‘Travel Ipswich’ – the largest transport project of its kind in Suffolk – has hit a major stumbling block. As a result of County Labour Group breaking this news to the media, Ipswich residents now know that the last two parts of the scheme will not be completed this year.
Travel Ipswich started in 2011, with £21.5 million Government funding, as well as County Council contributions, it was intended to reduce congestion, make journeys by bus, cycle or on foot easier and cut down traffic queues for the motorist.
The main part of the scheme, which was meant to be completed this summer, was to upgrade all major junctions in Ipswich town centre, connecting them via fibre optics to an ‘Urban Traffic Management Control’ system. This would tackle congestion during the rush hour, whilst making room for buses and bicycles.
Majors Corner and Woodbridge Road/Argyle Street junctions have to be improved for Travel Ipswich to work. Labour Councillors have spent two years fighting for the Woodbridge Road route (arguably the most congested in the town) to get its new signals. New traffic signals here would greatly improve travel for buses and motorists. And Ipswich residents would finally feel all the roadworks for the last two years were paying off.
As early as autumn 2013, Labour Ipswich Councillors were told they were due to start on this last phase. But excuses around timing of works, how to divert traffic or impact on local schools have all repeatedly postponed the start date.
New Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Transport, Cllr James Finch, who had not responded to numerous requests for further information from Cllr Sandra Gage, was suddenly available when pressed on the issue by BBC Suffolk on Friday morning.
His stated that the delays to the scheme were “caused by the amount of time it has taken to finalise the design of this complex project” and that it is “not sensible to start now, due to the end to the school holidays, the Tour of Britain visit to Ipswich and the fast approaching pre-Christmas shopping.” Labour Councillors feel this is really not good enough.
Labour Opposition Spokesperson, Cllr Sandra Gage, who has spearheaded efforts to uncover the constant delays to this scheme, response has been “Residents have had to put up with years of disruption for a half finished scheme few can see the benefits of”. She added “Tory explanations of the schemes delay, which focus on the complex design of the project, are nothing but poor and half-thought-out excuses that ignore the fact that this initiative has been planned for over a year. This really boils down to a case of terrible project management and the Tory-run County Council has failed Ipswich”.
Cllr Gage concluded “If Suffolk County Council really values the economy of Ipswich, why have they allowed this crucial scheme to overrun by two years?”
The completion of Woodbridge Road/Argyle Street and Majors Corner has been delayed to spring 2016, and with it any improvements for buses, cyclists, pedestrians and car traffic around the town have been shelved.
Cllr Sandra Gage,
County and Borough Councillor for Rushmere, Ipswich
County Labour Spokesperson For Roads, Transport and Planning
Mobile 07714 597998
To hear Sandra’s interview on Radio Suffolk on Friday (28th August) Morning, please use this link. (You’ll find the interview around the 2hr 20 Min mark)