A MULTI-million-pound effort to tackle traffic congestion in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch will pick up pace this year, with residents being promised visible improvements.
But not everyone is convinced – a year into the three-year Three Towns Travel project, there is criticism councils are wasting money “tinkering around the edges” of Dorset’s creaking road system.
Three Towns Travel is the name given to a major programme covering Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. Funded by central government, the money is being spent improving the A35 corridor, encouraging more people to use public transport, bikes or to walk and making travelling more efficient and safer.
See the plans in full here
In effect, £12million is being spent building bus stops, re-designing busy junctions, creating cycle lanes and improving the public realm, with dozens of individual projects all being tackled in the name of Three Towns Travel.
Cllr Michael Filer, Bournemouth’s cabinet member for transportation, said: “An enormous amount of planning and preparation has been undertaken over the past 12 months by the three partner organisations and 2014 will mark a big year in terms of the public seeing the work happening on the ground.
“As the population grows, there will be more people, more jobs and more commuters on the road network. Three Towns Travel is about preparing for tomorrow’s journeys today by offering people easier, safer and more attractive travel.”
Ian Kalra, head of transportation services in Bournemouth, said they were reaching “a new phase” when residents will start “reaping the benefits” of early projects.
“Not only are we making physical network improvements but through a package of complimentary measures we want to provide attractive sustainable travel opportunities for those who may not have considered the benefits of walking, cycling and bus travel before.”
And Cllr Xena Dion, Poole’s cabinet member for transport, said residents needed to bear in mind the individual schemes were all part of an overarching strategy to improve the east-west corridor.
“It’s a key link between Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole.
For years we have wanted to improve the transport corridor, reduce congestion and have better bus services.
“We have spent huge amounts of time listening to what people want and we have gone with the majority.
“I can’t pretend I have a magic wand and that Ashley Road will be perfect but we are doing the best we can with what we have and I believe there will be improvements.”
But not all of the schemes have found favour with residents. A proposal to close Boscombe Crescent as part of a package of measures to improve the area around St John’s Road was declared “the worst bit of traffic planning I’ve seen in this town for 50 years” by a Labour councillor.
And many cyclists are unconvinced the changes will make their lives easier.
Mike Chalkley, a former chair of Bournemouth Cycling Forum, said: “If you look at the Ashley Road scheme as an example, what they’re not addressing is the fundamental problem that the road has a dual use – as an artery and a shopping area.
“They really need to segregate the two but they’re not, they are just fiddling about doing little things which won’t make a great deal of difference to how people travel.
“With virtually all the schemes they’re doing, they say they want to increase the throughput of traffic to ease congestion. But if you create more throughput, you will get more traffic. The more capacity you create for driving, the more driving you will get.
“They’re not really approaching it in the right way and I don’t think the money’s going to make a lot of difference.
“They’re doing the best they can but they’re just tinkering around the edges. The problem is the volume of motor traffic; untiI that’s addressed nothing is going to change.”
And Labour leader Cllr Ben Grower, said he had no confidence the £12m investment would lead to visible improvements.
“This is just leading up to the elections in 2015,” he said.
“The administration wants to be seen to doing something in different areas of the town.
“We should be saying to the government not to give us money to spend on stupid traffic schemes, give us money so we can help people who can’t pay their council tax, people that are relying on food banks.”
Cllr David Jones, county and borough councillor at Christchurch said the scheme was “an invitation to waste public money.”
“If it was a scheme to benefit the area like the Burton Road cycleway – but otherwise it is just spending money for the sake of it.
“It does not remove bottlenecks to car travel. Most people in a democratic, free society choose to travel by car.
“Just because this is government money, does not mean it is not taxpayers’ money.”
The schemes under way or in the pipeline
The Bournemouth schemes currently under way or in the pipeline include:
- The creation of a bus hub at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital
- Improvements at Horseshoe Common including replacing the roundabout with a junction and the creation of a new shared space.
- Better signage and landscaping at the Bournemouth Travel Interchange and improvements to the route between the station and the town centre.
- Alterations to two different stretches of Christchurch Road in Boscombe – a section that runs towards Iford and at the Springbourne end.
In Poole, schemes include:
- The Sea View super stop, which has seen improvements to bus and cycling facilities and the public realm.
- Poole Train Station, where the bus stop and disabled parking have been enhanced.
- The Shah of Persia junction, which includes an improved traffic signal junction, bus priority, improved pedestrian and cycling facilities.
- Upgrades to the gyratory systems at the Civic Centre and County Gates.
- Improvements to Ashley Road.
And in Christchurch the Burton Road footbridge has been completed, along with phase one of the cycleway between Burton and the Grange. The traffic signal at the Stony Lane and Purewell junction has also been upgraded.