Photos: Smooth start to bus lane work on Grapes Hill in Norwich
Work has begun on part of a £1.7m scheme to improve bus flow in Norwich city centre.
Contractors coned off one lane of Grapes Hill, which is one of the city's busiest roads, for much of yesterday as work started on a three-month project to build a new bus lane.
Residents had feared traffic gridlock while the bus lane was being built, and there were queues while the lane was coned off.
But it was reopened ahead of the evening rush hour and traffic was flowing freely towards the Grapes Hill roundabout.
The bus lane will be on the southbound (uphill) carriageway and verges are being removed so there can still be two lanes alongside it.
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Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council, which are behind the work, said the road will remain open, but there will be lane closures.
The work is part of a wider scheme to change how traffic uses the city centre.
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Those changes will eventually see the removal of general traffic from St Stephen's and Chapel Field North made two-way. Altogether the three linked projects will cost about £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, explained the scheme when it was announced. '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,' he said. '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. 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.