Ipswich: “PR Disaster” hits town centre travel project

The temporary lights in Norwich Road caused major problems.

The temporary lights in Norwich Road caused major problems. - Credit: Archant

It’s been driving motorists and bus passengers to distraction for months – and now parts of the £21 million Travel Ipswich programme have been labelled a “PR Disaster” . . . by the politician at the helm of the project.

Graham Newman told a briefing of councillors that elements of the scheme had caused unnecessary difficulty for people trying to reach the town centre – and a lack of adequate information and co-ordination had added to the problems.

Speaking after the briefing, Mr Newman – county cabinet member for transport – said: “Look at the launch of the Quids In promotion. It started on the same day that both bus stations were taken out of service and Norwich Road was badly disrupted with no warning.

“You can’t say that was a success! I did describe some of the elements of the scheme as a disaster because it’s important to recognise there have been problems.

“But I think most people understand that the basic thrust of the project will be good for the town – there are some things I would like to have been different, but by the time I took on this role it was too late to change.”

There had been problems earlier in the year when work had been carried out with little or no prior notice, meaning drivers were unable to find alternative routes.

However over recent weeks the county council and Ipswich Central have been producing weekly bulletins telling road users where work is being undertaken.

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And Mr Newman was hopeful that the suspension of work over the Christmas period would be a big boost for the town: “This is not all doom and gloom, access to the town centre should be much easier than in the past when the current work is completed by November 15.”

Among those at the meeting was the Labour leader of Ipswich Council, David Ellesmere, who said that while the borough supported the thrust of the project, there were areas where his colleagues felt things could have been done better.

He said: “There have been problems for people getting around, and too often there has been no information before the work has started.

“The new bus station may look better, but there are many criticisms about it – especially the lack of toilets. Graham tended to suggest he understands those concerns.”

Since work on the project started in the summer of 2012, some elements of the scheme have been well-flagged up – such as the major development to convert the Civic Drive/Princes Street roundabout into a traffic light-controlled junction.

However some of the smaller elements – such as the replacement of traffic lights at the Bramford Road/Norwich Road junction had not been so well flagged up and caused major problems.

Labour transport spokeswoman at the county Sandra Gage said Mr Newman told the meeting there would be further consultation on three controversial proposals – introducing traffic lights at Norwich Road/Valley Road, Nacton Road/Felixstowe Road and Woodbridge Road/Argyle Street.

Ms Gage said: “There are concerns about these proposals and it is good that the administration is prepared to listen to the people who know the area best.”