Gridlocked Blackpool drivers slam council over road closure

Rush hour traffic due to roadworks
Rush hour traffic due to roadworks
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Raging motorists have slammed Blackpool Council over the timing of a major road closure.

The authority gave the go-ahead for United Utilities to shut the junction of St Annes Road and Watson Road for water mains replacement.

But taxi firms, drivers and the town’s main bus operator have all asked why the scheme could not have been delayed until after the Illuminations.

In addition to concerns over total gridlock concerns have been raised over the safety of children with the diversion route taking cars, buses and lorries past three schools.

Blackpool Transport bosses have slammed the timing of the South Shore work.

The company’s number seven services between Cleveleys and Lytham have been reported running up to half an hour late.

Director of delivery, Bob Mason said: “I think the timing of the works has been very poor.

“They have started on one of the busiest weeks that we have in Blackpool.

“We were given very short notice and unfortunately we had limited options for diversions.

“We chose to go down Waterloo Road, Lytham Road and Highfield Road because that is the most logical.

“But the sheer volume of traffic is causing delays.

“It’s cumulative for us, the timetable is unravelling through the day.

“We appreciate the work has to be done but what difference would two weeks have made?”

Steve Buckley, vice-chairman of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association branded the arrangements a ‘joke’

He said: “I don’t know how they have started this now.

“Why couldn’t they wait for the New Year?

“It’s a bit of a joke closing that junction with the Illuminations still on and with half term visitors.

“Then the diversion sends you past three schools.

“There’s Hawes Side, Highfield and Our Lady of the Assumption, not to mention the fact the junction with Common Edge Road is down to one lane because of more roadworks.

“It’s just not been thought out.

“The people who make these decisions, they just don’t think of road users.”

Mr Buckley believes it is not just drivers’ profits at risk, but lives.

He said: “I have to go through there twice a day.

“On Wednesday I got onto Hawes Side Lane heading back to town from St Annes and just gave up. You cannot arrange to be anywhere in this town at a specific time at the moment.

“It’s costing us money.

“Drivers are getting stuck in traffic and just scrapping jobs.

“Not only that but with the diversion running past three schools it’s only a matter of time before someone is hurt or worse.

“An accident is going to happen and it’s going to be a child.”

Frank Landini of Blackpool Licensed Taxi Owners Association (BLOTA) was equally scathing.

And he warned thinks were only going to get worse for drivers in Blackpool with Crossley’s Bridge, on Plymouth Road, closing completely in November, axing another north to south artery.

He said: “I think a lot of the problems are caused by the people making these decisions not knowing how traffic in the town works.

“The timing is all wrong but it’s not the first time.

“Last year they wanted to shut Yeadon Way and we got it delayed.

“In the past we’ve had huge delays with the Waterloo Road mini-roundabout.

“It’s not just at peak times there’s a problem.

“This work should not have been done during the Illuminations and half term, one of the busiest times of the year in Blackpool.

“They have had more than 12 months to get this right and it’s a mess.

“And this is just the start, you’ve Crossley’s Bridge on Plymouth Road closing in a couple of weeks.”

The official diversion takes drivers along Waterloo Road, Hawes Side Lane, Common Edge Road and Squires Gate Lane.

However, drivers, frustrated by queues have also been using the Promenade, Lytham Road and Progress Way to dodge the jams.

The jams have raised concerns from staff at Hawes Side Academy in Peddars Lane where drivers looking to find a way around queues are getting caught up in the school run.

Site manager Dave Whiley said: “Parking has been a significant problem for a long time now.

“But it’s definitely got worse since St Annes Road was closed.

“People are cutting down Peddars Lane trying to get around the traffic.

“We are struggling to find parking for staff and parents are getting stuck in the queues.

“My main concern is the safety of the children and right now it is a worry.”

South Shore Fire Station is close to the closed junction.

But crews there have insisted contingency plans are in place and response times will not be affected.

Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for Municipal Assets, said: “As a driver myself who regularly uses this junction and the roads in South Shore, I can completely understand the frustration around these roadworks.

“Where possible, we try to plan roadworks outside of the peak summer and Illuminations seasons. That was the original plan with this junction, however, delays on United Utilities’ programme pushed it back to October. Delaying the programme again would knock it into Christmas and cause more congestion, while also making it susceptible to further delays due to the winter weather.

“Diversions are in place, however we expect that local drivers will use their own knowledge to choose alternative routes.

“What makes planning of roadworks extremely difficult is the variation in this year’s school holidays. This autumn, half terms across the north of England and Scotland vary drastically over a span of three weeks, meaning that we cannot carry out maintenance over a number of weeks without overlapping with a school holiday.

“We expect next week to be the busiest of the half term, as schools in Lancashire break up and our LightPool festival begins, so have already agreed to stop the work on Progress Way and restore it to two lanes until after the half term to try and ease congestion.

“I appreciate drivers’ frustrations at the moment and thank them for their patience while the work is taking

place.

“Road congestion does tend to calm down a week or two after a road is closed once people have worked out new routes but we are trying to make it easier for drivers where possible.”