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Anger At Traffic Jams In Town Centre

Published on: 7 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 10 Nov, 2020

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford residents were expressing their anger at the long delays to traffic in the town as a result of extensive traffic management on Bridge Street, Farnham Road, Park Street and Onslow Street but it was not clear what work was actually being carried out.

Temporary widening of the footpath on Bridge Street has caused traffic jams in the town centre. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Lead for Transportation at Surrey County Council, Matt Furniss, said in a response to an email from a Guildford resident, Dr Ross Connell: “This work is part of our ongoing upgrade of the signals to bring everything up to the new level of technology used in our smart signals.”

But in the same response, Cllr Furniss added: “Widening the footway on Bridge Street, as part of the “Active Travel” scheme, has been requested by various individuals and partners including GBC over the last few months. We were not keen to progress with this initiative as it was anticipated that the lane closure on Bridge Street would have caused traffic congestion in the area.

“However, this had to be implemented to see whether it was feasible and the impact on traffic to have the lane closure in place or not. It has been done following the upgrade to the signals and during half term in order to see the impact on the lower speeds.”

The traffic management restrictions extend to Farnham Road, Park Road and Onslow Street,

The works are listed in the Guildford Highways Bulletin from Surrey County Council as “Active travel works: lane closures to allow pedestrian access” and are stated to be from October 23 2020 to January 29 2021.

The temporary widening of the pavement uses plastic barriers to separate pedestrians from cars. The widening is not continuous along the full length of Bridge Street adding to the confusion over the intention of the works.

Elevated view of Bridge Street shows the widened footpath is not continuous adding to the confusion over the intention of the works.

There have been questions for many years over safety of pedestrians on Bridge Street (see The Dragon says: More Urgency Required over Bridge Street Safety). It is the main pedestrian route between the station and the town centre and, with the number of people using the route, it is not uncommon to see someone forced to step from the narrow pavement onto the carriageway with cars speeding past.

Two pedestrians, Kat Garrett, 30, and Del Kendall, 45, died in 2016 when a car mounted the Bridge Street pavement near Bridge House although the fatal accident was not caused by the narrow pavement width.

Sign on the Farnham Road. The works are part of the Guildford Active Travel scheme.

The widening now coincides with the latest four-week pandemic lockdown from November 5 to December 2, announced by the government on October 31.

There were delays of up to 20 minutes on the gyratory on Wednesday evening (October 28). Traffic backed up on the Farnham Road past the back of the railway station.

Dr Ross Connell, said: “What a shambles. Proceeding with an active travel scheme within the gyratory is utterly incomprehensible on the most problematical part of Guildford town’s road system. Have councillors seen the problem it has caused in the morning rush hour?”

Another Guildford resident who lives close to the town centre said: “What exactly has been going on in the one-way system?  Is this the thin end of the wedge of their diabolical “drive to Guildford not through Guildford” plan?  I shopped in Godalming instead this week. I think the engineers under-estimated the flow from Portsmouth Road when they programmed the new lights.”

Mile-long tailbacks have been observed.

Leader of the Council, Joss Bigmore said: “Surrey County Council are aware of the extreme congestion caused by the works and they have reassured us they will be completed as soon as possible. The works are part of their Guildford Town Centre Transport package.

“The temporary closure of a lane on Bridge Street has also had a severe impact on traffic.  Whilst this closure was made with the best intentions to help pedestrians socially distance, we are discussing with SCC whether to continue with the measures.

“We are aware how frustrating these delays have been and we hope given we are all staying at home to stay safe now there will be less of us travelling and therefore less congestion while these important works are completed.”

The Dragon has asked Surrey County Council for clarification on the works and we will report further once a response has been obtained.

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test 14 Responses to Anger At Traffic Jams In Town Centre

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    November 7, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    It is common practice for SCC to go ahead with temporary, semi-permanent or permanent road modification with very little explanation.

    If we are lucky, there are brief descriptions on the SCC Highways web pages. As with the brief notes in SCC or Guildford JC documents, the best these do is to perhaps briefly describe the project with a single line summary of what it achieves or benefits. Never anything about possible drawbacks to be held in the balance.

    Another example is the ‘upgrade’ of bus stops across Guildford. Existing raised kerbs are suddenly not adequate; they have to be lengthened, possibly for rear doors. This might help the operation of buses but the removal of lay-bys increases congestion. Just my guess as despite asking councillors I am only tols it is “to comply with govrnment standards”.

    Meanwhile, a Guildford LibDem Newsletter came through my door. Looking for a bit more on the described achievements, I checked their website. But no newsletter content on the subject.

    On Highways “…creation of Guildford’s first proof of concept 20 mph and pedestrian-friendly @Neighbourhood Zone”, a councillor explained to me this is different from the decades-old South Bellfields 20 mph temporary/trial zone. It seems the latest concept is no calming measures or humps. So why are they changing humps/bus stops in Bellfields?

  2. Sue Warner Reply

    November 7, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    All compounded by the roadworks everywhere – Woodbridge Road and now Stoke Road and Middleton Road – also Queens Park Road and outside the shops in Aldershot Road. You just can’t go anywhere without getting caught up in roadworks.

  3. Alistair Smith Reply

    November 7, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    Cllr Furniss is quoted as saying: “However, this had to be implemented to see whether it was feasible” – surely SCC have up to date traffic models to show what will happen and prevent this type of change that bought the whole town to a halt eg Portsmouth Road queued solid back to Peasmarsh. Sounds as if another mutant algorithm is on the loose?

  4. Ann Wragg Reply

    November 7, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Coming back from the hospital every day for the past four weeks we have had extensive delays each time. Interestingly, not once have we seen even one pedestrian using the widened pavement.

  5. Ian Cornish Reply

    November 8, 2020 at 9:11 am

    In terms of Bridge Street, there is an existing opportunity on the other side of the road. Using the underpass by the station and then the crossing outside Rodboro Buildings would enable a safe socially distanced option for the pedestrian traffic.

    As others have noted, the queues were diabolical and impacted the bus services too. However, thanks to LockDown 2, the traffic has dried up, so maybe this will be okay until December when the traffic is expected to return.

  6. D Watkins Reply

    November 8, 2020 at 9:16 am

    SCC has opened a consultation for Proposal 1/8: High Street, North Street and Bridge Street, Guildford. They say: “SCC are widening the pavements on the High Street, North Street and Bridge Street to support social distancing (these could be made permanent)”

    https://surreycovidsouthwest.commonplace.is/schemes/proposals/high-street-north-street-and-bridge-street-guildford/details?fbclid=IwAR2_4oCxZtrAVpAvp8p7_5Bo1HdWlBEwX-zsCeZKIijdmGkrrBgEeO5yRg4

    It is concerning that the widening could be made permanent.

  7. Brian Holt Reply

    November 8, 2020 at 11:52 am

    Because of Ladymead traffic lights, it took me 15 minutes to drive from Guildford Spectrum to Woking Road junction [Stoke interchange], a fortnight ago.

    There were roadworks everywhere that day.

  8. Sharon Stokes Reply

    November 8, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Roadworks everywhere. Roads closed. Pavement widening on the already awful one-way system in the Upper High Street and bus lanes being increased along Woodbridge Road.

    Many of us still have to travel to work in the town and it’s virtually impossible to get anywhere. Those responsible are causing pollution and stress while ignoring the fact that due to the pandemic most people wish to travel by car where possible.

    Dreadful planning and local residents who pay council taxes are worst affected getting around their town. The flow of traffic off the southbound A3 always seems to be favoured.

  9. Pat Scott Reply

    November 8, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    My son took over two and a half hours to get from the Guildford bus station to Ash earlier in the week on a Kite bus. It was due, totally, to so many sets of roadworks and traffic lights on the route out from Guildford town centre.

  10. Julie Manton Reply

    November 9, 2020 at 8:41 am

    Great work SCC! In addition to bringing Guildford to a standstill, their “Active Travel Scheme” will also lead Christmas shoppers choosing alternative shopping destinations at a time when so many businesses are already struggling to keep afloat.

    But I guess at least if no one comes to our town any more there won’t be a traffic problem. Genius.

  11. Ben Paton Reply

    November 9, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    This is caused by just a small number of elective roadworks.

    What happens when they want to build whole new towns around Guildford? 1,500 new houses at Gosden Hill/Burpham? 2000 new houses at Blackwell Farm on the Hog’s Back?

    And what about the 2,000 houses going onto Dunsfold Aerodrome?

    Just these three new towns would represent about 10% of the total current housing stock in the Borough. By themselves, they will probably add 10,000 new cars to the roads.

    Surrey Highways does not examine Guildford Borough Council’s work critically. The system is dysfunctional.

  12. H Paton Reply

    November 9, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    I assume everyone understands that the aim is to remove the gyratory completely with traffic “re-routed” on a permanent basis (see Town Regeneration Plan on Guildford council site). I see no mention in any plans of bypass roads etc being built, so this is only going to get progressively worse.

  13. Peta Malthouse Reply

    November 9, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Complete waste of time and our money. They are talking of widening the pavements in the High Street as well but are not specific about what part. I say to SCC, touch our cobbles and beware! And why, the High Street is already pedestrianised. As to Bridge Street, the majority of the pedestrian/cycle traffic is between the station and the Friary Centre. We have a very expensive footbridge intended to alleviate that.

    I think this is a very sloppy waste of a budget provided by government to improve cycle lanes and pedestrian traffic.

    They could more usefully stop through-traffic along North Street by making it access only.

  14. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 10, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    These roadworks are by Surrey County Council not Guildford Borough Council. The consultation process should be carried out before any work starts, otherwise it is useless.

    Closing off a lane in Bridge Street and not doing anything to deal with the resulting congestion is insane. Are there measures SCC could have considered to reduce the consequences of roadworks? I believe there are.

    It seems to me that SCC are reluctant or frightened to accept any ideas that have been suggested to improve the gyratory either temporarily or permanently when other infrastructures are built and take a substantial proportion of traffic away from the gyratory.

    Undoubtedly, reduced traffic levels during the current lockdown will have reduced the resulting congestion on Bridge Street but what will happen when the restrictions are lifted? Terrible congestion will return. But there is still time to install temporary traffic lights to implement a scheme that reduces congestion in the gyratory. Please follow the link belowThis is mentioned in the document below.

    If you have a Google account, you can view my suggestions for improvements to Guildford traffic in https://drive.google.com/file/d/17Opbo82bOEHsteLU7e0dm_N3bKDhpHf3/view

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