Coleraine’s traffic system “designed for one horse and cart,” says highway boss
Coleraine’s circulation system has been described as being “uniquely designed for a horse and cart”.
The comment came during a debate on the continuing problem of congestion in and around the city at the August Causeway Coast and Glens council meeting.
Independent Advisor William McCandless addressed the issue when Colin Hutchinson, Divisional Director of Roads, briefed members on DfI’s Spring 2021 program.
He cited a Belfast Telegraph report on the cost of congestion to the economy of Northern Ireland.
Coleraine’s advisor said: “I understand that since the emergence of Covid many people have had the opportunity to work from home and thereby reduce traffic at peak times.
“However, in anticipation of a return to normal, hopefully in the near future, what progress is being made, particularly with regard to traffic jams at Coleraine?
“I’m referring to the Belfast Telegraph report from February 2018, which pointed out that traffic jams on Northern Ireland’s roads cost more than £ 1.1bn. These are mainly motorists stranded in traffic during the morning and evening rush hours.
“The study was conducted by INRIX and reported that the total cost of UK congestion was £ 37.7 billion.
“I would have thought that looking at those numbers Coleraine would have had priority for some programs because in Northern Ireland Coleraine came third after Belfast and Londonderry, with traffic jams at Coleraine costing £ 38million.
“I understand that you want to dispute these numbers, however, there is no getting around that, even if you reduce those numbers by 20% or even 30%, these numbers are colossal. It is estimated that it will affect the GDP (gross domestic product) of Northern Ireland by 2.4%.
“I would like to ask what is Coleraine’s master plan, what progress has been made, what progress has been planned to relieve the city’s congestion?
“How could Coleraine hope to achieve city status if an offer was made for it when we have a traffic system that many of our residents call ‘still designed just for a horse and cart’?
“If we look at a few simple examples – Union Street. Due to the reluctance of drivers to cross to get to Brook Street, traffic builds up on Millburn and Portrush Road. Add to that when the railway line closes at Bushmills Road and it comes back to where I live on the boulevard. “
Mr McCandless said ideas were floated a few years ago including a third traffic bridge and a road from Railway Road to the recreation center to carry traffic to the ring road.
He added: “Where are these plans and are they still under investigation, will they ever come to fruition or have they been scrapped?”
“Coleraine Town Center – I understand you may need to work in tandem with DfC on this one, but the pavia on High Street is not fit for purpose. It is not suitable for dealing with heavy goods vehicles delivering to the scene and it presents serious risks of movement in a so-called pedestrian zone.
“Resident parking – it’s been requested by residents of Lower Circular Road for years and every time I ask it’s the same old story, trials are being done in Belfast and Londonderry. Why not put Coleraine on trial?
Responding to Mr McCandless, Mr Hutchinson said: ‘Regarding resident parking, the trials have been completed in Belfast and the Minister (Nichola Mallon) has committed to reviewing the results of the very complex ones.
“Once she makes a decision on this, it will hopefully expand the program to a wider audience.
“We are more than happy to work with DfC on the Pavia blocks in downtown Coleraine if there is an upgrade project. I know there was some construction around the town hall a few years ago which still looks very good.
“Regarding the traffic system in Coleraine, I live in Coleraine and I see traffic in Coleraine on a daily basis. While it can be frustrating at times, the traffic is going pretty well and the traffic progression is quite good. Even if you are sitting in a queue, it moves quite quickly.
“Having said that, you mentioned some ambitious projects. Having said that, perhaps in the past, going back at least 10 years, these are the types of plans that would be included in the sub-regional transport plan which I believe is being updated and the strategy there would be defined.
“As far as traffic jams are concerned, the big step here now is to stop putting people in cars and driving them around the city and that is part of the reason why this blue-green money is being made available for making active travel attractive in Northern Ireland, but it’s a long-term plan.We are looking at areas of congested traffic and getting better.
“We have had to deal with years and years of underinvestment and we are working with a small pot of capital and resources and delivering to the highest priorities in the region. “
PUP advisor Russell Watton agreed, adding: “We are desperate. A city of carts and horses is a good description.
“I don’t see a lot of easement and my problem is that when the new Northern Regional College is built on Union Street with 900 students and 300 employees, what happens when they start up? What the traffic will look like then because we can all see how bad it is now, it will be chaotic. “