A £38m package to help ease Worcester’s traffic chaos is being drawn up - including finally dualling part of the notorious Southern Link Road.
By 2018 Worcestershire County Council wants to dual the stretch from the Whittington island, near Junction 7 of the M5, all the way down to the Ketch roundabout in St Peter’s.
But it would not include the A4440’s Carrington Bridge stretch towards Powick, with critics already saying they have major fears it could worsen the bottlenecks at that location.
A new in-house report also reveals:
- Unless multi-millions can be found to improve roads in Worcester, queues will increase a staggering 200 per cent across the city
- During peak morning periods it currently takes over 13 minutes to get from the Powick island to Whittington roundabout, with motorists crawling at 12 miles an hour
- Unless nothing is done, by 2026 congestion on that stretch will rocket up to 40 per cent, meaning it will take 20 minutes, with drivers limping along at eight miles an hour at peak times
- More and more drivers are actively avoiding the Southern Link Road because of its reputation and are going to their destinations via the city centre or residential streets instead, affecting residents, businesses and increasing pollution
- Without major changes, due to new housing growth the performance of the A4440 will “deteriorate markedly” in future years
The Southern Link Road is used by around 30,000 cars per day, with the actual Carrington Bridge structure built in October 1984.
After years of gripes from drivers, the council is now drawing up the £38m plan, which will take four years of work to complete.
The project is being split into two phases, the first of which involves spending £8m on doubling the size of the Ketch roundabout and dualling the road heading towards Norton island, with a slip-road created for drivers turning left off Bath Road towards the M5.
After 12 weeks of public consultation starting next week, work will start in the spring and will take an entire year to finish, by around March 2015.
The council is then aiming to draw up designs for the dualling of Norton roundabout to Whittington island in the winter of 2014/15, with work set to start in the spring of 2016.
It will involve widening the railway structure that cars pass underneath, with the council hoping to “take possession” of it from Network Rail by Christmas 2017 to do the work.
The final phase will also involve the dualling of a remaining section of carriageway between the Norton and Ketch islands.
Of the £38m estimated total cost, the council says it is working on “significant private sector funding” to fund a large chunk of the final phase, as well as taxpayers’ cash.
That includes talks with London-based developer Welbeck Land, which wants to build a £400m, 2,200 home super village on 153 acres of land off Crookbarrow Way, St Peter’s.
The Department for Transport has handed over £6m, which the council has added £2m to so the Ketch work can start next year.
FEARS WORK WILL INCREASE CARRINGTON BRIDGE BOTTLENECK
RESIDENTS say they fear the work could worsen congestion down the A4440 Carrington Bridge - and is calling for fresh efforts to get extra investment.
Colin Wells, 51, of Dace Road, St Peter’s says he is concerned easing access down Broomhall Way, just past the Norton island, could make the situation worse.
He said: “Everyone around here knows the bridge is the bottleneck - that’s where the problems are day in, day out - even on Sundays.
“If it gets any worse I just won’t use it. They need to try and do whatever it takes to do the entire route.”
The county council has released a statement saying it “has identified” the problems, insisting “current queuing will be greatly reduced” by the work.
It has yet to reveal what reductions it hopes to achieve.
The main sticking point for the council is the full cost, with estimates suggesting widening or even replacing Carrington Bridge could cost £30 to £40m, although that is a very rough figure.
While the council is confident it can raise the estimated £38m for the part-dualling, mainly down to private backing, doing the last section remains out of reach.
Part of the problem is that Welbeck Land is reluctant to fund any Carrington Bridge work, saying the stretch is an “existing problem”.
The company says by early next year it hopes to be able to agree a funding package with the council for the rest of the project.
Andrew Smith, a director, said: “Considerable progress has been made, we are still working on it but hope to be in a position to finalise it soon.”
Councillor Roger Knight, who represents St Peter’s at the city council, said: “Traffic is bad in that area and will only get worse with the development we all know is going to happen.
“That pinch-point does worry me because unless you do the entire route, you’ll get this problem.”
Councillor Simon Geraghty, county council deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure said: “Sitting back and doing nothing is simply not an option, urgent action is needed.”
He added: "This scheme is been talked about for years and any dualling will help the situation.
"We'd like to do it all and that's not off the table at all, but we do need to do it in phases."