TRAFFIC lights were the best option for a busy Morpeth junction, highways chiefs have said.
Bosses at Northumberland County Council say they are well aware of public opposition to the Telford Bridge signals, but insist they are necessary to accommodate the anticipated additional traffic from the town’s new supermarket.
Developer Dransfield Properties has paid for the system as part of planning agreements.
County Head of Sustainable Transport Mike Scott said: “A great number of options were considered by the traffic consultants that Dransfield employed, from the option of the existing roundabout and a roundabout with other approaches through to the various traffic signals.
“They also looked at some radical solutions in terms of shared spaces. All of these options failed to accommodate the additional traffic, other than the traffic signals.”
Mr Scott said Morpeth has long suffered from congestion, with around 20,000 vehicles a day using the Telford Bridge junction, and the previous roundabout was already over capacity.
However, he said authorities can not force developers to improve or eliminate jams, they simply have to ensure ‘minimum impact’.
“We did a lot of work with the Dransfield Properties team over several years to identify what the most efficient way of accommodating traffic on the network would be. This is the best we can offer.”
Mr Scott said that the long-term plan to ease congestion is the development of a Northern Bypass, which has secured funding from the Government and should be completed within three years.
He said consultation about the new system was done through the planning process for the supermarket development off Dark Lane.
Further improvements are being made to the lights to ensure better phasing and synchronisation with pedestrian crossings. A sign to advise drivers turning right onto Telford Bridge will be considered, while bollards are to be installed outside St George’s Church to stop drivers mounting the pavement.
Mr Scott said: “The installation of these lights has not been without problems. You are not the first to have suffered this. It is usual for this to happen over the early weeks. Most of these problems are resolved and the rest soon will be.
“The signals are essential to accommodate traffic for the supermarket in the short-term.
“The long-term solution is the bypass, which we have secured money for and which will happen in the next three years. We do want to hear your views. We want to make things better and put some more improvements in as soon as we can to get these issues resolved.”
He added: “If you think there were no queues at the roundabout, you are wrong, you are simply wrong.”
County Network Manager Dick Phillips agreed that congestion has long been a problem and he disputed claims that long vehicles can not negotiate the tight turns at the junction, saying some had already been through it.
He said: “We need to do something. We can’t go back to what we had. What we had didn’t work.”
Dransfield Properties spokeswoman Amanda Holmes said: “The initial results from the monitoring have been looked at in detail and Northumberland County Council and our traffic consultants are agreeing some timing changes to the signals, which they are looking to implement as soon as possible.
“The monitoring of the junction will be an ongoing process to assess if the changes are having a positive impact or if further timing changes are needed.”