Drivers warned to brace themselves for delays as months of work on Norwich road starts today

A bus lane is to be added to Grapes Hill in Norwich.

A bus lane is to be added to Grapes Hill in Norwich.

Drivers have been reminded they are likely to face disruption when work starts today to put in a new bus lane on one of the city’s busiest roads.

How will the changes affect me?

The Grapes Hill project will be followed by the Chapel Field North and St Stephen’s schemes.

The councils say these will create a new route into the city centre for buses, taxis and cycles, and remove general traffic from Rampant Horse Street (between Debenhams and Marks & Spencer), St Stephen’s Street and Surrey Street (from St Stephen’s to All Saints Green).

Changes that make this possible include:

• Making Chapel Field North two-way, with a 20mph speed limit and general traffic only allowed as far as the Chantry Car Park.

(Buses, taxis and cyclists will be able to carry on into Rampant Horse Street.)

• Removal of the pavement on the southern side of Chapel Field North, but with an improved cycle and pedestrian path inside • Chapelfield Gardens and pedestrian crossings to the north side pavement

• Two-way traffic on Cleveland Road from Grapes Hill Roundabout, allowing the closure of Little Bethel Street to vehicles

• Right turn only into Red Lion Street at the bottom of Westlegate for general traffic, so that it cannot cross into Rampant Horse Street.

As part of a £1.7m scheme, which will see a major shake-up in the way traffic uses Norwich’s city centre, a bus lane is to be added to Grapes Hill.

The bus lane will be on the southbound (uphill) carriageway and verges are being removed so there can still be two lanes alongside it.

Work to create the bus lane will start today and is due to take about three months to complete.

Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council, which are behind the work, says the road will remain open, but there will be lane closures.

The work is part of a major shake-up on how traffic uses the city centre.

Those changes will eventually see the removal of general traffic from St Stephens Street and Chapel Field North made two-way.

Altogether the three linked projects will cost around £1.7m, with some of the money coming from the Department for Transport’s Better Bus Area Fund.

Changes have already been made to the Chapelfield roundabout as part of the project.

David Harrison, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment, transport, development and waste, said: “These are important Transport for Norwich projects that will make it quicker and easier for buses to get into the city centre, and at the same time improve important shopping streets for pedestrians.

“The Government’s Better Bus Area fund is making an important contribution to the cost, and has also helped us develop a range of other improvements, including the ‘holdall’ smartcard ticket for Park and Ride, improved bus information and measures such as bus priority at traffic lights, and business travel packs.

“The aim is to make bus travel people’s first choice because it is high quality, reliable and easy to use.”

The changes have been welcomed by bus operators, who say it will speed up their services and improve punctuality.

Steve Wickers, commercial director Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk for FirstGroup plc, said: “The changes to Norwich city centre’s traffic network are welcomed by First and demonstrate what can be achieved through partnership working between local authorities, operators and other key stakeholders.

“The improvements to Chapel Field North in particular will allow us to reroute our busy Blue Line services which link the station, city centre and university, offering a more direct journey with fewer delays.

“The changes are good news for Norwich, as bus passengers will benefit from improved reliability of services encouraging more people to use the bus.”

Julian Patterson, managing director of Konectbus/Anglianbus, said: “These significant improvements to bus flow in the city centre will further enhance the appeal of bus travel by enabling quicker access to shops and businesses and removing some of the timetable unpredictability by not sharing road space with car park queues.”

Campaigners had hoped to secure a High Court judicial review of the decision to make Chapel Field North two-way.

They said the noise and vibration of an endless flow of heavy traffic would threaten the foundations and fabric of some of the most attractive and historically important homes in the city.

But judge Elizabeth Cooke rejected all their arguments.

• What’s your view on the traffic shake-up? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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