A ONE-WAY system in Morpeth town centre is set to be removed in half the time originally suggested.
Drivers were warned last week that the unpopular roadworks along Bridge Street would take about 12 weeks to complete.
But now town councillors and traders have been assured that even if all of the work is not finished, the traffic system should return to normal within four to six weeks.
Northumberland County Council Highways Network Manager, Dick Phillips, said: “I know the sign said the work would last 12 weeks and I always say it is better to go over the time limit than under, but I think they have over-egged the pudding by about 100 per cent.
“I don’t think we are looking at anywhere near 12 weeks. We are probably looking at between four and six weeks.”
The system prevents drivers from travelling up Bridge Street towards the Clock Tower, diverting them along Dark Lane, Stanley Terrace, Wellway, Manchester Street and Newgate Street.
Newgate Street and Newmarket are open both ways and traffic can still travel down Bridge Street towards Telford Bridge.
The diversion is in place for a major footpath-improvement scheme to be carried out in Bridge Street.
Mr Philips said: “The problem started after the flood in 2008 when the water came up the street.
“We had a cold winter and the water was still under the pavement and pushed the flags up.
“Since then we have been carrying out maintenance work, but we have had a lot of trips and a lot of people complaining about the condition of the flags. In addition, the kerb line when it was first put in was put in wrong.
“Some time ago, the town council asked for the renewal of the flags. At the time we couldn’t do it, but just before Christmas, the streetwork co-ordinator was asked by the engineers to see if we could replace the flags. This is happening.”
He added: “The whole of Bridge Street is going to be much improved. It is going to look 100 per cent better. We have had complaints for the past three or four years about trips and falls and the state of the footpaths. All of that will be addressed in this one job.”
Mr Philips told a meeting of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade on Monday that all steps have been taken to minimise disruption to businesses.
“We have made arrangements so that we will not close anybody’s shop by not letting people in,” he said.
“We have asked the people in the shops the best time to carry out the work. For example, I have spoken to the owner of Bin 21, which is open until 11 o’clock at night. We have told him we will carry out work outside his shop from 7am to 10am, before he opens.
“Unfortunately, the work has to be done and this is the best time. It is when we have the money and the manpower and just after Christmas is when we try to do work in the market towns.”
Mr Philips said originally two teams of workers were to be employed on the job six days a week, but the council has paid for a third gang.
Temporary traffic lights were not envisaged in the plan, but were brought in when work started on Monday and it became clear that vehicles could not get out of Bridge Street due to the heavy traffic coming over Telford Bridge.
The highways officer said he will look into traders’ suggestions to provide two lanes of traffic at the bottom of Bridge Street, separating traffic turning right, and to consider whether timings of the Manchester Street lights can be changed to avoid tailbacks in Wellway.
He apologised for a lack of information about the project before work started.