Like many villages we have a weight restriction in place to stop HGV vehicles from coming through. Of course and as is the case in other villages there will always be the odd driver that doesn’t notice the signs or is unfamiliar with the local roads and finds themselves breaking the law and driving through a weight restricted area.
The problem we have, however, is that it isn’t the odd few: it's actually quite a lot. It's quite a lot because as we’ve already covered, we have become the natural link road through to several key growth areas (including DIRFT and Daventry) as a result of failures to properly address traffic issues elsewhere (the A14 Catthorpe Interchange for instance). In some respects you have to feel for the drivers of these trucks as many of them (travelling from Europe) are completely taken by surprise when trundling down the A14 from the ports at Felixstowe on route to DIRFT their sat-navs start indicating for them to leave the A14 at junction 1 and continue along local roads (it's an accepted fact that many HGV drivers are using sat-navs originally designed for cars and therefore don’t have weight restrictions flagged as no entry!). Of course this isn’t always the case, and as can be seen from the pictures, there are just as many home grown drivers and more importantly businesses that are clearly not providing clear enough instructions for their drivers who are breaking the law whether they know it or not.
If the law was in place just to deter HGVs (because for villagers living right next to the road, having a massive truck shaking it to the foundations is unpleasant), that would be reason enough, but the fact is the road going through Cold Ashby can't accommodate them as it's simply not big enough.
Look closely at the picture to the right with the truck in it from a well-known road haulier...
This was a Saturday afternoon at around 2.00pm, not a busy traffic day in the village you might think, but as often happens there was a sudden influx of traffic to coincide with the truck trying to manoeuvre around “Cemetery Corner” at the end of Main Street en-route to the Naseby crossroads. This is a very tight left hander and to get around it in anything larger than a van you literally have to get right over to the other side of the road to give yourself a fighting chance of making it around without crashing into the cemetery wall. If vehicles happen to be coming the other way or already stopped on the corner waiting for oncoming traffic to negotiate Main Street (see our section on Main Street!!) then simply taking this approach isn’t possible. At this point we often have gridlock: vehicles can't go back or forwards and often the only way out (or so it appears) is for the truck to turn right and into Church Lane, as was the case here. Unfortunately once onto Church Lane it quickly becomes apparent to drivers that this wasn’t such a good idea and that the only way out now is in fact to reverse back out onto Main Street (when a gap in the traffic allows) and go back to negotiating Cemetery Corner.
Fortunately some helpful locals (who were in the pub) helped out and after a frantic 30 mins of manoeuvring, the truck was on its way. However this was after it had already knocked a chunk out of the wall and damage was sustained to the side of the truck.
Sadly this isn’t an isolated event and as you will see from the picture, the cemetery wall is now protected by a specially constructed high curb which is looking pretty battered by damage caused in other similar incidence. In fact the curb was constructed following one afternoon when an overweight truck took the entire wall with them whilst trying to negotiate the corner! Sad also is the fact that generally this happens not at 2.00pm on a Saturday afternoon but more often 2.00am on a weekday morning.
Another HGV struggles to take Cemetery Corner!
Reversing back up the road is the only option but clearly very dangerous.
Gridlock on Main Street...the perfect storm as two overweight trucks meet and have no-where to go! What the picture doesn't show is the build up of traffic at either end of Main Street essentially stopping either truck from reversing.
Fortunately a local resident directed the traffic and everyone got home before nightfall!
Our special thanks go to Ted Thompson who has kindly provided both of the above cuttings. Ted is a senior resident of Cold Ashby and the spokesman who represented Cold Ashby at the A14 inquiry as noted in the cutting.
We're sure that Ted, like us, Is disappointed that despite his hard work to secure a weight restriction for the village that we continue to be blighted by so many overweight trucks flouting the law.
The answer is simple-quite legitimately HGVs need to travel East and West on roads that are fit for purpose. If there are no obvious fit for purpose routes, it stands to reason that unfit ones are going to be used instead which is exactly what ours is.
Please remember that our road is a classified unnumbered road that will be of lower significance than a B road and be of primarily local importance, plus it has a corner that HGVs find very difficult to negotiate!
In the short term just providing clearer signage on the A14 and the M1 would be a start. If the official route is that traffic should be using Jct1 on the M6 to do a U-turn to go south on the M1 or East on the A14 then quite obviously this should properly signposted. If you're a truck driver reading this we would really appreciate it if this would be the route you choose next time. Even if it looks longer, in reality it could end up saving you a lot of time and stress and potentially even avoiding a fine (Nothants Police have trialled a fixed ANPR system in Cold Ashby for this reason).
Catthorpe interchange upgrade
In the longer term, adding the originally planned all-access junction onto the Catthorpe Interchange between the A14 and the M1 south would certainly help, but as it took the highways authorities getting on for 20 years to deliver what we have now, the chances of them revisiting this any time soon seem unlikely.
Putting a bypass around Cold Ashby seems to be the logical choice. Not just because we already have a problem, but moreover because the problem is set to get much, much worse and that also in providing the scheme, it offers the clear solution to the other problems highlighted in these pages.
Failure to tackle this problem will not only cause frustration to the travelling public and the people living in the village, but ultimately it can only be harming economic prosperity and the success of developments like DIRFT.
Just as a foot note to this section, and specifically when considering access to and from the M1 and DIRFT, closer inspection of the route between the them and the A14 reveals that Cold Ashby is the only village that vehicles have to travel through as both West Haddon and Crick already have a bypass!!