Traffic census 'will improve roads'

HUNDREDS of motorists have been caught up in delays over the past fortnight because of travel surveys being carried out across Ipswich. Today NAOMI CASSIDY asks what is it all for?

HUNDREDS of motorists have been caught up in delays over the past fortnight because of travel surveys being carried out across Ipswich. Today NAOMI CASSIDY asks what is it all for?

IPSWICH is set to become a more “civilised place” for bicycles and pedestrians if multi-million travel proposals are approved.

That is the view of Guy McGregor, the Suffolk county councillor in charge of roads and transport, who was part of the team, in collaboration with Ipswich Borough Council, that commissioned the study into motorists' usual traffic patterns.

Since the census began on June 23, it has caused several traffic queues across the town as motorists have been stopped in busy spots including St Helen's Street, Grimwade Street, Stoke Bridge, Princes Street Bridge, Bishops Hill and Wherstead Road.

The idea behind the census, carried out by transport planning consultants Faber Maunsell with assistance from contractors, is to reduce congestion in the future and create a 'greener' environment.

This is the first time such a comprehensive study has been done since 1992 and is costing £750,000, which is funded by the government through money given to the Haven Gateway Partnership.

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A total of 30 locations throughout Ipswich have been chosen for the three-week study, which is due to finish on Friday, July 11.

There are set to be further studies carried out in the next few days, including interviews with bus passengers and videoing traffic on the A12 and A14.

All the data, collected by survey company Count On Us, will then be forwarded to Faber Maunsell, who will develop traffic plans for the future and present them to various agencies, including Suffolk County Council.

On the days when the surveys are being carried out, census officials are located in three sites across the town between 7am and 7pm.

The council has apologised to motorists for the delays but is adamant that the study will lead to vast improvements in the future.

Mr McGregor said: “This major piece of work is to improve the quality of our county town so it is something we can be proud of. “We will be looking at the access from the railway station to the town centre and improving the Princes Street roundabout. There are a whole range of other projects.

“This is about giving people the ability to enjoy the town and making it a more civilised place so people can enjoy the joys of urban life without being dominated by dual carriageways.

“We have been very vigorous in terms of green travel plans and seeing if people can use other means of getting around than in cars.”

The questions asked of motorists have included where they are driving from, their destination, where they work and what other method of transport could they use instead.

Locations were chosen to include all main routes into the wider urban area from the A12 and A14, routes leading from the outskirts into the town centre and peripheral routes around the town.

It is set to take six to eight weeks for the consultants to sort and analyse the data.

The council, which got a definite go-ahead for the study from the Partnership Board in May this year, has denied rumours it is considering introducing any form of congestion charging or road pricing scheme in Ipswich.

The final surveys will take place today, tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday.

How do you think Ipswich's traffic system could be improved? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The groups involved:

Faber Maunsell:

Bil Harrison, project director from Faber Maunsell, said: “The government hands out the most of the money for transport and what the county council is interested in is getting as much money as possible which involves justifying this.

“We have to provide evidence for the major scheme business case. We need this information to show how many people would benefit from new bus lanes, urban traffic control, etc.

“We have to build models to show how traffic patterns can change and make improvements to networks.”

Count on Us:

Peter Brewster, regional director of Count On Us, the survey company carrying out the questionnaire, said: “The idea is to understand normal traffic patterns. Although these things can cause congestion, it is actually to reduce congestion.

“The surveys have been going really well. Everyone seems to be co-operating. We will then supply this data to Faber Maunsell in a digital form.

“No one will be able to be identified. We have 30 members of staff doing the interview surveys.”

Suffolk County Council:

Guy McGregor said: “Sending pedestrians down into horrible underpasses is totally uncivilised.

“This study is about finding ways of improving things like that and we are not ruling anything out. We are working hard on this.

“The initial reaction we have had from the Department of Transport is good. The idea we have is in line with the government's current thinking and they will almost certainly give us their full support.”

The future

Information from the census will help secure investment of £25million from central government for the county council's next major scheme, 'Ipswich - Fit for the 21st Century', which will start being worked on in 2010 if it gets approved.

It has three main elements that work together to make traffic run more smoothly and to increase the quality of travelling by bus, bike and on foot.

The first element is a hi-tech package, which includes an urban traffic management and control system. This computer system will control all the town centre traffic signals in a coordinated way to reduce delays. This will also be used to drive signs to give car parking space information and also include a real time bus information system with displays in the bus stations and at many bus stops in town.

The second element is a revamping of both Tower Ramparts and Old Cattlemarket bus stations to provide a safer and more comfortable waiting environment, with weatherproof shelters, toilets and information.

The third element of the package is major improvements to the cycling network and facilities for pedestrians around the central area.

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