Could Ipswich's Bury Road park and ride return after northern bypass rejection?
PUBLISHED: 05:30 04 February 2020
Could Ipswich's Bury Road park and ride re-open to ease peak-time traffic congestion on Norwich Road? That's one of a series of proposals from county council transport experts.
They produced a report looking at ways of easing the town's traffic problems which has no mention of the proposed Ipswich Northern Route. It was written last August to form the basis of the county's response to local plans being prepared by East Suffolk Council, Mid Suffolk and Babergh Councils, and Ipswich Borough Council.
But it has been given added emphasis after Suffolk's councils effectively agreed to kill the northern bypass proposals last week.
It was published while councils in Suffolk were consulting on proposals for the Northern Route - but does not include that in its considerations. It looks at the likely impact of the existing commitment by the councils to build 36,000 more homes in the area (building the northern route would have added up to 15,000 to this figure).
The county fears that increase will put increasing strains on the town's roads so how could congestion be eased?
1) Re-opening Bury Road park and ride.
This was closed at the end of January 2011 as part of the county's austerity measures. Built on borough council-owned land it is now a car dealership.
At the time of closure the county claimed motorists from the A14 west of Ipswich would use the London Road Park and Ride instead - guaranteeing its future. The report says that any increase in use of London Road was "modest," with the main effect of closure being more peak-time morning congestion on Norwich Road.
It suggests reopening the park by 2026 could ease congestion when more homes are built in the area.
2) Subsidising new bus routes.
The report says the county council should work with developers to provide subsidies to bus companies to develop new services from developments to persuade residents to ride, rather than drive into the town.
This has been relatively successful at Ravenswood where new bus routes have become established as the new community has grown.
3) Encouraging more people to walk or cycle.
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The council accepts that it is not easy to create new cycle routes into the town centre because it has a historic road layout and the only way of achieving this would be to close roads to traffic which could cause more congestion. But it could look at doing more to encourage cycling on quieter roads.
4) Redesigning some town centre junctions.
There are several junctions in the town which are serious pinch-points at morning and evening peaks, especially in the Waterfront area and the gyratory system nearby.
However there would need to be detailed studies of the problems and possible solutions before any major work could be carried out on them.
5) Developing a single bus station.
This was considered - but rejected - before the Travel Ipswich scheme was drawn up and the town's two existing bus stations were refurbished. However the report says a single, modern, bus station would make it easier to persuade people to leave their cars at home.
Paul West, Cabinet Member for Ipswich at the county, said the report looked at a number of options which should not be seen as "major" projects - they were a series of measures which had been estimated at between £23m and £28m in 2026 costings.
He said: "This was written last year. It has nothing to do with the Northern Route. It is looking at what needs to happen around 2026 to tie in with the local plans which will see new homes being built through to 2036.
"This is not a firm commitment to reopening the Bury Road Park and Ride, but it could help to ease things in the years ahead. We would clearly need to talk to the borough about that. And the report talks about the possibility of creating a new park and ride at Ravenswood."
He added that no site had been identified for a single, unified, bus station - and no thoughts on whether one of the existing stations should be developed or a new site found.
"With new technology and electronic signs you don't need a different bay for each route that you've had in the past so a bus station would not need to be twice the size to handle twice the number of buses," he said.
The finance required for the changes would need to come from a number of sources - including developers' contributions and central government. It could not all be funded by the county council.
Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said the Labour-led authority had tried to get Bury Road reopened ever since it regained power at the borough a few months after closure. At one point it had tried to reopen it - only for the Conservatives at the county to threaten if they did that then the other park and ride centres were likely to close.
But re-opening would not be simple: "We will do all we can to reopen the park and ride, but we have a tenant there (a car dealership) and the income is important to us. We would probably need to move the car park site slightly to land which cannot be used for anything else because it is under power cables."
He was pleased about the thrust of the report, but felt it was too little, too late: "They really should have thought about the park and ride years ago when we offered to reopen it - and when Travel Ipswich was proposed many people were saying they should be looking at creating a single bus station but they just didn't listen."