Bypass cuts traffic through Penwortham by half in its first year
Traffic has more than halved through Penwortham since the town’s £17.5m bypass opened a year ago.
County Hall bosses, traders and residents have all hailed the new dual carriageway a runaway success, with choking hold-ups on the main road now a thing of the past.
But, as a new Tesco store gets ready to open its doors in a month, locals are concerned more shopping traffic will undo some of the good work the bypass has done.
“There is bound to be some impact once Tesco is open,” said Coun David Howarth, who represents Penwortham on three councils - county, district and town.
“It will bring additional traffic into the area if people choose to shop at Tesco. Most will be local traffic. But people don’t all shop at the same time, so it will be staggered.”
Householders living along Liverpool Road admit they have seen a huge change since the new road opened, with nose-to-tail rush hour queues all-but vanishing.
Around 14,500 vehicles a day are using the 1.3km relief road - a figure which highways experts expect to increase next year.
While Penwortham’s main road has not seen the dramatic fall-off in traffic that Broughton did with the opening of its bypass three years ago, vehicle numbers are significantly down on what they were before.
“It’s been much better,” said one homeowner who lives not far from the junction with Crookings Lane.
“We used to have queuing traffic outside here in a morning and then late afternoon. We have a three-year-old and we couldn’t let him play in the garden because on occasions you could smell the exhaust fumes.
“Now, while we still have traffic passing, it’s very rarely held up, it’s quieter, there aren’t the numbers of HGVs we used to have and the air is much fresher. It’s certainly made a huge difference for us.”
According to figures issued by Lancashire County Council, who built John Horrocks Way, traffic in the centre of Penwortham fell by up to 51 per cent between January and March, prior to the first national lockdown.
In February a traffic count showed the bypass was used by an average of 14,500 vehicles a day during the week - most of which would have thundered along Liverpool Road prior to the new road being opened.
The county council says those figures have significantly reduced during the two national lockdowns, but are rising steadily again.
“The use of John Horrocks Way had been increasing steadily in the months following its opening,” said Coun Keith Iddon, LCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport.
“Between January and March, the new road helped to reduced traffic by as much as 51 per cent along Liverpool Road, comparing traffic numbers we’ve collected on the approach to the new junction at Howick
“As you’d expect this dropped significantly during the first lockdown, but has increased once again as travel restrictions have eased and more workplaces, shops and other destinations have reopened.
“In September traffic using the bypass was approaching February’s levels, before being affected by the second lockdown.
“Experience tells us that the number of drivers switching to the new road is likely to continue to increase over time, as more people switch from more familiar routes, in appreciation of the benefits to journey times, reliability and convenience.”
The 1.3km bypass opened in December 2019, a few weeks ahead of schedule, but 30 years after it was first dreamed up.
The aim was to create a reduction of up to 70 per cent in traffic going through Penwortham, with estimates of up to 22,000 vehicles a day being taken out of the town centre.
With more than 14,000 already using the dual carriageway - and that figure expected to steadily increase once Covid measures are lifted and life begins to return to normal - County Hall believes its target is achievable.
Coun Haworth added: “There is no doubt the bypass has been a success to a great degree because it has clearly taken a lot of traffic off Liverpool Road.
“But at the same time it has created some problems. Without nose-to-tail tailbacks it enables people to put their foot down.
“We have noted an increase in speeding traffic. There were supposed to be (calming) measures introduced to slow traffic down. There is now a 20 mph zone from Crookings Lane to Cop Lane controlled by a camera, but it is still a worry.
“And, while there is more traffic going around Penwortham on the bypass, there are still those who see Liverpool Road as some kind of short-cut.”
Coun Iddon said: “We’re very pleased that traffic has reduced significantly through Penwortham as planned. The aim was always to reduce the traffic travelling through Penwortham unnecessarily, by providing them with an alternative quicker route.
“Clearly since Covid affected Lancashire, people’s work and travel habits have changed. This has affected journeys in the county, with fewer people using public transport and more home deliveries. This has affected the traffic levels in Penwortham.
“We will continue to monitor the traffic levels in the coming months, as we expect the Covid situation to improve and traffic levels to adjust once again.
“The overall difference made by the road is clear, and we thank people for their patience during construction, and during the first few days when the road was opened.
“We’re pleased for people in Penwortham that the road has been a success.”
Opened on December 2, 2019, John Horrocks Way was the culmination of 30 years of campaigning by the people of Penwortham to rid their town of traffic queues.
Traffic got the green light to use the new road at 10:30am, but there was no official ceremony involving council leaders because the country was in a period of purdah prior to the General Election the following week.
The 1.3km dual carriageway took two years to build and cost £17.5m. It was estimated it could reduce traffic going through the centre of Penwortham by up to 70 per cent, ridding the main street of up to 22,000 vehicles a day.
The most up-to-date figures show that, at best, around 14,500 vehicles a day have been using the road, but that figure is expected to climb steadily once the Covid restrictions are lifted and life gets back to normal.