‘Just get us moving again’ – that’s the call today from a transport boss after an expert report recommended no changes were needed to Blackpool’s Central Promenade.
As reported in yesterday’s Gazette, an independent review of the £2.5m ‘shared space’ scheme between New Bonny Street and North Pier advises against returning to a four-lane highway.
Manchester-based Ove Arup and Partners says this would have “limited benefits to traffic movement” and current issues around congestion were “anecdotal”.
But that view has been firmly rejected by a boss of a Blackpool bus company.
Philip Higgs (pictured), of Classic Bus North West, says his vehicles are sometimes forced to crawl along no faster than 2mph due to Prom congestion.
He said: “If reverting to four lanes would have ‘limited benefits to traffic movement’, then why did the Prom traffic flow work much better when it was originally four lanes? I accept this is the most costly option but ‘do nothing’ is certainly not the answer.
“We are monitoring our buses using a new tracker system and this is showing that on busy summer days, traffic is doing a maximum of 2mph along the Prom in front of The Tower which is less than walking speed – that means the Promenade is not performing as a highway.”
Blackpool Transport refused to be drawn on whether the carriageway should return to four lanes, but said its priority was to see traffic flowing so buses could run on time.
Bob Mason, director of delivery at the company, said: “We obviously want a Promenade that gives good traffic flows for our services so that our customers in Blackpool and the Fylde have a reliable and punctual service.
“Which scheme it is isn’t necessarily important. We would just want a scheme to assist our services to operate reliable and punctual services.”
Blackpool Council’s ruling committee is due to discuss the report when it meets at the town hall next Monday.
Coun John Jones, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We went to consultation and spoke to residents and other interested parties. They have come back with their views and now it is for us, as an executive, to make a decision.”
The five options are:
Option 1 – Do nothing.
Option 2 – The block work carriageway replaced with asphalt. Three crossings would be required to allow people to cross safely. A raised kerbline would also be introduced. The cost would be £1m-plus.
Option 3 – Layout to remain a single lane in each direction with pedestrian refuges installed. It also has right turn facilities and lay-bys. The road would be asphalted and kerbs introduced. Cost £800,000.
Option 3a - As option 3 but with an extended central reservation. Cost £900,000.
Option 4 - Change layout to two lanes in each direction. Install traffic lights for side road junctions and any pedestrian crossings. Guard rails reintroduced. Cost between £2.3m and £2.6m.
A scoring system used to measure the impact of each of the five options does reveal that returning to four lanes would have the biggest impact on easing congestion.
However, it would also give the least value for money.
The Gazette asked Blackpool Council how much it had cost the authority to hire consultants to produce the report.
A town hall spokeswoman said she was, at this stage, unable to reveal the amount.
The consultants have assessed each option based on 11 criteria - scale of impact, fit with wider transport objectives, economic growth, carbon emissions, local environment, well being, expected value for money, implementation timetable, practical feasability, capital and revenue costs and flexibility.
Scores range from 1 for low impact, to 5 indicating a high impact.
Option 1, to do nothing, scores 40 overal, compared to 32 for option 2 and option 3a, and 31 for option 3.
Option 4, to revert to four lanes, receives the lowest overall score of 26, but it is the only option to receive a maximum score of 5 for scale of impact.
The report admits “in relation to traffic delay, option 1 in effect retains the existing situation”.
It adds the other options would “have a more significant impact” and “be likely to reduce delay to traffic by effectively restoring priority for vehicle movement.”
While option 4 receives the highest score for impact on traffic, in terms of expected value for money, it receives the lowest score of 1.