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Canterbury ring-road needs drastic redesign, warn traffic experts

Traffic experts admit a city's ring-road has reached breaking point and must be redesigned in order to avoid further gridlock hell.

They fear that with thousands more homes earmarked for construction in Canterbury by 2031, the road system simply will not cope with a predicted 16% increase in vehicles.

A common sight in Canterbury every evening
A common sight in Canterbury every evening

Fed-up motorists are continuously stuck in daily jams along the 1.4-mile stretch between the St Peter's and Military Road roundabouts.

In a bid to alleviate the congestion, bold designs to ditch the clogged-up roundabout system at Wincheap, Riding Gate and St George's have been drawn up by engineering firm Sweco.

Blueprints show the potential for a traffic light set-up at the three junctions, with dedicated cycle lanes and new pedestrian crossings being installed.

The possibility of bringing the city-bound Rheims Way towards St Peter's Roundabout down to one lane in order to create a new bus lane is also being explored.

In a report commissioned by Kent County Council to find a solution to the ever-growing problem, Sweco's project director Colin Finch warns that if nothing is done then journey times at peak hours will more than double.

How a traffic light system could look at St George's Roundabout
How a traffic light system could look at St George's Roundabout

"With an average demand growth of 16%, the existing highway does not have the capacity to match this demand uplift," he said.

"Such a scenario would lead to additional queueing entering Canterbury as well as lengthening the shoulder peaks.

"There will be negative effects on journey time, air pollution, noise pollution and traffic collisions - doing nothing is not a realistic option."

Current statistics show that during peak afternoon rush-hour, there are about 1,500 cars stuck on the city's arteries such as New Dover Road as they try to get onto the ring-road.

Come 2031, that number will almost treble to 4,200, it is forecast.

A common sight in Canterbury
A common sight in Canterbury

It is predicted the average journey times on the ring-road will also increase by between seven and eight minutes.

The redesigns, for which cost estimations are yet to be researched, take into account a perceived 20% modal shift of motorists ditching their cars in favour of public transport or bicycles.

The report says: "Without ambitious junction designs, there will not be enough incentive for existing and future car users to change their trips in and around Canterbury.

"Additional schemes are proposed that fit within this remit, including a new cycling bridge over rail lines by Canterbury East to link with other cycling network improvements."

Councillors sitting on the joint transportation board were presented with Sweco's findings and discussed the topic at a meeting on Tuesday night.

While Cllr Ashley Clark suggested reconfiguring the roundabout "is a bit like asking a juggler to write an essay", local Lib Dem leader Cllr Michael Dixey blamed the council's previous decision-making.

Cllr Michael Dixey
Cllr Michael Dixey

"Canterbury will be completely gridlocked for much of the day - putting off shoppers, affecting local businesses and residents," he said.

"Why an earth did we approve the Local Plan when it was clear this would be the case? This is a damning indictment on this council."

Project manager Dermot Hanney admits the traffic light system is likely to increase journey times for some motorists but believes it could be beneficial for the city network as a whole.

"Signal flow is less than a roundabout but the roundabout only works best when it's well-balanced - with signals there's potential to better balance the flow.

The view of the ring-road from the top of the Dane John mound
The view of the ring-road from the top of the Dane John mound

"It may be that some people currently experiencing the best journey times might have to accept slower journey times so everyone can see a benefit."

Meanwhile, Kent councillor Ida Linfield (Lib Dem) wants more routes to be brought into the fray.

"I think we should be looking at having a proper ring-road around Canterbury like 40 years ago," she said. "Because without it, Canterbury will sink under traffic and pollution and that is not acceptable."

Sweco states that re-routing ring-road traffic should be considered, with "short new highway links" offering a big relief to the city's main route.

At Tuesday's meeting at the Guildhall, councillors agreed to continue testing new designs and explore the ring-road's development further.

The approach to Wincheap Roundabout is consistently snarled up
The approach to Wincheap Roundabout is consistently snarled up

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