What is the significance of C.76?

C76 is "highway authority speak" for the road that runs along the "left bank" of the Grand Union Canal from Hemel Hempstead's magic roundabout to Abbots Langley past the former Ovaltine factory.  Between Nash Mills and Kings Langley Railway Station it runs through the westernmost edge of the St Albans parliamentary constituency, calling itself Lower Road, Railway Terrace, Primrose Hill and finally Station Road.  The names may change but it is C76 all the way.




It was never designed for current traffic levels.  Yesterday I attended a superbly organised residents' meeting led by Helen Lehrle and Angi Naylor to highlight the serious issues which need to be addressed.  The Nash Mills hall was packed and the strength of concern was absolutely clear.

In particular the railway arch taking the road under the West Coast mainline at Lower Road is wholly inadequate, designed for a horse and cart age.  Two-way traffic is maintained but only at the cost of providing no footway at all.  Children going to school, dog-walkers, old people - they all literally take their lives in their hands to walk through on the roadway.  The road twists and turns either side, the bridge arch itself is dark - and frankly drivers simply don't expect to meet pedestrians in the roadway even if they see them. 

Having seen completely scary pictures at the meeting of children huddling for the next break in the traffic to walk through, I thought it only fair that I should walk the route as well.  It was Saturday afternoon, so nothing like the traffic at peak hour during the week, and I had Helen and other campaigners with me.  I still found it an alarming experience wondering if drivers were going to see us in the dark of the underpass - at Blackpool Pleasure Beach people pay for that kind of adrenalin rush but it is frankly disgraceful that it should be a matter of fact on a residential road.

There are no easy answers.  The similarly constricted bridge at Gallows Hill beyond Kings Langley Station has alternating one-way traffic controlled by lights which has allowed the construction of a footpath through the arch.  Perhaps that is a solution for the Lower Road bridge?  Or an equivalent of a puffin crossing could be installed so that there is a regular phase of foot traffic only going through the arch?  

There are more developments planned along that stretch of road following the giant development at the Ovaltine site.  The various industrial units sited along the canal side receive ever bigger lorries.  The new college has created still more demand for parking and some pretty inconsiderate behaviour by drivers.  If the Government's plans to force 100,000 extra houses onto Hertfordshire come through, all these local roads will carry still more traffic.

Something has to be done about the C.76 - but it is simply a microcosm of the whole way that Hertfordshire's infrastructure is buckling under the pressure of over-development.

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