Man in charge of roadworks across Norwich says long term gain will be worth short term pain
- Credit: Archant
The man who was responsible for months of roadworks which have frustrated motorists across Norwich has insisted the pain will be worth the gain.
And John Barnard, who left his post as Norfolk County Council's Transport for Norwich manager last week, insists the strategy is not anti-car, but essential to protect the city.
By 2025, some £315m will have been spent on the Transport for Norwich project, which Mr Barnard has been overseeing. A large chunk is on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, but it has also seen a shake-up to city centre roads - changes which caused disruption to drivers and led to accusations the council is anti-car.
But Mr Barnard said: 'The idea that we are anti-car is just not true. We are building a £178m road just outside the city centre so drivers will be able to get around and it is just not the case at all that we want to ban cars from the city centre.
'We want people to come into the city centre in their cars, which is why we have got parking spaces. But we want to give people the choice of coming in by other means. That's why we have made changes to give people confidence to cycle or confidence that buses will run on time.
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'What we are trying to do is redress the balance a little bit in some parts of the network.
'It's about improvements for cars, for pedestrians, for cyclists and for public transport and what we do is a balancing act. Sometimes it's a difficult balancing act to get right.'
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Mr Barnard, who has moved to Suffolk County Council to work on the Third River Crossing in Lowestoft, acknowledged the months of roadworks had been frustrating for drivers. And he said the council could have done more to highlight that there is a long-term plan behind the work - that the seemingly piecemeal projects fit into a larger strategy.
He said: 'I know there has been short term pain, but it is for long term gain. If you look at the quality of what is being delivered, for instance with Chapel Field North and the work we did in Chapelfield Gardens and with Westlegate, then I cannot believe anybody would look at that and take the view that it was better before.
'We have a duty to protect this historic city and, if we did not do what we are doing, then in 10 to 20 years, you would not be able to get anywhere near the city centre.'
But a concern voiced by some city centre businesses is what the impact of the city centre changes will be on the inner ring road - with the council planning to carry out traffic monitoring there in April.
Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, said it was only because businesses highlighted changes in Golden Ball Street, Ber Street and Westlegate would heap pressure on the Finkelgate junction that work to improve that was prioritised. Mr Gurney said that was why businesses would be keeping a close eye on the inner ring road.
He said: 'We know the council is wanting the same thing as us - to keep the city vibrant and traffic moving.
'But the challenge is in doing it in the right way. The inner ring road is a key piece of infrastructure and we want to make sure it is fit for purpose and will be able to take the capacity.'
What's next? Changes in store for Prince of Wales Road, Sweet Briar roundabout and All Saints Green
After so much city centre disruption, there will be a reprieve over Christmas.
The bulk of the major works will pause until after the festive period. But massive changes to more city centre roads are in the pipeline.
One of the more contentious proposals is to close most of Prince of Wales Road off to general traffic and make it two-way.
The idea is that it will speed up bus services to and from the city's railway station, building on the work already done to clear general traffic from St Stephen's Street and to make Golden Ball Street two-way.
Traffic surveys took place in Prince of Wales Road over the summer as council bosses weigh up whether to propose the complete closure of the Norwich street within two years.
Proposals to extend the bus route from St Stephen Street along Prince of Wales Road have been in the Norwich Area Transport Strategy since 2013, and current plans would see it return to a two-way system, with only buses, taxis and cyclists allowed.
One of the scenarios which has been tested is closing the road to general traffic, but other options could see changes to existing traffic flows, or simply leaving the road as it is.
Another significant change which is planned is for All Saints Green to be shut to general traffic, much as Westlegate has been.
Traffic would also be removed from All Saints Street from the Surrey Street junction northwards, expect for buses and taxis.
And drivers are facing almost six months of disruption next September because a roundabout on Norwich's ring road needs to be replaced – at a cost of £1.6m.
Council bosses say changes at the Sweet Briar Road/Dereham Road roundabout, used by about 40,000 vehicles a day, are needed to ease congestion and pave the way for better bus services.
What do you think of the changes? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPletters@archant.co.uk