Road study predicts gridlock in 20 years
TRAFFIC jams in and around Sittingbourne will be worse after the town is regenerated, according to a new transport study.
With 13,500 new homes planned before 2031, congestion could be 25 per cent worse than it is now, councillors were told last week.
The potential for gridlock in 20 years’ time to the north of the town on the Eurolink and in Milton Regis was described as being “severe ” at Swale Council’s Local Development Framework Panel on Thursday.
Traffic flow is predicted to increase by 30 per cent by 2031, with the A249, the A2 west of Sittingbourne and the B2005 Grovehurst Road and junction 5 of the M2 the worst affected. The Northern Relief Road will also be badly hit, despite its arrival being seen as a way of easing congestion.
The one plus for drivers was that the transport study showed traffic flow through the town centre and on the A2 to the east of the town will improve.
However, it predicted completing the NRR to Bapchild would increase traffic on the A2 east of Sittingbourne town centre.
Swale’s cabinet member for regeneration,learning and skills, Councillor John Wright, had a unique suggestion for reducing congestion.
The Tory said: “All the secondary schools are on the south of the A2. How about building a footbridge over the A2, or would a strategic move of one of the schools to the north of Sittingbourne affect this model very much?”
The transport planner for Kent County Council, George Chandler, explained that both redoing the transport model and moving a school would be expensive, adding: “It’s only sensible to use the transport model to test things that have got a fighting chance of becoming a reality.”
The vice-chairman of the panel, Conservative councillor Bryan Mulhern, suggested removing traffic lights on Stockbury roundabout, adding: “When the lights weren’t working a few weeks ago there wasn’t a single tail back. As soon as they replaced them, hey ho the queues were back.”
Mr Chandler agreed, adding that the traffic flow was “delightful to experience” when the lights were off. However, he said the lights were reinstated by the Highways
Agency to prevent collisions on the roundabout, which was “the worst junction they have in their network for crashes” he added.
Chairman of the LDF Panel Tory councillor Gerry Lewin was not overly concerned by the predicted traffic problems.
He said: “Wherever you live, if the population increases, then the number of car owners increases and the traffic on the roads will increase.”
He said the purpose of the transport model was to highlight areas of particular concern and ensure there were no unforeseen surprises.
He continued: “2031 is a long way ahead. Clearly schemes will come forward that will mitigate some of the hotspots it revealed. The transport model gives us confidence to carry on to the next level.”
Mr Chandler, who presented the results of the study to councillors and members of the public at Swale House on Thursday, stressed it provided a general overview of what might be the case in 20 years’ time but added it “doesn’t do fine details”.
He said: “The transport model will be wrong. They try to replicate reality but reality is too complicated for a simple computer to get hold of. We come close but it’s not reality.”
The transport study was jointly produced and funded by Swale Council and Kent County Council, with assistance from the Highways Agency. It will be used to shape Swale’s plans for future development in the borough. Report by Suz Elvey
East Kent Gazette
Report by Suz Elvey