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Travel Ipswich branded a 'disaster' by labour leader David Ellesmere

PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:59 03 October 2016

Traffic in areas like Star Lane is often gridlocked - and many drivers blame Travel Ipswich.

Traffic in areas like Star Lane is often gridlocked - and many drivers blame Travel Ipswich.

Archant

Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere has today branded the £21m Travel Ipswich project a disaster for the town.

In his exclusive column for the Star today, the Labour leader of the borough says the scheme has made things worse for motorists – while failing to make any improvements for pedestrians, cyclists or bus-users.

He says: “There’s no two ways about it. Travel Ipswich has been pretty much a disaster for our town.

“After £21 million plus being spent, it’s difficult to put your finger on anything that has really improved. The most obvious things that spring to mind are where we’ve gone backwards.

“A mass of unco-ordinated extra traffic lights means that things definitely have got worse for motorists, and to such an extent that buses get caught up in the congestion too.”

He says the system was introduced by county councillors who do not live in the town and do not understand the problems faced by residents

Last week it emerged that the computer-controlled traffic lights will need to spend up to a year gathering data before they are fully effective.

However the Conservative-controlled county council which introduced Travel Ipswich insisted things would improve over the next few months.

Cabinet member for highways James Finch said: “Extensive work has been carried out in Ipswich, all with a view to making movement around the county town easier for buses, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike. All of the developments were in consultation with Ipswich Borough Council.

“The town’s growth in recent years has meant there was always going to be an increased demand on our roads.”

Now that the lights were all in place, Mr Finch was confident that the new computer systems would be able to speed up traffic over the next 12 months.

David Ellesmere:

Travel Ipswich is like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator – no matter how many times you think it’s been killed off, it keeps coming back to life.

At the beginning of this year Suffolk County Council declared that the scheme was “completed”, but now we hear that it will be at least 10 months before the traffic management system is working properly.

There’s no two ways about it. Travel Ipswich has been pretty much a disaster for our town.

After £21million-plus being spent, it’s difficult to put your finger on anything that has really improved. The most obvious things that spring to mind are where we’ve gone backwards.

On its own terms it has failed. It was supposed to improve thing for buses, cyclists and pedestrians while not making things worse for cars.

A mass of unco-ordinated extra traffic lights means that things definitely have got worse for motorists, and to such an extent that buses get caught up in the congestion too.

All we are left with is the promise that things will get better in 10 months’ time. I’m not sure anyone really believes this.

But it’s not just the big things that have gone wrong. I am constantly irritated by other aspects of the scheme, in the main caused by penny pinching and lack of attention to detail, such as:

• Despite being promised “Real Time Passenger Information” screens, we still just have the dumb presentation of a timetable with no indication of whether the bus is on time.

• Several years after I requested it, and being told it couldn’t be done, the timetable screens at least now tell you that they are “Page 1 of X”. Before, you had no idea, so you might be looking at Page 5 and think the next bus was in an hour whereas there was actually one due in a couple of minutes. It actually made the bus service look worse!

• No public toilets have been provided at the Old Cattle Market. Despite intense lobbying by the Women’s Institute, and Ipswich Borough Council offering to contribute towards the running costs, there has been no progress on getting some decent toilets at our long-distance bus station.

• The design of the shelters at the Old Cattle Market meant that coaches can no longer operate from there.

• Skimping on maintenance has led to the Old Cattle Market quickly becoming festooned with weeds, giving it a really neglected look.

• Almost immediately after Tower Ramparts was refurbished, the paving slabs at the entrance to the shopping centre were dug up. The “temporary” Tarmac surface is still there.

• If you walk along Tower Ramparts almost every other step results in a “clunk” as the shoddily installed paving slabs rock.

• The old subway entrance next to Franciscan House has just been left and surrounded by a “temporary” hoarding. It periodically fills up with rain water and has to be pumped out. There doesn’t seem to be any plan to sort this out.

It’s bad enough that these problems occurred in the first place but there seems to be absolutely no desire to sort them out.

Four years ago Conservative councillors on Suffolk County Council – none of whom lived in Ipswich – took control of highways away from Ipswich Borough Council because they thought they could do it better.

Am I alone in thinking that, if control had stayed local, with officers and councillors who live in, work in and understand Ipswich, and who would have to live with the consequences of bad decisions, Travel Ipswich would have turned out much better for all of us?

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