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Changes ahead in Weymouth road system as council chiefs bow to pressure

Dorset Echo: Changes to be made to road system in Weymouth could prevent traffic jams on Boot Hill Changes to be made to road system in Weymouth could prevent traffic jams on Boot Hill

COUNCIL chiefs are to finally act on concerns and make changes to Weymouth’s under-fire traffic system.

Three years after the scheme was laid out in an effort by Dorset County Council to improve traffic flows and reduce congestion in the run-up to the Olympics, officers have bowed to pressure from the community and decided to make alterations.

The council has previously held its ground on the issue and insisted the scheme was working.

But following a meeting with residents in which ‘clear safety concerns’ were raised, and a subsequent review of the system, the green light for change has been given.

This includes:

  • Traffic control and signal sequence at Boot Hill/Asda junction investigated and due to the closure of the fire station some physical changes in layout possible
  • A yellow hatched box added at the junction of Queen Street/ King Street Lane markings in Westwey Road on the approach to Asda junction made clearer
  • Signage revised for drivers to make access to seafront businesses easier to understand
  • Increase in signage for pedestrians from the rail and bus stations to the seafront and bus stops, and to encourage use of the subway.

The county council also says it will look to improve traffic flows on the seafront when passengers disembark from Condor Ferries’ vessels.

Measures here would be implemented in consultation with Condor and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

Former Park District community chairman Ken Whatley initially led calls for a public meeting so people could have their say on problems.

That didn’t happen, but he and fellow Park District resident Dave Burchill were invited to County Hall in October by council chief executive Debbie Ward who was keen to hear what they had to say.

This week they were invited back for a follow-up discussion where the changes were announced.

Mr Whatley said: “We are delighted that they have listened to what we had to say and are acting on it.

“Some changes will happen while other issues will be investigated which is good news.

“At long last they are doing something about it.

“It’s something I think many people have wanted and it was reflected in a poll on the Dorset Echo website when 95 per cent of people said the scheme wasn’t working. We are pleased our points have been taken on board and that we weren’t dismissed completely.”

DCC director for environment Miles Butler said: “Mr Whately and Mr Burchill raised some very valid points, some of which we will be able to address.

“There are some problems that require a change in drivers’ behaviour and that will take time.

“In this case we will make sure that signage is clear and where possible promote alternative routes.”

He added: “Managing traffic lights throughout the system is a balancing act. Changes in one area can significantly affect another part, so we have to be careful when modifications are implemented. “A balance has also to be maintained to ensure that pedestrians, drivers and other road users aren’t disadvantaged to any great extent.”

 

A ROADWORKS blitz to build the Weymouth Transport Package three years ago crippled the town.

The work started in the summer of 2010 and went on until the following summer.

It came at a bad time for businesses which were struggling in the recession.

Roads turned into a sea of temporary lights and traffic cones as work progressed on the scheme.

Main roads were reduced to single lanes as diggers tore at the tarmac and anger grew as drivers resorted to using ‘rat runs’ to escape the queues.

A meeting was called by businesses amid growing anger the roadworks were affecting trade.

Some threatened to stop paying rates in protest as the works were preventing customers from coming into town.

Anger was fuelled as utility companies used the opportunity before the Olympics to get schemes finished, leading to what seemed like an endless bout of roadworks.

Once it was finished there were claims the scheme had dented Weymouth’s image, affected trade and ruined businesses.

It spawned a humorous postcard, a T-shirt and an impromptu traffic light protest.

Roundabouts out & lights in

‘Intelligent’ traffic lights replaced roundabouts on the harbourside near Asda, the top of Boot Hill, either side of the Swannery Bridge and at the top of King Street during 2010-11 for the £18m Weymouth Transport Package.

It was funded by the Department of Transport as DCC looked to improve traffic flows.

Almost immediately, safety concerns were raised about the junction near Asda which was branded ‘dangerous’.

The council was prompted to tweak the junction with new markings.

Since then there have been complaints the system in general isn’t working with increased pollution, longer queues and extended journey times as well as unclear lane signage and increased ‘road rage’ at junctions.

Problem areas include the continued confusion about the layout at the Asda junction, gridlocked Weymouth Esplanade where two lanes have been replaced by one towards the Jubilee Clock, and congested Rodwell Road and Boot Hill due to sequencing of traffic lights.

Despite these problems, DCC said the transport package had resolved some issues including traffic congestion around Jubilee retail park.

It has also decreased the travel time from Weymouth to Dorchester and manages the majority of through traffic around the town.

A road safety audit is planned for July next year and traffic management will continue to be monitored to ensure the system efficiently manages traffic flow.

It’s long overdue, say traders

NEWS of the changes has been welcomed.

Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce president Mark Blunden, right, said the changes were ‘long overdue.’ He said: “I’m really pleased because they’ve listened to what people have to say. We hope to see some improvement to keep everyone happy and make it safer. This is long overdue. It’s important to keep traffic flowing on the seafront and clearly there are problems on Boot Hill and at the Asda junction.” He added: “This has created problems for businesses. We have to make it easy as possible for people to come into town and park.”

Dave Price, centre, from the hoteliers association said: “We welcome the fact they’ve reviewed it and are going to make changes. It’s important the hatched box in King Street is actively monitored otherwise it will go back to what it was like before.”

Managing director of the Weyline taxi firm Ian Ferguson said: “There’s a plethora of different opinions about the junctions. People have been making a lot of noise about it and we would support moves to improve things. It’s better than doing nothing.”

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