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SPECIAL REPORT: Fury as gridlock hits Weymouth
FURIOUS residents and traders claim that the ‘intelligent’ traffic system in Weymouth is not working.
Motorists say they have been stuck in traffic for up to an hour and a half on the seafront and are also angered by delays on the Boot Hill corridor.
Cars have been caught in traffic gridlock from the Pavilion to the Jubilee Clock at King Street and past the train station towards Boot Hill, with frustrated motorists claiming to be stuck for an hour and a half.
They say the situation has been exacerbated by the return of Condor Ferries to the resort.
While the ferries’ return has been unanimously welcomed, traders and residents say that the existing traffic system is unable to cope.
‘Intelligent’ traffic lights replaced roundabouts on the harbourside near Asda and either side of the Swannery bridge back in 2010-11.
The project was funded by the Department of Transport as the council looked to improve traffic flow from the new relief road through to Portland.
Many locals have criticised the replacement of mini roundabouts with ‘too many’ traffic lights which they say have created ‘dangerous junctions’ and increased congestion.
Tony Deadman, owner of The View cafe on the Esplanade, said something needs to be done.
He added: “This isn’t normal summer traffic, Alexandra Gardens is clogged up constantly.
“It isn’t affecting my trade, but visitors meant to be on holiday are getting stuck in traffic jams lasting more than an hour.
“From the Pavilion towards the jubilee clock it is chaos, and two lanes need to be put in because traffic is at a standstill with only one lane there.
“Visitors who want to avoid driving use the Park and Ride but then get stuck on buses for hours when they could walk in less time – it’s madness.”
Chris Haler, Fairhaven Hotel manager, said: “Traffic is like this every year but I struggle to see what else the council can do.
“It damages the hotel arrival times and it’s embarrassing when passenger coaches take 15 minutes to get round Alexandra Gardens when the hotel is so nearby.”
Fulvio Figliolini, owner of Rossi’s Ices near King Street, said traffic has been flowing well for the past couple of months but he has suddenly seen a huge increase.
Darren Deadman, owner of The Boat Cafe, said: “We’re as busy as ever this year with more visitors, but this also means more traffic.
“I would like to see more Park and Ride schemes used which might reduce the traffic levels here.”
Dave Abbott runs a seafront stall selling buckets and spades on the Esplanade. He said the traffic isn’t different to any other year, but added: “Something needs to be done; it’s probably the lights past King Street that are causing these delays.”
Jake Sarginson, Esplanade worker at Aura bar, said: “Traffic outside is bumper to bumper and like this for six weeks or more – but it seems like just summertime traffic to me.”
Owner of Cashmira Guest House on Westerhall Road, Roger Wilson, said: “Some guests get fed up with the constant weekend traffic but I'm not sure what else can be done by the council after the new traffic lights were put in.”
Residents selling up along congested corridor
TRAFFIC jams on Boot Hill also come after Weymouth endured a year of road hell before the Olympics, when roundabouts were replaced with lights as part of measures which some believe haven’t helped.
Now residents have labelled the air pollution as ‘disgusting’ with many trying to sell their houses. They have also described the Boot Hill junction as one of the most dangerous in Weymouth and said that pollution levels and constant traffic need to be tackled.
Rodwell Road resident Mick Spanswick said: “The pollution levels are so high here and getting worse.
“We can’t open any windows or doors because the traffic noise is terrible.
“Traffic fumes ruin washing, we’re constantly cleaning our windows and dust from our houses and if it’s doing this, what is it doing to our health?
“Night and day the traffic continues up and down the hill giving us constant disruption even in the winter, and we can’t stand much more of it.
“We appreciate we live on a road and expect some disruption but this is ridiculous, it’s never been this bad before.”
June Pope, a Rodwell Road resident for over 50 years, said: “A lot of residents are trying to sell their houses but are facing real problems.
“It’s not the houses potential buyers dislike, but where the houses are situated and the noise and pollution from outside.
“One lady has had to drop her house’s value by £30,000 in total and still buyers are being put off by the hazardous junction on her doorstep.
“Someone will get killed one day and we don’t know what to do for the best after repeatedly warning the Council.”
Cyclist Ros Locke, 61 cannot think of a more dangerous road junction in Weymouth than Boot Hill.
She said: “I am forced to get off my bike now and walk at the junction because it’s safer. While cycling up Boot Hill you have cars overtaking on both sides and if you want to turn right at any time you face so much danger.
“During the summer holidays there’s normally a tailback of traffic from Westwey Road but it’s now constant - with the old roundabout traffic flowed much better.”
Christine James, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council brief holder for Transport and Infrastructure, said: “The intelligent traffic lights are not the problem and the delays are due to the sheer amount of traffic on the roads.
“There’s more congestion on the roads than there is road space, and with a busy summer season roads will always be full.
“Tourists are bound to have a drive around town and get their bearings rather than follow the road signs.
“Of course it’s bad to see the town full of traffic, but it shows tourists are coming to Weymouth and more trade can only be a good thing for the economy.”
Fears over unsafe crossing at King Street
RESIDENTS and holidaymakers along the seafront have said they feel unsafe crossing at the top of King Street, where there’s no pedestrian crossing, and are left confused by the subway systems.
Holidaymaker Mark Johnson from Salisbury, said: “I don’t feel safe at all crossing here. There should be a pedestrian crossing; I can see everyone runs across which is bound to cause an accident.”
Many say that the council have repeatedly dismissed their concerns about traffic and refuse to concede that any of the junctions are not working effectively.
Dorset County Council’s traffic manger Matthew Piles said: “We have been monitoring this.
“There is adequate signage for the subway and there are controlled crossing points nearby but people are choosing to cross where they think it’s safe.
“If we put barriers there it would make it more dangerous because it would pen people into the highway. This happened before when people were seen hauling pushchairs and things over and they were getting caught between cars and the barriers.
“We would encourage people to use controlled crossings where it is safer.”
Dorset County Council: 'It's just busy'
When contacted by the Echo council chiefs again dismissed the concerns and say that they have seen no evidence of long delays and claim that the town is ‘just busy’.
Matthew Piles, Dorset County Council’s traffic manager, said: "The volume of traffic entering Weymouth has increased by 30% from May to August.
“This is what would normally be expected for a healthy summer season and will impact on the traffic network, but on the main routes there have been minimal delays.
“The volume of pedestrians using crossings has also increased and this can cause false queues. This is to be expected during the town’s busiest month.
“We continually monitor traffic flows in our control centre, and saw no evidence of the one and a half hour delays in Weymouth town centre.
“We’re having beach weather during the summer holidays, and it’s good to see the town so busy.
“To ease congestion along the Esplanade we suggest that people plan their journey, change their routes to avoid areas that can get busy and where possible use the Park and Ride facilities and public transport.
“We will continue to monitor traffic in the control centre to ensure that traffic flows normally.”
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