Major junctions set to be upgraded at a cost of £3.5m
MOTORISTS face a year of delays as around £3.5m is spent to speed up traffic at one of Hinckley’s notorious congestion hot spots.
Lucy Lynch looks into efforts to get traffic moving in and out of Hinckley along Rugby Road with its junctions on Hawley Road (outside the Hub) and Brookside.
In the nineteenth century the route was a turnpike road to Rugby Bridge and probably the biggest gripe was the tolls the owners of the road charged every traveller.
But in the twentieth century the gripe is undoubtedly traffic jams. Rugby Road came third in a Leicester Mercury online poll to find the five worst places for traffic jams in Leicestershire.
The most congested section of the road is between its junction with Brookside and its junction with Hawley Road, site of the council office the Hinckley Hub.
Traffic lights at both junctions slow vehicles. There is a bottleneck between the two junctions under the railway bridge where the road drops from two to one lanes heading into town and another bottleneck heading at Brookside when only one lane is available for vehicles going straight on.
At rush hour the congestion can add 10 to 15 minutes on to a journey. When accidents on the A5 mean traffic is diverted through Hinckley the delays can be much longer.
Director of the Hinckley Business Improvement District Steve Wegerif, representing businesses in Hinckley town centre, summed up the need to tackle the congestion when he said: “We are delighted that the regular gridlocks at the Hawley Road/Rugby Road junction should be eased by the proposed Leicestershire County Council infrastructure improvements. We have not yet seen any fine detail as the funding has only just been approved and obviously, consultations will now begin.
“Obviously LCC Highways are aware of the statistics which show that more and more people are choosing to live within town centres and Hinckley is no exception as all the new housing on Hawley Road, and additional apartments in the town centre itself, testify. It is vital that access routes into and out of Hinckley are kept as trouble-free as possible, not only to support the delivery vehicles that keep our town centre retailers supplied with their stock but equally importantly, to encourage visitors and shoppers to come into Hinckley to ensure we retain our extensive choice of shops and services.”
So what will Leicestershire County Council staff do to the junction with Rugby Road and Hawley Road?
They are set to spend around £3.5m.
There will be extra lanes for traffic on Hawley Road and Westfield Road.
Turning left out of Westfield Road will be banned. A pedestrian crossing will be installed on the south side (the railway bridge side) of the junction on Rugby Road. There is none at the moment. The traffic light timings will be changed. Turning right from Rugby Road northbound (heading towards town) into Westfield will also be banned.
What about the junction with Rugby Road and Brookside?
The junction will be widened on the Rugby Road southbound exit to create a two into one merge lane. This means traffic will be able to use both of the existing lanes to head southbound (towards the M69) where currently only the right hand lane is for the cars going straight on. A Toucan pedestrian crossing will be installed across Brookside for those using the pavement and cycle path that run alongside Rugby Road.
Will they bring back the traffic island?
The answer from Leicestershire County Council is no. Cllr Blake Pain, (Con, Bruntingthorpe) cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “A variety of options were considered and tested, including taking into account future predicted levels of traffic. These options included reverting back to a roundabout, and also the provision of a larger, signalised roundabout. Overall, it was found that the proposed scheme, which includes improvements to the existing signals, offered the greatest benefits in terms of reducing delay and journey times.”
The traffic island was replaced with traffic lights in 2013 when the Hinckley Hub was built. Some Hinckley Times readers are calling for the return of the traffic island. It is a popular option and likely to be suggested by the public at the consultation.
Katrina Dix, who regularly uses the junction, said: “Roundabout all the way. One night few weeks back all the lights were out, and the traffic flowed great even though people had no roundabout to go round there was no queue in any direction this was about 5.45pm - 6pm too.”
But other readers point out that while the traffic island was quick for traffic travelling from the M69 to the town centre and back it could be slow in other directions. People remember how difficult the traffic island was to negotiate on foot, especially with a pushchair. And some point out traffic islands work best when traffic is light. Timeline 2006 Closure of the Flude hosiery factory which occupied the site before the Hinckley Hub was opened.
2013 The Hinckley Hub opens providing a base for Job Centre Plus staff, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council staff and Leicestershire County Council staff. The roundabout at the junction of Hawley Road and Rugby Road is replaced by traffic lights.
2017 Leicestershire County Council announces £3.5 million for junction improvements
2018 Leicestershire County Council announces plans in early 2019 for a consultation on the roadworks
2019 Work due to start in May after a public consultation
2020 Work due to finish in the summer
The Flude site which became home to Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council in 2013. Photo by Becky Lee.
Rugby Road, Hawley Road junction in Hinckley taken from Google Street View in 2009 before the roundabout was removed