by Henry James (June 2022)

HEAVY traffic congestion in Ormskirk town centre caused by the temporary closure of one lane on Derby Street bridge has sparked fears that the same could happen if the bridge is made permanently one lane.

Traffic was restricted on the bridge due to emergency roadworks by Electricity North West, which caused long queues on other town centre roads.

Lancashire County Council plan to make the bridge permanently one lane next year and say the proposal is “based on detailed traffic modelling.

But politicians of all parties on West Lancashire Borough Council have voiced opposition to the plan.

Councillor Adrian Owens, leader of the Our West Lancashire group on the borough council questioned whether the county council “can so confidently predict no congestion for a future single lane Derby Street bridge when these temporary roadworks have so evidently resulted in congestion?”

Labour borough councillor Gareth Dowling said the county council was making a decision “based on flawed evidence.”

He added: “The computer generated indicator bears no similarity to what we experience every time there is a single lane due to roadworks or even a vehicle parked up.

“There are multiple alternatives to the single lane approach. They could widen the existing two lanes and add pedestrian access on either or both sides, or replace the existing bridge altogether with one wide enough to accommodate two lanes and two footpaths.”

Lancashire County Council say the proposal is “based on detailed traffic modelling, a tried-and-tested method of testing what impact any change to the roads will have on traffic.” They added: “A computer-based model has been produced using real-life traffic surveys and information captured by cameras which monitor traffic levels on the bridge and in the surrounding area.”

It came to the conclusion that “any impact on traffic by reducing the bridge to one lane would be very minor and would not have a significant impact on traffic as it crosses the bridge, or at junctions in the surrounding area.”

County Councillor Rob Bailey, lead member for highways and active travel, said: “The emergency roadworks which were put in place earlier this week by Electricity North West are completely different, and cannot be compared to, the scheme we're planning for Derby Street Bridge.

“The reason we are proposing to change the traffic layout over Derby Street Bridge is to allow the footways to be widened to increase safety for pedestrians, and reduce the risk of a vehicle colliding with the bridge and endangering the railway beneath.

“Derby Street Bridge is Grade 2 listed, which means that it is not viable to replace, or significantly alter, the bridge without strong evidence that there is no reasonable alternative.”

He added: “The ENW roadworks between Station Approach and Stanley Street prevented drivers from continuing onto Derby Street, resulting in more traffic having to stay on the one-way system, and causing longer queues at the traffic lights at Stanley Street, Moor Street, Knowsley Road and Wigan Road.

“The impact of these temporary works cannot be compared to our proposal for one-lane running over Derby Street Bridge, which have been tested using traffic models, and in practice, with a video showing traffic flowing quite freely during one-lane running available on the county council's website.”

Lancashire County Council say work reducing traffic over the bridge to a single lane will not take place until next year “to minimise the impact on traffic in the town centre while work is taking place on the Ormskirk Eastern Gateway scheme.”

This will involve the demolition of the old bus station and replace it with a new facility.

There will also be work on Moor Street to construct a new mini roundabout to replace existing traffic signals at the St Helens Road junction with Moor Street.

A toucan crossing close to the junction with Moor Street will then be installed with segregated cycle tracks and “improvements to the road and pavement to complement those on Moor Street.”

Picture by Blair Piggin

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