Switch Island – Too complex and the junction with Brooms Cross Road does not work

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-42946503

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

During my time as a Sefton Councillor I was involved in pretty much all the activities which eventually led to the building of Brooms Cross Road.

It all started with us marching through Thornton to try to get the new road project back on the agenda of Sefton Council. It had previously fallen off that agenda with the demise of what was then called the ‘Blue Route’. That former project would have seen a great deal of tree loss through Ince Woods and it fell pretty much for that reason. Here’s a couple of photos of us marching back around the turn of the century:-

Cllr. Geoff Howe and a young me on this shot marching with Thornton residents. My placard says ‘83% of Thornton residents want a relief road’.

Thornton residents marching to get the new road built.

The campaign gathered momentum and we managed to get all-party support for the new road (without damaging the woods) on the then balanced Sefton Council where no one party had a majority. Then I went, as Sefton Leader, to try to gain support from regional governmental bodies which existed at the time but are now defunct. We got that support.

I’ve read recently that some folks think that Sefton Council was asked to make a financial contribution to the project late on. In fact Sefton was always putting money into the project, indeed it was the promoter of the new road knowing full well it was going to have to put money in the pot.

The junction of the road with Switch Island has of course been the big issue especially as so many accidents have occurred there since the new road has been open and connected to an already complex junction.

Photo taken during the construction of Brooms Cross Road This is the Switch Island end of the yet to be completed road

I recall being shown a computer programme by the Highways Agency (now called Highways England) which predicted traffic flows and how they would change with the new road in place. I must admit to being sceptical at the time but the professional engineers said they had taken account of all the issues and that the plan would fly. It didn’t.

With the benefit of hindsight and the experience of watching what goes on at Switch Island my view is that the junction is simply too complex. What I mean by this is that new or irregular drivers encountering it have a bewildering array of signs and road markings to take on board. Unsurprisingly, they get things wrong and then have to swing across lanes, often without the due care required. Add into this the small minority of irresponsible regular users who expect to be able to fly through the junction at high speed (often running red lights) then you have a heady brew and accidents are always going to be on the cards.

The new lane indicator lights are innovative but how much they will actually help is yet to be seen. What I can’t get my head around is why speed/red light cameras were not been installed a long time ago. Surely dropping the vehicle approach speeds and taking the manic red light running out via such cameras would dramatically reduce the accidents, would it not?

Does Switch Island need fly-overs? Well yes it does and it has needed them for a long time now. Surely A5036/Dunningsbridge Rd docks trucks should be able to access the M58 without having to negotiate the island/junction and the same with traffic coming off the M57 wanting to travel down Brooms Cross Road.

And a final thought, beware of those promising to sort out Switch Island because with increased traffic it may only get worse, especially if no speed/red light cameras are installed.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Switch Island – That red Light jumping, why is it at such epic and dangerous proportions?

So why do drivers jump red lights? Is it attention seeking? Is it an alpha male issue? Is it inability to reasonably calculate travelling time? Is is just stupidity and not paying attention to the road? Is it simply being confused by a complicated junction?

Of course it is all of these and other factors too but for some reason the building of Brooms Cross Road and particularly its junction with Switch Island has really brought home to many of us how much red light jumping goes on and the consequences of it.

The Maghull Community Facebook Page records many of the incidents, the Champion newspaper has written on the problem too and a local MP has even raised the matter in Parliament. So it has certainly got our attention and no mistake.

Having campaigned for the new road to be built over a dozen year period or more I must say that I always had at the back of my mind that Switch Island was just going to be too complicated with another road added to it. Indeed, I recall talking to highway engineers about my wish to see a fly-over built connecting the M57 to the new road. I raised this both locally and at regional highway stakeholder events but it was very clear that the money to do this was simply not there.

I’m not going to say I told you so because that would be churlish and anyway the major objective of getting the road built was to try to address the appalling congestion on Lydiate Lane and/Green Lane in Thornton.

Of course red light jumping is not the fault of there being no fly-over but it is the cause of accidents at Switch Island. So you could say I suppose that hot-headed drivers who can’t take congestion red light jump to try to gain an advantage over other road users. In other words put a delay on the highway system and there will always be drivers who will not wait patiently in the queues – we see such behaviors all over our roads of course.

I missed my uncle’s funeral last December because of an horrendous traffic jam on the M6 in the infamous contraflow section where a lorry had broken down. We were sat there for a long long time and yes it is incredibly frustrating when you have an important appointment to make. So does this sort of incident turn those with a short fuse into dangerous drivers? I suppose it does.

But often a Switch Island you can see red light jumpers doing their thing when the road is clear. It’s as though they have no intention of stopping for the traffic lights unless they literally have no choice. It’s like gambling – ‘I can do it’, ‘I can beat that gap’ or ‘well I’m going too fast to stop now so lets go for it’.

Trouble is that the junction’s at Switch Island are big so it takes a few more seconds to cross them than at a normal set of traffic lights. Crossing say 6 lanes worth of road on a red light run is surely far more dangerous than crossing 1 or 2. And the junction of Brooms Cross Road and Brickwall Lane (the only midway junction on the new road) is also a very wide junction and I am seeing red light jumping there too.

It’s also possible that on the odd occasion the red light jumping at Switch Island is also a consequence of it being such a complicated junction – so many sets of lights, so many traffic signs, so much written on the lanes around the junction. Let’s face it first time users would usually be daunted by it and not know which lane to use. Factor in satnavs not giving clearly understandable instructions and it’s a heady brew indeed!

Oh and by the way I saw some chaps doing surveys in the middle of the island yesterday late morning. Could they be the consultants appointed by the Highways Agency?

Access to the Port of Liverpool – An update

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

Work on the new River Berth taking place in August 2015

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I return to this matter because Highways England have issued a 3rd newsletter which is now available on their web site – see link below (click the publications tab):-

www.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/a5036-port-of-liverpool-access/

The map above shows what Highways England have in mind, as if we were in any doubt. Option 2 is their proposed new road down and through the Rimrose Valley Country Park. Option 1 is upgrading the A5036/Dunningsbridge Road etc.

The issues that pop out for me from this latest newsletter are:-

* The odd answer to the question which I and many others must have asked the Highways England reps at the various public events a few weeks ago. Why isn’t greater use being made of the railway network in order to distribute this additional freight? Answer – Improvements to the rail network are being considered elsewhere. The obvious follow up question is where is ‘elsewhere’ and why is there no indication of it in the newsletter?

* In a second question specifically about bringing the North Mersey rail branch line back into use Highways England give a reasonable answer but again the answer does not take us any further forward with regard to non-road solutions.

* On the positive side Highways England seem to be saying all the right things about biodiversity, green issues, air quality and noise issues, which of course we should welcome.

However, what you quickly realise is that the strong line of questioning that Highways England clearly got from the public during the first round of consultation was really about the rail connections to the docks. No surprise there of course but those of us pressing that crucial issue were talking to folk who exist to build roads! They have little or no interest in other forms of transport.

And all this brings me back to my greatest concern which I have voiced before. Why is there not a joined up consultation being undertaken including Network Rail and Sefton Council? Yes we know that Labour-run Sefton is hiding behind the sofa hoping no one will realise that they should be leading this debate and goodness knows what Network Rail are doing in reality. So all we have at present is Highways England being desperate to build a new road.

It really is time for Labour-run Sefton Council to come out from under their sofa and lead this important public debate. If Bootle Labour MP Peter Dowd can raise the issue in Parliament why can’t Labour get to grips with it at a local level? And I don’t mean photos with concerned residents in the local press! What we need is all agencies and appropriate bodies being brought together by the Council so we have a fully informed public debate. There its not so hard comrades is it? – just do it.

Switch Island – More accidents

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/thornton-bypass-under-review-after-11563892

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

I use Switch Island regularly and am always cautious about where the new road joins it as I have seen red light jumpers taking big risks flying across this busy junction. If I have noticed correctly it is traffic leaving the M57 travelling northwards onto the new road that is involved.

But of course there is a wider problem and I have spoken to drivers who say the road markings are not clear or that there is too much information to take in and it is confusing. Take confused, often non-local drivers, with regular commuters in a hurry (some willing to jump red lights) and the mixture is a dangerous one.

My feeling is that the problems can only really be solved with a fly-over so that some traffic is taken out of this hugely complex junction.

Finally, I would add that I have been made aware of drivers who avoid Switch Island these days because they feel it is not a safe place to be. I tend to avoid Switch Island in bad/wet weather due to the antics of speeding and red light jumping drivers.

Thornton Nostalgia – Marching down the road for a road

I have commented on the recently opened Switch Island to Thornton Relief Road (called Brooms Cross Road) many times before but have just come across another photo of the public march through Thornton that re-launched the campaign for a by-pass around that community.

Thornton by-pass campaigning @2000

Click on the photo to enlarge it

It’s around the turn of the Century (I can’t recall the exact date) in this photo and Thornton residents are marching along the service road of Lydiate Lane near to its junction with Westbourne Avenue with the houses of the Lydiate Park estate in the background.

Maghull to Netherton – So many speed limits!

There’s a road that starts in Maghull and effectively runs all the way to the Edge Lane traffic lights by Bootle and Netherton Fire Station. It has various names along it’s relatively short length and even more speed limits.

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Starting with Sefton Lane at the junction with Liverpool Road South in Maghull it is 30mph. Just after it becomes Bridges Lane the limit rises to 40mph. When it becomes Brickwall Lane its back down to 30mph through Sefton Village, coming out of the Village it rises to 40mph and then across the junction with the new Brooms Cross Road it rises again to 50mph. Finally in drops to 40mph from there along Buckley Hill Lane to the Fire Station. This road is only 2 miles long in total!

Talk about confusing the motorist although you try sticking to 30mph through Sefton Village and see how many try to overtake you – it happens to me virtually every day.