£60m traffic plans for A12 is vanity project that Suffolk should abandon

Seven Hills A12

The A12 Seven Hills junction does not need traffic lights. - Credit: Google

In a week in which highways workers are once again proving themselves to be the heroes of the hour by doing all they can to keep roads moving, it may seem a bit harsh to launch a broadside at their bosses.

But I have to ask. What planet are those who came up with the idea of spending £60m on a series of traffic lights on roundabouts in East Suffolk living on?

You don't need traffic lights on a roundabout. All that does is create more congestion, more pollution, and more frustration among drivers.

If the Highways Department at Suffolk County Council has £60m burning a hole in its pocket I can think of 150 better ways to spend it rather than cutting the East Suffolk coast off from the 21st century!

It's not as if they're unaware of the problems traffic lights on roundabouts cause. They spent huge amounts of money removing them from roundabouts in Kesgrave a few years ago.

Has that caused chaos on the A1214? Is there carnage every day as people head about their business? No. The road network is far more efficient, far better at operating without lights on roundabouts.

There were few real problems on the Copdock roundabout between the A14 and A12 until the traffic lights were installed. I know the "experts" say the problems would have been worse if the lights hadn't been there, but what evidence do they have for that - real-life evidence, not a computer model that cannot really understand normal human behaviour?

A few years ago we were driving to meet a family member in Canterbury. As we drove along the A12 north of Colchester a traffic report came on the radio saying that there was traffic chaos at the Brook Street Interchange where the A12 meets the M25. The traffic lights had just broken down and motorists were advised to avoid the area.

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I don't know the roads around Brentwood well enough to try to find an alternative route to Kent, so we decided to plough on and see what happened.

About an hour later we reached the junction. The lights were out. But I hadn't seen the traffic moving so smoothly around it for years! It was brilliant - no problem at all. There were engineers looking at one of the lights, but the traffic was moving superbly - this was late morning. We reached Canterbury for lunch.

We had exactly the same experience on our way home the next afternoon. The lights were still being fixed, again there was a lot of traffic but it flowed around the roundabout brilliantly.

The roundabout was doing what a roundabout should do - enabling traffic to keep moving. If ever there was a lesson on why traffic lights should not be imposed on roundabouts that was it.

I don't know what highways managers think drivers will do at roundabouts without their guidance in the form of traffic lights.

And before councillors discuss spending £60m on a ribbon of traffic lights stretching all the way from Seven Hills to Melton (what a fun journey that's going to be!) I hope they have considered how much they (or their successors) will have to pay to remove them if, like the Kesgrave lights, they are proved to be a total disaster in 10 years' time.

I don't use the A12 between Bucklesham and Martlesham that much but when I have used it, I've never had a problem with it.

The A12 north of Martlesham is very familiar to me as I use it to visit Woodbridge and the Suffolk coast - I also use the Grundisburgh and Melton roundabouts very often in normal times. 

I cannot, for the life of me, see the problem on these junctions. I'm forced to draw the conclusion that the traffic planners are splitting hairs to try to find a problem where none exists in a desperate attempt to spend a windfall.

I'm sure most motorists would be happier seeing the money spent on the flooding problems near Farlingaye School that have been ignored for years.

It should be the job of traffic planners to keep traffic moving, to reduce pollution and to keep the county's arteries open - not stop vehicles and make it more difficult for people to get around.

I hope the politicians at Suffolk County Council see this.




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