Ringway roadworks in Preston city centre cause traffic chaos on opening day - and will last for two months

Car-tastrophe! That was the drivers' view on the opening day of major roadworks in Preston city centre.

By Brian Ellis
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 10:05 am

And the bad news is they are likely to be a pain in the asphalt for up to two months.

On the first morning of the work to improve the Ringway dual carriageway, there were long tailbacks as one lane was closed in each direction.

Many motorists caught out by the cones didn't know which way to turn as traffic built up at rush hour.

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Down to one lane on Ringway.

And even when the commuter crush was over it was still taking up to 15 minutes longer to crawl through the centre of the city.

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There were reports of some drivers ignoring the diversion signs and making illegal turns, causing even more congestion.

With a chunk of Corporation Street closed off and a section of Marsh Lane also blocked to traffic, one frustrated driver told the Post: "It's an absolute nightmare. You just can't get anywhere without going round the houses."

The traffic measures are put in place on Day One of the new roadworks.

Lancashire County Council, who are doing the work to regenerate the Friargate and Ringway area, say they expect the delays to ease in the coming days as drivers get used to the roadworks.

They have urged motorists to follow the signs and stick to the diversions to help with traffic flow. And one official revealed the behaviour of drivers was being monitored.

"We have had feedback from the construction team onsite that some drivers have not been following the diversion signs from UCLan to avoid still closed Corporation St," said a County Hall spokesperson.

"Instead of diverting via Walker St and North Road as instructed by signage, they are going down Friargate and doing an illegal right turn, and many of them end up blocking the junction for everyone in the process.

Queueing traffic stretched back on both sides of the dual carriageway.

"The team has closed the junction and started diverting the traffic so it should ease soon.

"We know it sometimes takes time for drivers to get used to changes to traffic management and expect delays will reduce in the coming days.

"In the meantime we will be closely monitoring the situation and we ask that people follow the signs when travelling through the area and avoid any manoeuvres which may put other road users at risk."

Drivers caught up in the mayhem today were unhappy at the prospect of having to suffer the same for almost two months.

Emergency services were forced to use the closed lane to get around the congestion.

"It's going to be horrendous," said businessman Saeid Hendi. "I drive through every day - sometimes three times a day - and it's going to make things very difficult.

"People who have businesses in the city centre are going to be badly-hit.

"When I drove in today it took me about 10 minutes longer than it normally does. But that wasn't at rush hour. Delays are going to be a lot longer at those times of day, possibly half an hour or an hour.

"I didn't know this was starting today, or that it is going to last up to two months, and I'm sure a lot of other people have been taken by surprise like me."

Taxi driver Naveed Afzal said the delays could mean higher fares for customers because of the time cabs spend stuck in traffic.

"Judging by the way it's been so far today, a fare which normally costs £3 will possibly double in price," he said.

"And the way traffic is in Preston it will be murder trying to get around when it gets to mid-afternoon and onwards. To have to put up with this for two months is a nightmare."

Stuck in traffic near to the junction of Ringway and Friargate, grandmother Margaret Watkinson said: "I'm already late picking my grandchild up.

"I do this trip twice a week and I'm going to have to start setting off a lot earlier to get there on time. It's frustrating."

Bill Watt, from Blackburn, drove into Preston at the height of the congestion to try and drop his son off at the city's railway station to catch a London train.

But in the end the lad had to jump out near the bus station and run across the city centre to get his train just in time.

"If he'd stayed in the car he would have missed it," said Bill. "It's horrendous."

And another driver, who asked not to be named, asked: "Why aren't they doing this work at night instead of during the day when it's busy?

"It's ridiculous. This is going to be a real problem for drivers coming through town. Everywhere seems clogged up and it's making it a lot harder getting about."

The Friargate North and Ringway project is one of the first schemes in Preston paid for by Government money from the Transforming Cities Fund.

It is aimed at improving connectivity by bus, rail and "active travel" - cycling and walking. County Council chiefs say the cash will be spent on a number of improvements in and around the city with the intention of promoting public transport and encouraging more people to leave their cars at home.

It is designed to join up both halves of the city centre which have for decades been split by the Ringway dual carriageway - designed as a ring road, but which actually cuts through the centre.

The work means two lanes of Ringway will be closed from yesterday to March 31.

A County Council statement says the work will involve: "A new signal controlled crossing point, public realm improvements and bus interchange stops at the Friargate/Ringway junction and Peace Garden area.

"Pedestrianisation of Friargate between Ringway and Marsh Lane with access for service and delivery vehicles at restricted times of the day.

"Creating a pedestrian and cycle friendly space with high quality paving, trees, and other features such as public seating, space for outdoor markets and alfresco dining opportunities.

"Closing part of Corporation Street to general traffic and creating a bus gate to give priority to buses at the junction. This will allow buses, hackney carriages and authorised vehicles through freely whilst discouraging other vehicles, similar to arrangements currently on Fishergate.

"Improvements to the junction of Corporation Street and Ringway to provide better crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

"New cycle paths along Ringway to help cyclists connect between the university, the railway station, the bus station and beyond as safely as possible.

"And a new cycle path along Butler Street between Avenham and Miller Parks and the railway station."

The benefits will include "increasing sustainable travel options and regenerating the public space for all to enjoy.

"Other cities which have introduced similar cycle and pedestrian friendly measures are already enjoying benefits such as a healthier communities, reduced local air pollution, lower road traffic accident levels and a boost to their economy by increased visitor spending.

"We hope to make Preston a healthier, safer and greener place for people to live, work and visit."