‘Sleepwalking into more congestion’ – See how traffic has increased where you live

Traffic in St Helen's Street, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Traffic in St Helen's Street, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk is “sleepwalking” towards ever worsening congestion after figures showed traffic volumes at some of the busiest roads have more than doubled in five years.

The latest figures for the county’s A and B roads revealed a 15% overall increase in vehicle volumes between 2012-2017, with many of the biggest rises found around Ipswich.

The Department for Transport (DfT) data also shows a 30% spike in van journeys, thought to be linked to the growth in online shopping, while a 15% fall in buses has been attributed to public transport cuts.

Out of more than 200 roads in the study, 86% recorded an increase in traffic volumes over the five-year period.

With Suffolk County Council estimating that congestion will cost the local economy £146.6 million by 2021, campaigners have called for an urgent rethink of transport strategies.

Traffic congestion near Asda in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Traffic congestion near Asda in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Barry Moore, a former managing director of Ipswich Buses who is now secretary for the Ipswich and East Suffolk Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We are sleepwalking into more and more congestion.”

Mr Moore said public funding cuts had resulted in a great reduction in evening and Sunday bus services in Suffolk.

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“There are no quick answers to the situation in which we find ourselves,” he added.

Sandy Martin, MP for Ipswich, where many of the biggest increases in traffic volumes have been recorded, said: “Congestion in Ipswich is something which people speak to me about all the time and it’s clearly a real problem, which is holding us back. I would appeal to people who live in Ipswich and who can travel to work without using their cars to do so. It’s got to the stage now where, for many people, it’s actually quicker to walk to work than to drive.”

Mr Martin also urged people to “rediscover the joy of walking and cycling” – to improve their health and reduce congestion.

He called for more frequent bus services to help cut car journeys, which make up almost three-quarters of all traffic in Suffolk.

The DfT figures show the single biggest traffic increase was between the A14 and Asda roundabout, north-west of Ipswich, where it has more than doubled in five years.

The A1156 between Star Lane and St Helen’s Street in central Ipswich and the A14 towards Dock Gate roundabout in Felixstowe have also seen significant increases.

Traffic on Star Lane, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Traffic on Star Lane, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk County Council said it had carried out targeted highways improvements across Suffolk to reduce congestion.

However, Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group at the council said road improvements would not solve the wider problems associated with increased car journeys.

“These figures are incredibly worrying but come as absolutely no surprise,” he said.

“The public needs to realise that if we keep increasing the vehicles on our roads, then the time we spend stuck in traffic will also increase.

“We desperately need a strategy to replace the focus on cars with more sustainable modes.”

Mr Stringer said the reliance on cars also had a drastic effect on people’s health, highlighting a recent report which said air pollution caused more deaths than obesity in the UK, at an estimated 40,000 per year.

“These figures are truly shameful,” he added.

Many town and parish councils have highlighted concerns about traffic when creating neighbourhood plans or responding to housing applications.

Green councillor Andrew Stringer Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Green councillor Andrew Stringer Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

In Bramford, where the nearby A14 and B1113 both saw big rises in vehicle volume, the parish council warned in 2012 that the village is “due to be encircled by major construction and infrastructure works in the next few years”, which would have a “significant” impact on traffic.

The DfT statistics are an estimate of the number of vehicle miles travelled on different stretches of main roads, based on manual counts and estimates from previous years.

While traffic volumes for most roads increased, a small number became less busy, including the A137 between Quadling Street and West End in Ipswich, the A12 from A1117 to B1385 Corton Long Lane in Lowestoft and the A134 from A1302 Southgate Green to Rougham Hill roundabout in Bury St Edmunds.

The figures show the volume of cars on the roads of Suffolk has increased by 13.3%, while lorries have risen by 11.7%, and motorbikes by 5%.

Sandy Martin Labour MP for Ipswich Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Sandy Martin Labour MP for Ipswich Picture: SEANA HUGHES - Credit: Archant

‘Targeted highways improvements’

Suffolk highways chiefs have highlighted projects aimed at improving traffic at trouble spots in the county.

Mary Evans, who is cabinet member for highways at Suffolk County Council said: “To deal with the increased volume of traffic in the county, targeted highways improvements across Suffolk have been deployed to reduce congestion.

“This includes the Radial Route Improvement project, funded by Suffolk County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership, which looks to improve the worst performing junctions in Ipswich through providing addition capacity.

“We are also continuing to develop and improve footways and cycle networks across the county to encourage the use of alternative and greener travel options, which will also reduce congestion.”

The council has also encouraged people to devise ‘travel plans’ to seek our more sustainable travel options, such as walking, cycling and public transport.

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