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Bath's lorries are coming our way

April 4, 2012 4:09 PM

Lorry / truckDespite strong representations from Wiltshire Council and an expression of concern from the Highways Agency it now seems likely that Bath & NE Somerset council will press ahead with their plans to put an experimental weight limit on Cleveland Bridge on the A36, forcing HGVs to find alternative routes. Despite previous understandings BaNES are also refusing to help with monitoring traffic flows in Wiltshire. However Wiltshire's transport supremo Dick Tonge has agreed to install traffic counters on routes which are vulnerable to increased freight traffic, including the B3105 through Staverton, at Wiltshire Council's expense.

The latest estimate for the introduction of the lorry ban is June.

Five counters are being installed at a cost of £20,000 to Wiltshire taxpayers at the following sites:

- A350 Semington

- A350 South of Westbury

- A363 Farleigh Wick

- A363 between Bradford and Trowbridge

- B3105 Staverton

……………………

History:

In January 2012 the Highways Agency, which manages the UK's motorways and trunk roads, expressed concerns about BaNES' proposals to close Cleveland Bridge to lorries and send more of them through Wiltshire, saying the plan would be detrimental to the strategic road network.

The proposal to ban HGVs in Bath, and how this could affect Staverton and Bradford on Avon, was the main topic at the area board on Wednesday September 21 2011. WC head of sustainable transport, Allan Creedy, provided an update on the proposed weight restriction order at Cleveland Bridge in Bath and the possible impact on the A363 through Bradford on Avon and the B3105 through Woolley Green to Staverton.

Representatives from BaNES explained that they wanted the trial to begin in February or March 2012 and continue for 18 months. If they saw it as a success then the order would be made permanent.

BANES have produced a report which attempts to estimate where lorries would go if the route through Bath were closed to them. A number of alternative routes were identified including the B3105 through Staverton and Trowbridge to the A350 and A36.

Whilst at the official level drivers might be encouraged to use the M4 (J17) / A350 route this adds considerably to the mileage and many HGVs would take shorter routes.

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Response from local Environmental campaigner Jenny Raggett:

"I read with interest the Bath Chronicle article dated 24th March 2011 explaining that the proposed lorry ban at Cleveland Bridge will not affect Wiltshire. It is an interesting theory.

The report on the lorry ban produced by BANES suggests that large trucks, finding their North-South route through Bath blocked, will detour through the congested city of Bristol, a conclusion which goes completely against common sense and ignores the Highways Agency map of alternative routes indicated for previous A36 closures at Limpley Stoke.

So how is the 'Wiltshire unaffected by the lorry ban' trick done?

The BANES report cites work done interviewing lorries on one day in October 2009. It explains that 560 HGVs of 18 - 44 tonnes went over the bridge (both directions). Of these 225 were local or associated with Radstock, leaving 335 large trucks negotiating the bridge under the heading of longer distance through traffic.

Over half were travelling to and from Dorset, Hampshire and the South East. About a quarter were travelling to and from Wiltshire, and a similar number going to and from Frome, other parts of Somerset, or Devon.

Four new routes are put forward by BANES for displaced HGVs - the report includes a map showing these. The report then shows how many extra miles each route would be in length, over the current A46/A36 lorry route used today. Finally it assigns a percentage of trucks to each new route on the basis of how long it is.

The A350 route means 8 miles extra so the report assigns only 2 lorries to that route through Wiltshire - it's that simple. Diversionary routes through Bristol are shorter, so the report says 91% of lorries will divert there, sending them on a slow journey through the congested Bristol North fringe and bottlenecks on the ring road or navigating right across the centre of the city where the traffic can be stop-start all the way. It all seems rather improbable.

Many might ask whether large trucks displaced from Bath might actually divert around Bradford on Avon, crossing the river at Staverton and then onto Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome and other parts of Somerset or back onto the A36. The BANES report however, remains silent on the figures for trucks using this diversionary path - just as well perhaps as many communities on the way might not want lorries of up to 44 tonnes careering past their houses.

But is this approach right? Large lorries through communities are everywhere and it is everyone's goods they carry. Bath is part of the West of England Partnership who jointly handle transport for the wider Bristol area and the idea is to work together with adjacent authorities such as Wiltshire and Somerset to come out with reasonable solutions to transport problems. Just passing your lorries to someone else is not the point - we surely have to be fairer in the way we do things.

The Bristol Bath to South Coast Study recommended that investment in new signage should direct large lorries away from the A36 and A350 and direct them to use the A34 and motorway system instead. The study showed that although such routes were longer, fuel consumption was less. At a time when carbon emissions are so important and fuel prices rising, a proper examination of this kind of option is surely pertinent. Other authorities are working to reduce the size of lorries through communities or pushing for rail freight. Whatever the solution to the impact of large HGVs, it has got to be thought out over a wider area.

.........................

And from Dick Tonge:

"Firstly, the A36 Bathwick Street is part of the Primary Route Network which, as per European Directive 89/460/EC, is widely interpreted to mean that the route must provide unrestricted access to 40 tonne vehicles. I understand however that B&NES has obtained legal advice which suggests that this is not the case. Wiltshire Council has requested to see this legal advice.

Secondly, the evidence currently provided by B&NES Council is not considered to be robust enough to support the decision to implement the experimental order. In particular, the methodology used to redistribute HGVs on to alternative routes is too simplistic in that it only considers differences in distance and takes no account of factors such as route topology, traffic congestion and fuel consumption. As a result, the proportion of HGVs estimated to be redistributed to alternative routes in Wiltshire is very low and considered highly unrealistic.

The Council will raise these and other significant concerns as part of the statutory consultation on the experimental Traffic Regulation Order that B&NES Council are to undertake in due course."