Warning: trouble ahead
BANS on some turns at the Hambrook traffic lights to fight pollution and congestion will simply move problems elsewhere, it has been claimed.
South Gloucestershire Council is under pressure from the government to cut levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide at the junction of the A4174 Avon Ring Road and the B4058 Bristol Road between Frenchay and Winterbourne, which are currently above the legal air pollution limit.
From August 11, it will introduce restrictions at the junction under powers known as an Experimental Traffic Order, which will run for up to 18 months before the council decides whether to make it permanent.
Vehicles coming from Downend and Emersons Green will no longer be able to turn right towards Hambrook and Winterbourne: a turn often made by drivers heading towards Bradley Stoke.
Traffic approaching the ring road from Frenchay will be banned from turning right or going straight ahead and will only be able to turn left towards the M32: Winterbourne-bound drivers will have go around the roundabout at the motorway junction and back along the eastbound ring road.
The council says the restrictions “will allow east and westbound traffic to flow more efficiently and help reduce queues” and follow a government directive to improve air quality at the junction, where nitrogen dioxide exceeds national limits of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, “in the shortest time possible”.
The westbound bus lane from the traffic lights to the M32 junction will be removed but southbound turnings on the B4058 from Winterbourne will be unchanged, and pedestrian and cycle crossings will be retained.
The council has apologised for “any inconvenience caused” to drivers and says a six-month public consultation on the changes, which are similar to those introduced during work in 2017-18 to replace the Bromley Heath Viaduct, will start once they are introduced.
But Frenchay residents warn that the changes are likely to increase pollution and congestion there.
In a joint statement Winterbourne Parish council’s Frenchay ward councillors – Adrian Collins, Paul Kembery, Charlie Watkins and Hugh Whatley – said they had long had issues with the “poor design” of the junction, and had told South Gloucestershire’s highways department that the lanes were too narrow, phasing of the traffic lights too short and the junction was frequently blocked by motorists on the ring road.
They said: “This causes traffic to back-up at peak times and add to frustration and pollution.”
The councillors said they understood why the order was being made but said: “The knock-on effect to Frenchay and surrounding areas in added congestion and vehicle emissions during the trial will anger many residents.”
They said the Bromley Heath Viaduct roadworks had led to “long queues of traffic from Downend towards Cleevewood Bridge” and warned this was likely to happen again, adding: “If you wanted to turn right or go over towards Winterbourne you had to make a longer journey, adding to time spent en route and pollution, which will be the same again.”
The councillors said they had been told the option to go straight over towards Winterbourne from Frenchay may be tried during the experimental order period.
Almost all comments on the Voice’s Facebook page raised concerns over the changes.
One reader said: “Traffic will be forced to travel further, there will be tailbacks at the M32 roundabout and pollution will increase. As we all know, these ‘temporary’ changes with consultation are a done deal.”
Another predicted “chaos” at the Cleeve Wood Road and Cleeve Hill junction with Bromley Heath Road, as traffic took alternative routes.
South Gloucestershire’s Green Party said the council had “rushed out a quick fix to avoid a legal challenge” over the pollution and said changes to the Y4 bus route could “drive more people away from the very public transport we need to be getting them on” to tackle the issue of air pollution.
Council cabinet member for transport Steve Reade said the authority had to comply with a government direction “to improve air quality on this part of the A4174 ring road in the shortest time possible for all road users”.
He said: “Our traffic modelling has shown that the changes will allow east and westbound traffic on the ring road to flow more efficiently and help reduce queues, and that the removal of limited movements at the interchange will improve traffic flow for all vehicles.
“It is important to note that this is an experimental order that can be amended through time, so if we see a particular type of road user is negatively affected then the order can be adjusted.”
More information is available online at bit.ly/2M2Rno7.
The Voice has approached South Gloucestershire Council’s Frenchay & Downend ward councillors for a comment.