Road work chaos in Lowestoft will last until early May
09:15 21 March 2014
Motorists in Lowestoft have been given more bad news after it emerged that the roadworks which have brought the town to a standstill are set to continue until May 6 – more than a month longer than expected.
The news came as action was demanded to resolve the latest bout of traffic chaos in Station Square, amid claims that the junction improvement work causing the delays has been “an absolute shambles”.
The latest problems began on Wednesday last week when temporary traffic lights were set up as part of the Suffolk County Council scheme at the A12-Commercial Road junction – leading to lengthy tailbacks.
After 10 days of severe congestion, which has seen drivers facing long queues on the approach to the A12 Bascule bridge, council leaders are now calling for temporary lights in Station Square to be removed.
The move will seek to ensure that northbound traffic can continue past the railway station without interruptions from the temporary signals, albeit with resulting diversions for some southbound drivers. But hopes that an end to the chaos might be in sight were dashed when it was confirmed that the work would continue until May 6 – having originally been scheduled to finish by the end of March. The delay is being blamed on problems linked to the hole that opened up in the road in front of the Joseph Conrad pub last month.
Meanwhile, the delays are causing frustration and anger among road users and local businesses.
Ted Eyers, who has run Pakefield-based ASC Motorschool since 1990, said he had lost money as a result of cancelled lessons.
He said: “The whole thing is an absolute shambles. I’ve been stuck in traffic for 45 minutes, and I hear other people have been stuck waiting to move for more than an hour.”
Stephen Pavey, chairman of Corton Parish Council, said: “I would suggest a public meeting be held to inform the county council that the residents of Lowestoft will no longer tolerate these problems and we want experts brought in to solve the traffic chaos. So who is up for the fight?”
In a bid to ease the congestion, county council leader Mark Bee and Waveney District Council leader Colin Law have asked the Highways Agency – which is responsible for the A12 – for an emergency traffic order.
If it agrees, the temporary lights would be removed. However, this would also mean that Station Square would be closed to all southbound traffic right up to the Denmark Road-Katwijk Way junction – leaving some drivers with a diversion of about a mile to reach the Bascule bridge.
On Wednesday, Mr Bee and Mr Law both visited the roadworks – which are designed to improve access onto the A12 from Commercial Road – and saw the delays they were causing.
Mr Bee said: “We completely understand and sympathise with local people who are being affected by these roadworks. They are needed to improve traffic flow around the port but they are coming soon after congestion caused by the hole by the Joseph Conrad pub, tidal floods and Anglian Water road works.
“Taken together, it’s causing significant inconvenience and action needs to be taken. We hope that Highways Agency will agree to our proposals which should help traffic flow more freely.”
Mr Law added: “I’m very pleased that the leader and senior officers of the county council have come to Lowestoft to tackle the problem of ongoing roadworks around Station Square.
“This is an important scheme with considerable longer term benefits. However, as leader of Waveney District Council, it is my responsibility to seek reassurances about the impact on the town and these discussions have been valuable.”
The county council is asking the Highways Agency to impose the emergency traffic order as the roads body is responsible for the A12 north of the Bascule bridge.
Describing the need for the order, a county council spokesman said; “There is no technical reason to suggest that the traffic management arrangements that were put in place would cause undue hold-ups. But in practice, delays have been experienced which is why we are proposing changes.”
Yesterday, Waveney MP Peter Aldous was at the House of Commons to ask the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin about the request made by the county council to teh Highways Agency.
Mr Aldous also secured a pledge from Mr McLoughlin to visit Lowestoft to see the town’s congestion problems and highlight the need for a new crossing over Lake Lothing.
Works to improve access from Commercial Road on to the A12 junction, started on January 27. Footways on the western side of the road will also be widened to improve access for pedestrians and cyclists between the Bascule Bridge and Station Square and a new toucan crossing is being installed for cyclists and pedestrians.