel recently and was positively received. Reducing the speed limit would also help, but it needs to be enforced,” said Mr Russell.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said: “The county council has been investigating and consulting with parish councils along the Sixteen Foot Bank about the possibility of reinstating the historic 50 mph limit, including new signage. Support has been given by Christchurch and Chatteris councils and the county council has identified funds to put in place the required signs which shoulbe done as soon as it can be programmed. This would bring the road into line with similar routes along the side of waterways, such as the Forty Foot.”

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