Lib Dems call for Gateshead traffic management measures to be removed after weekend congestion chaos

Gateshead’s Leader of the Opposition has called for controversial changes to town center roads to be scrapped after a weekend of traffic chaos.

It comes after an investigation was launched after Gateshead Council admitted congestion was ‘on a scale never seen before’.

Two days ago, a post on Gateshead Council’s Facebook page warned that traffic jams in the city center were causing “significant delays in journey times”.

Go here for the latest news on regional affairs and North East politics

Drivers reported chaos in the area, with a woman from Heworth saying her purchases were ruined after being stuck in the Tesco car park for two hours on Friday.

She described “the smell of burning clutches and the faces of road rage for two and a half hours” until she pulled out of the traffic jam just past the civic center.

Another claimed it took ‘about 45 minutes to an hour to get from Tesco to Wilko and road rage was at an all time high’.

On Monday, a Gateshead Council boss said the congestion seen on Friday and Saturday was “significantly worse than usual”, and was “urgently” investigating.

Changes made in July last year included a bus lane introduced only on Askew Road as it approaches the Tyne Bridge and the installation of a parallel cycle lane.

Councilor Jonathon Wallace, who represents Whickham South and Sunniside, said an inquiry into this weekend’s standoff was unnecessary and the council should scrap the changes.

The programme’s longtime critic said: ‘It needs no investigation – there was a large amount of traffic on Friday due to the events.

“Nevertheless, the biggest part of the problem is the experimental traffic management system, which does not work.

“To avoid chaos, they [the Council] have to ditch the traffic management system and go back to the drawing board.

“Going back to how things were is not the best solution in the world and leaves us with some problems, but not as bad as if we left the traffic management measures in place.”

Council last month confirmed that the changes, which also include the closure of Hills Street to through traffic and Nelson Street/Lambton Street only access to and from Trinity Square Shopping Centre, will remain in place for at least less than two years.

The government has said the low-traffic schemes put in place over the past 18 months should be maintained ‘unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary’.

Yesterday Sheena Ramsey, chief executive of Gateshead Council, admitted traffic problems in Gateshead town center were ‘on a scale never seen before’.

She said: ‘We want to apologize for the anxiety and inconvenience caused by the traffic and congestion experienced by local residents and visitors this weekend.

“The traffic problems around Gateshead town center at the end of last week were on a scale never seen before and we are investigating the causes urgently.

“While there may be localized issues with vehicles leaving the Trinity Square Shopping Center car park during peak periods, the congestion seen on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th was significantly worse than usual, and the Council is looking to identify why it happened and minimize the risk of it happening again.

Ms Ramsay said significant congestion was also seen in Newcastle.

She said: “We want to apologize for the anxiety and inconvenience caused by the traffic and congestion experienced by local residents and visitors this weekend.

“The traffic problems around Gateshead town center at the end of last week were on a scale never seen before and we are investigating the causes urgently.

“While there may be localized issues with vehicles leaving the Trinity Square Shopping Center car park during peak periods, the congestion seen on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th was significantly worse than usual, and the Council is looking to identify why it happened and minimize the risk of it happening again.

Ms Ramsay said significant congestion was also seen in Newcastle.

She added: “This weekend has also seen significant congestion and delays in Newcastle, and it appears crowds attending major cultural and sporting events in the area have contributed to this congestion.

“Gateshead is committed to addressing the climate emergency and addressing air quality issues and has made significant changes to the city center road network to help address these issues.

“We are going to review the way we manage the network and signage in the city center, to try to make traffic more fluid and avoid delays as much as possible.

“Any action taken will need to be placed within the broader context of the Council’s responsibilities. We need to shift the balance from the private car to alternative modes of transport.

For the latest local news in your area straight to your inbox every day, go here to sign up for our free newsletter

Comments are closed.