Travel Ipswich branded “disaster” as calls made for traffic nightmare to be solved by Christmas
PUBLISHED: 13:30 19 November 2014 | UPDATED: 13:30 19 November 2014
With the Christmas season now in full swing there are growing concerns that traffic problems around the town centre could drive shoppers away from Ipswich town centre.
Work on the Travel Ipswich programme, which was designed to make it easier to get around the town centre, started in the middle of 2012 after Suffolk County Council got a major grant from the Department for Transport.
The cost of the programme was originally costed at £21 million – but the total cost may have exceeded that.
The largest single element was the replacement of the Princes Street/Civic Drive roundabout – and its subways – with a new light-controlled junction.
This took seven months to complete between September 2012 and Easter last year.
The entire programme should have been completed by Easter this year, with all the lights being linked by computer to keep traffic moving.
Borough council leader David Ellesmere described the Travel Ipswich programme as a “disaster” for the town as incomplete roadworks and a rash of new traffic lights brings traffic to a halt for hours twice a day.
Travel Ipswich was due to be complete by Easter this year. Work is still continuing. There is still no firm programme for the last section of road to be pedestrianised – the Queen Street/Princes Street area.
And, crucially, the traffic lights in the town centre have still not been linked to each other to keep traffic flowing between Civic Drive, the Waterfront, and the eastern side of the town.
At present they operate independently – and drivers can find themselves having to wait at green lights because lights further down the road are holding them at red.
Mr Ellesmere said Travel Ipswich had failed in its aim to make it easier to get around the town.
He said: “It has been a disaster for Ipswich. We were told the work that was being planned would ensure that the traffic in and around the town centre did not get worse. It’s clearly failed in that.
“It’s running behind schedule and there’s no firm date for when the integrated traffic lights will come in. I’d like to say I’m surprised but when you look at what’s happened at the county council it’s par for the course.
“They ended the contract with the borough council to maintain the roads – we know how the town works – and then they privatised the road maintenance and seem to spend all their time filling in forms rather than doing work on the roads.”
A spokesman for the county council said the Travel Ipswich programme was necessary because predictions showed the amount of traffic heading to the town would increase by 15% by 2031. This had to be accommodated without knocking down old buildings to create new roads.
He said a third of the journeys in Ipswich were less than two kilometres, and the council was keen to encourage people to use other methods of transport rather than driving.
Work is currently underway to try to make the Civic Drive traffic lights computer-controlled – and these will be linked in with other lights around the Waterfront area in the new year.
The work in Waterworks Street is not connected with Travel Ipswich – it is being undertaken by UK Power Networks.
Suffolk County Council transport spokesman Graham Newman said traffic management should improve when the lights were linked up next year.
And he said a number of temporary car parks that had opened in the town: “Every time a piece of land becomes available it is used for parking, and our park and ride sites are nearly empty.”