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Newsletter, July 2008 (Issue 172)

Ipswich on the Waterfront

Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council commissioned Colin Buchanan to carry out a study of the existing cross-town traffic and make recommendations to improve accessibility from the town centre to the Waterfront and the Education Quarter. Buchanans were selected as consultants for a number of reasons, one of which is the possibility that they are the only major firm of consultants that had not already looked at Ipswich's traffic problems, i.e. they didn't come with pre-conceived ideas.

Buchanan's recommendations are improved access for all road users, including buses, pedestrians and cyclists. Currently the gyratory road system carries high volumes of fast moving mixed, but predominately local traffic (up to 3,500 vehicles per hour)*. The vast majority of motor vehicles using this route are making journeys that start and finish within two miles of the town centre. Additionally whenever conditions allow (which is most of the day) vehicles are travelling inappropriately fast (frequently witnessed on approach to the zebra crossing behind the Custom House) but are held up at the junctions at either end of the system.

Separately the Government is considering introducing 20 mph speed restrictions in towns, the lower speed limit reducing accidents and considerably reducing deaths and injury.

For Star Lane, Buchanan looked at new road options and major changes to the existing road layout including a new road across the College site, a Wet Dock Crossing and an East Bank Link Road. None provided the relief required, and without closure or major restriction the gyratory would be preferable to the Wet Dock Crossing for most vehicle journeys.

Buchanan also reviewed a number of options for Star Lane and Key Street/College Street:

  1. Traffic Calming (Pedestrian Crossings, reduced carriageway width, etc.)
  2. Realignment - new sections of road, including part of Star Lane increased to four lanes, two in each direction.
  3. Two two-way roads (allowing both Star Lane and College Street to carry east and west bound traffic).
  4. Two single lane, one-way roads (one way, as at present, but with a single vehicle carriageway, reducing capacity and speed but increasing space for pedestrians and cyclists, and making the roads much easier to cross).
  5. A two-way Star Lane, with Key Street/College Street limited to buses, taxis and pedal cycles.

Then came the difficult bit, assimilating the cost in real terms, including the congestion costs, but balancing these with the benefits for all road users, and particularly those who need to cross between town and Waterfront.

It is interesting to note that Buchanan predicts that traffic levels will not substantially grow on the gyratory: they can't - it is already at capacity! Rather traffic from the new developments on the Waterfront will replace some of the traffic currently using the system. This disrupted traffic will fall into one of the following categories:

  1. It will go elsewhere.
  2. It will divert into 'quieter' time slots, spreading the rush hour over a longer period.
  3. Users will divert to alternative means of transport, and here the alternative needs to be in place early.
  4. Some users may simply not make the journey at all (confirmation that the journey was not essential, and certainly not essential to the economic development of the town).

Suffolk County Council need to carry out further research including an origin/destination survey of all road users and:

  1. A review of business and residents' travel needs, such that demand can be reduced. One serious option here which is about to be introduced in Nottingham is to introduce work-based car parking charges. If you currently park cheaply or for free at work then there is a possibility you will have to pay a reasonable car parking charge in the future, on a scale that makes public transport a viable alternative.
  2. An understanding of pedestrians' and cyclists' needs, their source and destination, particularly if it is between the town centre and Waterfront/Education Quarter.
  3. The effect that reduced road width for vehicles, wider pavements for pedestrians and the introduction of cycle lanes will have on capacity, traffic speed, traffic flow and congestion.
  4. SCC also need to improve local direct communication with individuals, with road users and current non-road users (those who avoid the route because of real or perceived dangers or because no buses currently use this cross-town route even though it is a direct line from the Education Quarter to the railway station).

An over-riding consideration is to improve air quality across the whole of the gyratory system which has been measured and recorded as some of the most polluted air in Ipswich, something none of us are prepared to accept.

Where does Ipswich Society fit into this dilemma? Primarily, one of support for change, along the lines proposed by Buchanan, and for a reduction in cross-town traffic, an acceptance that private motoring cannot go on growing at the rate it has been for the past few years.

The East Anglian Daily Times suggested this will take the best traffic management minds to address. Well we have had the best the country has to offer on the case and collectively they agree there is no easy solution. And Ipswich Borough Council? An acceptance of the Buchanan report with reservations.

*3,500 vehicles per hour represents 1,600 (peak) eastbound and 1,800-2,100 (peak) westbound. The difference is an indication that some traffic gyrates clockwise around the town centre, westbound along the Waterfront gyratory, eastbound along Crown Street. About 1,000 vehicles per hour head southbound along Grimwade Street.

    Front cover of issue 172 Cover, issue 172

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