Monday, 4 March 2013

Traffic Lights or Roundabout?

Well - the main workshop being held Phil Jones, the consultant brought in to carry out the transport review of Morpeth, is on today. The 'Lights Out' campaign were out in force over the weekend trying to 'bounce' the study into a quick and narrow conclusion, but Phil (and election purdah) are making it quite clear that the report won't be out till after the local elections. Arguably - the yellows 'running' the Council would have come to precisely a quick and narrow decision if the blues hadn't backed the 'Lights Out' campaign so vigorously and made it a political issue.

But of course, in truth, neither a mini-roundabout nor traffic lights is really going to address the roots of the congestion issue. There is simply too much traffic crossing the Telford Bridge - and we need more fundamental solutions than a choice of traffic management options, because we are likely to have even more traffic trying to get through the bottleneck, regardless of the specific impact of the new Dark Lane supermarket and whichever operator takes over the existing supermarket. And the much vaunted Northern Bypass - due to be opened in 2016 at the very earliest - isn't going to make that much difference in my opinion. Large and heavy vehicles from the south will still need to come through Morpeth because the A1 River Viaduct won't take them. Drivers that don't use the Seaton Burn junction and dual carriageway spine road into SE Northumberland are hardly likely to drive past Morpeth and use a single carriageway bypass. And as St. George's, Northgate and Fairmoor are developed - the new bypass will become a clogged access roard - exactly the same mistake (though smaller) as building the Metro Centre and Team Valley Ind Estate along the Gateshead Western Bypass.

And - a lot of the Telford Bridge traffic is going to places in Morpeth not passing through. Morpeth relies on people coming into the town but we need them to come in on foot, by bike, by bus, using park & ride schemes, car sharing - any way that will being people in without getting congested with cars. Maybe we need more home delivery services (including the independent shops?) so people don't need cars to get their shopping home. And we certainly need to plan and locate facilities to reduce the need to cross the river. There's a lot more to it than a simply choice between roundabout and traffic lights - so I'm glad the study is a Transport Review not a Traffic Management Study. And I hope Phil is allowed to come up with some radical suggestions which will be taken seriously by the next administration of the County Council.

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