Update on Hertfordshire County Council’s intention to permanently close 4 crossings of the A41

This note reviews the issues relating to HCC’s intention to permanently close 4 crossings of the A41 at paths NC21, 22, 71 &72 in the parish of Northchurch.

To the best of my knowledge there are no other rural Clearways built since the 1980’s in the locality with any at grade pedestrian crossing points. It is reasonable to assume that motorists do not expect to see pedestrians on a road designed for 75mph traffic, although there are pedestrian warning signs.

The original design of the bypass in the early 1990’s proposed to have no surface crossings, but introduce numerous diversions and some new paths and unmetalled county roads. At the Public Inquiry representations were made and the Inspector asked that crossings be created, as bridge construction would be uneconomic. By the time of the opening of the new road the steps had not been completed. Representations were made to the Eastern Road Construction Unit (then based at Bedford) who very reluctantly put in some steps which were not to British Standards. The long flights had no landings, no hand rails and no barrier at the carriageway. The writer recalls a very nonchalant attitude to their poor design.

In the years after opening the A41 had about 22000 – 25000 vpd. The crossings were maintained and used fairly often. By 2019 management of the road had switched to Herts CC and traffic had grown to 39000 vpd, making it very difficult to cross the road without extended delays. The maintenance of the crossings ceased, the risers on the stairways rooted away and some hand rails collapsed.

From information available the accident rate due to pedestrians is NOT significantly different from other similar dual carriageways, which only form a small proportion of all accidents on such roads.

The DfT Design Manual for roads and Bridges (TA91/05)[2005] Vol5 Section 2 on provision for Non Motorised Vehicles and Traffic shows in Chapter6 Table 6/1 that at grade crossings should NOT be provided where traffic is over 25000 vpd. At present the A41 is 56% in excess of the limit.

It is concluded that that it is not safe to keep the crossings open. It proposed that the crossing at NC21 should be replaced by a footbridge.

The following changes to the local paths network are also proposed, all within the highway boundary similar to the existing path between NC22 and NC21a, and are to be signposted on the ground and marked on maps. Although all will footpaths as a minimum, wherever possible the new paths should be granted additional permissive use for cycling and possibly horses.

  • A new path between Dennys Lane and NC21a on the north side inside the highway boundary.
  • A new path between NC21 and NC22 on the south side inside the highway boundary.
  • A new path between UMCR2 at Elliotts of London, Two Ponds Lane to Hamberlins Lane on the north side inside the highway boundary.
  • NC71 and NC72 will become short cul-de-sacs and should be deleted from the Definitive Map.
  • The longstanding DMMO application for Two Ponds Lane should be processed as soon as possible. It is noted that the Highways Dept of Herts CC have recently acknowledged that it is a Right of Way, but this needs to be regularised by the Rights of Way Dept.

Paul Coleman 24 Jun 20