Multi-million pound plans for a string of congestion-busting improvements to tackle Blackpool’s worst pinch points have been revealed.
Highways chiefs have made the ambitious £2.5m bid to the Government for cash to install state-of-the-art technology designed to slash chronic jams and bring the resort’s bottleneck hell to an end.
The money, from the Department for Transport, would be used to fund traffic monitoring cameras and electronic signs to detect roads with less traffic on and direct drivers to those routes during peak times. It would focus on the Promenade and major roads around the town centre.
A string of improvements would also be made to junctions on major routes around the town and cameras would be used to detect and send drivers to emptier car parks to prevent people driving round looking for spaces.
The controls will also be used to help ease queues during special events throughout the year.
And it is hoped it will also help the town’s businesses, with traders claiming horrendous traffic is affecting their trade.
At the same time, the council has also made a fresh bid for £1.7m to carry out essential repairs to Yeadon Way, which carries around four million vehicles a year, to and from the resort’s tourism heartland.
Both bids have been submitted to the Department of Transport’s Local Pinch Point Fund which supports schemes deemed key to economic growth.
Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for economic development on Blackpool Council, said: “The council is always looking at ways to improve the flow of traffic and if these bids are successful it should make a big difference and help drivers of both cars and public transport get around.
“One of the difficulties we have in Blackpool is we are limited on the number of roads we have travelling north to south which makes traffic flow very difficult at times.
“So we believe this system would be of great benefit and we are hoping these two bids will be successful.”
Recent changes to resort roads have seen Central Promenade reduced from four lanes to two, and a new road layout created around Talbot Gateway to serve new council offices and the Sainsbury’s supermarket currently under construction.
There was an outcry when Central Promenade between New Bonny Street and North Pier was reduced to a single lane in each direction, triggering long queues.
Despite calls to dig up the new shared space layout and return the road to two lanes in both directions, the council opted earlier this year not to make any further changes to the carriageway following a consultation.
There have also been complaints about Central Promenade being closed in its entirety for special events on the Tower Festival Headland.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard is among those who have repeatedly warned that clogged up roads are damaging the town’s economy.
He said: “The intelligent transport system has the potential to ease the symptoms causing traffic congestion, but I’m not sure it solves the underlying problem.
“It might be able to redistribute traffic on the east to west arterial routes but not north to south as that is a capacity crunch.
“I think congestion remains a problem.
“Clearly there has been a lot of argument over capacity on the Promenade particularly.”
Traders have also warned congestion is deterring residents from shopping in the town centre.
Darren Olive, of the Tile Discount Trade Warehouse on George Street, said: “When the roads are all open, it’s not too bad, but recently we have had Talbot Road and now Caunce Street closed off because of roadworks.
“It’s roadworks which cause the problems and next year will be even worse when they dig up Talbot Road to put tram tracks down.”
The Yeadon Way bid is for repairs to the former railway embankment the road is built on.
Highways chiefs say the current regime of running repairs is not sustainable and a one-off major investment is needed to give the road a 25-year lease of life.
A report to councillors says: “This road is essential to future investment, specifically the potential for a large scale leisure development on the Central Station site.”
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “In submitting the Yeadon Way bid we are looking to preserve a route into the town centre which is absolutely vital to our local economy. We have also submitted a new bid to assist with improvements to the town centre and Promenade road network.”