Saturday, 19 July 2014

The silliness of painting lines over the Hayle A30 roundabout problem

You may have missed it whilst driving but the Loggan's Moor roundabout has had the 'Chivvy treatment' and the problem of congestion met with subtle reorganisation. Now at the cost of £200,000 there have been lines painted demarcating where drivers should be when negotiating the roundabout. As the Highways Agency explained:

What are the benefits?

The scheme improvements will result in improved flow through the junction by increasing it's traffic capacity and improving identification of traffic routes and so reducing waiting times, especially during peak tourist times. The proposals achieve wider benefits in supporting growth in the surrounding area, such as development at Hayle.

I was waiting with baited breath to see how much this did change things and has so far only been through at less than peak travel hours and found not a great deal of difference. Sure not being cut up at the roundabout was a good thing but when I'd driven round, it wasn't busy so wouldn't have been a problem anyway.

Then on thursday I had to drive up to St Dennis from Penzance, late at night on the way back I was treated to the awesome thunder and lightning show, which was truly breath taking, the trip up there was not so breath taking. Leaving here at 6 in the evening I thought that even with it being the summer, it would be late enough to ensure a fairly smooth drive and I was truly wrong. Passing Sainsbury's wasn't a great problem, it seems like such a small amount of cars that turn off to the store is there a point of yet another roundabout on our supposed trunk road?

But anyway, Crowlas was at a standstill and the traffic crawled along until the Hayle bypass. There it opened up until it went back to a single lane and traffic was queuing on the corner before the viaduct all the way to the roundabout. Notwithstanding the possibility that there was an unusual amount of traffic going past Hayle at quarter past 6, I've never been in the queue so far up. The other side it was the same old same old, traffic queuing up to the Roseworthy Dip (or big dipper is you prefer). So west bound and east bound there was the queuing that there has become so common. As most motorists in West Cornwall had feared a few lines on the tarmac had not solved the problem at all. Hundreds of motorists all bottlenecked to the same location, inevitably have to stop or slow at a roundabout causing congestion.

The journey continued in a similar vein slow up to Chivvy, slow after than at a standstill after the short section of dual carriageway (or 2 lanes for pedants) at Zelah. Crawling towards Carland Cross, funnily enough not the same problems afterwards on the dual carriageway without roundabouts!

As many of us know the powers that be are planning an increase in the rate of house building up until 2030. There already concerns being raised in the west that this will lead to gridlock especially in places like Ludgvan, Crowlas, Carbis Bay and Lelant which have traffic problems already. With public transport on the slide, becoming less and less of a priority for the government and Cornwall Council problems looks set to get worse as road use inevitably rises.

The other cause for concern is the importance of roads to the Cornish economy. The Highway's Agency cites tourism and no doubt this is an issue the population of Cornwall this time of year massively increases and thus the number of vehicles. There is always a danger people will choose to holiday elsewhere if they spend too long travelling and stuck in traffic.

But of course tourism is not the be all and end all and unbeknownst to most decision makers outside Cornwall there is life in Cornwall outside the summer. The other reason given is population growth ignoring the fact that the problem exists now, let alone with tens of thousands of new homes in West Cornwall. Lots of people commute to work/ education and training in Cornwall especially along the A30 corridor. Delivery, logistics and the odd tractor travelling within Cornwall rely upon our trunk road. In addition a massive part of the Cornish economy is the food and food production industry, which has a huge export market. With a huge amount of Cornish produce, fish, meat, veg, milk, clotted cream etc being exported to England. That's not even to mention all of the other industries that export and import along the A30. What is the impact on people's lives constantly queuing to go to work and college? What is the cost to freight companies to have lorries sat in queues? How could productivity be increased and the Cornish economy grow if employees and assets spent less time sat in traffic?

It comes to a stage where the wider economic impact of having poor connection links within Cornwall and with the wider world needs to be addressed, whether through building bigger capacity roads or diversifying and making rail travel or bus travel more attractive. What is clear though is that painting lines on a roundabout doesn't address the problem and it never will. The attitude of government whether through the Highway's Agency or other departments is guided by the treasury and is not about what it best for Cornwall and our economy and quality of life but what is cheapest. With the occasional sticking plaster added with more fanfare than real purpose...