Preston's 'highway to hell' is one of top-10 most congested roads in country
It is a journey of just over three miles.
But if you are unlucky enough to be a commuter on it every day, the A6 southbound between Barton and Fulwood is a “Highway to Hell” - and that’s official.
The snarled-up section from Station Lane at Newsham to the Black Bull crossroads is such a logjam for traffic that it has now been branded one of the 10 most congested roads in Britain, outside London.
And, while the new Broughton Bypass has eased things a touch, a new survey based on Department of Transport figures says the road into Preston is still a real pain for motorists trying to get to and from the city.
The Highways to Hell study, by insurance website Go Compare, says these three miles of asphalt rate alongside such beauties as the A34 through Birmingham city centre and Manchester’s A56 between Deansgate and the M60 for delays.
The average speed for traffic on the A6 has been measured at a mere 15mph – if you’re moving at all. And if you’re a regular, the amount of time you are stuck in traffic over a year is a whopping 32 hours – long enough to drive from Preston to Athens.
Lancashire County Council says the new figures show why it spent £32m on a bypass to take traffic around the worst bottleneck in the county, in the centre of Broughton village.
“We opened James Towers Way in October last year, and we know that this has already significantly improved people’s journey times through Broughton,” said Coun Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport.
“The big queues in the centre of the village are now long gone, and we’ve added more road capacity in this area.
“This report reinforces why we built the bypass, to deal with long-standing congestion in this area.
“We recognise that there are still issues at times in this area, and we’re already working on major plans to help this situation.”
Talk to locals and they will say the bypass has just moved the blockage from the centre of their village to further down the A6.
The Broughton roundabout, where the M55 meets the A6, is said by many to be busier than ever.
And Garstang Road from there down to the Black Bull traffic lights is reported to be nose to tail – and not just in the morning and afternoon rush hours.
The report says the southbound journey – into Preston – is worse for delays than the opposite direction.
And to make the top 10 in the UK outside the capital takes some doing.
Birmingham has three roads in the chart, Leeds has two, Manchester two and Newcastle and Belfast one each.
But for all that, Preston still only rates as the 21st-most congested city in Britain and it doesn’t make the top 25 of cities for the amount of time motorists are stuck in jams.
London unsurprisingly comes top, with drivers having to sit in tailbacks for around 73 hours a year. Manchester is second on 39 hours and Aberdeen third with 35.
£217m for road building
Preston has had its traffic problems over the years.
And the bottlenecks that snare motorists on a daily basis have now made it the 21st worst city in Britain for congestion.
But the A6 Garstang Road isn’t the only troublespot, as drivers will frustratingly testify.
There are problems on almost all the arterial routes entering and leaving the city – so many problems in fact, that a colossal £217m road building spending spree is currently under way to bring much-needed relief.
In addition to the £32m Broughton Bypass, opened last October, cash from the City Deal is being spent on upgrading the South Western Distributor route – a £52.5m project to make the journey from the motorway at Cuerden, past Penwortham and into the city centre all dual carriageway.
Work on the Penwortham Bypass £17.5m has just begun and that should be completed by early 2020.
And a £115m triple road scheme in the North West of Preston, incorporating the Western Distributor, East-West Link and Cottam Link, is on the horizon.
Coun Keith Iddon, the man in charge of highways and transport at County Hall, said: “The Preston Western Distributor will add a new motorway junction on the M55, increase capacity on the network and provide more options for people travelling to and from the city, especially from the north and the motorway network.”
When the Post carried out its biggest reader survey, published in January this year, the results showed roads came a close second to the health service as the area where most people wanted more money to be spent on.
More than one in two respondents (53 per cent) said they found themselves stuck in traffic jams EVERY day. Four in five said they were held up at least once a week.
Back in 2016 Preston was rated worse for congestion than Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow in a survey carried out by traffic analysts at TomTom.
The delays were estimated to be costing businesses in the city around £4.6m in lost production alone, with the major troublespots
pinpointed as Strand Road, Moor Lane and Deepdale Road.
The cost to individual motorists was put at around £570 a year – or more than £10 a week.
Once the village of Broughton was one of the most congested – and polluted – villages in the UK. Now the locals can breathe easier – and cross the main street – thank to the James Towers Way bypass which was opened last October.
Yet the debate is still raging about what effect, if any, the £32m scheme has had on the A6 itself, with traffic leaving it above Broughton and rejoining it below it at the M55 roundabout. All they have done is move the traffic jam down the road to the roundabout,” said one village resident.
“It’s much better in the village itself, but it’s still a problem further down the A6 because there’s still the same amount of traffic trying to get into Preston.”
The top 10 worst offenders (and how many hours you get stuck there per year)
Birmingham A34 Northbound (44)
Birmingham A34 Southbound (42)
Leeds A657 Southbound (40)
Leeds A638 Southbound (36)
Manchester A56 Southbound (33)
Newcastle upon Tyne A19 Southbound (33)
Belfast A1 Southbound (32)
Manchester A6 Northbound (32)
Birmingham A461 Southbound (32)
Preston A6 Southbound (32)