Travel Ipswich can now be seen as a success as traffic increases in town centre

The new junction between Princes Street and Civic Drive is a great improvement on the old roundabout

The new junction between Princes Street and Civic Drive is a great improvement on the old roundabout. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Do you remember all the complaints about the £21m spent on the Travel Ipswich project aimed at improving accessibility to the town centre?

Princes Street roundabout before it was replaced by traffic lights.

Princes Street roundabout before it was replaced by traffic lights. - Credit: Archant

I remember at the time hearing, and writing, that the success or otherwise of the scheme could not really be judged while it was actually being carried out – or even when it was just finished.

That was because a major element of it was “intelligent” road planning with traffic lights being able to judge when and where traffic was heading.

There were serious problems with introducing Travel Ipswich – the two-year programme took four years and there were changes introduced to the original plans as work got under way.

But I have to say that looking at the road network around the town centre now, nearly three years after Travel Ipswich was completed, its promoters have considerable justification in claiming it is a success.

Travel Ipswich was never meant to speed traffic around the town centre faster. Its aim was to make it easier and safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus users to get about – without making life more difficult for motorists.

Given that the number of the vehicles on the road has continued to increase, it doesn’t feel as if getting around the town is now any more difficult than it was in 2012 when the work started. That has to be regarded as a success.

Of course the point of Travel Ipswich was that all the changes interlinked with each other – but some were very significant in a stand-alone sense.

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The largest single element of the scheme was the replacement of the Civic Drive/Princes Street (Greyfriars) roundabout with traffic lights.

As a general rule I prefer roundabouts to traffic lights – but this has to be the exception. The junction is so much better in every way than it was before.

It is much more attractive aesthetically and it draws pedestrians to use it. The walking route along Princes Street from the town centre to the rail station is far better than it was.

The old roundabout was really unpleasant and the underpasses were terrifying for pedestrians – especially women – prompting many to dice with death by running across the road.

And traffic seems to be able to negotiate the lights much better than it did the roundabout, which I find surprising.

The Duke Street junction at the bottom of Bishops Hill was a notorious accident blackspot before the worst roundabout in the world was replaced by traffic lights.

I accept this may have slowed traffic down going through the junction – but it’s certainly much safer for all road users and I’m not sure the increased number of cars heading to and from Ravenswood, Warren Heath and Futura Park wouldn’t have added pressure on the roundabout anyway.

And while I have never driven around the St Helens Street/Woodbridge Road/Majors Corner area very much, when I have used that area of the town it doesn’t seem any worse than it did before.

Of course there will be people saying: “It was much easier getting around town 10, 20, or 30 years ago.” I don’t deny that – but the reason for that is that there are now far more cars on the roads.

No one can prove conclusively that had the changes not been made, the traffic around the town centre would not be worse than it is now.

And there will also be those who believe that the people who planned Travel Ipswich are evil geniuses whose aim was to drag motorists kicking and screaming from their cars and into a bus or on to a bike.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging us to leave our cars at home for short journeys. I’m looking forward to the longer evenings and warmer days so I can get my bike out again – but we do have to accept many people will chose to drive themselves into town.

You cannot clear the roads of every other vehicle so you can take your car/van/lorry exactly where you want to go exactly when you want to go – but Travel Ipswich has done nothing to make that more difficult.

Of course there are still tweaks that need to be considered. There are roads within the town centre that are supposed to be closed to general traffic where cars just ignore the signs because they know no one is going to stop them.

And the confusing traffic lanes, roundabouts and traffic lights around the Waterfront and Stoke Bridge make that area a nightmare for those who aren’t very familiar with the town centre road network in Ipswich.

But overall, the Travel Ipswich programme has made getting around the town centre much better than if nothing had been done.

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