More misery for Preston motorists as Strand Road roadworks bring further traffic chaos to city

Another manic Monday . . . another day of hold-ups, road closures and U-turns for fed-up motorists in Preston.

By Brian Ellis
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 9:42 am

A week on from the start of Ringway chaos, drivers were left tearing their hair out as yet another busy highway was blocked off to traffic today, bringing more delays and even more examples of bad driving.

Strand Road was shut between Fishergate Hill and Portway at the start of what could be almost two months of motoring mayhem.

Contractors left it until after the morning rush hour to put the barriers up ready for work to begin on replacing the rail tracks which cross the four lane road.

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Yet, in spite of 'Road Closed' signs on every approach, there were still some drivers who didn't get the message and ended up caught in confusion on Liverpool Road as vehicle after vehicle tried to turn around and go back to where they had come from.

"I saw the signs, but it didn't register until I got stuck in it," said one exasperated van man. "I use Strand Road a lot, so it's going to be a right pain having to go all the way round."

Diversions have been clearly marked, but that still wasn't enough for some drivers who, as in Ringway last week, ignored the signs completely and ploughed on regardless.

Congestion on Broadgate as motorists try to turn around at the end of Strand Road and go back.

"We always get those, we call them chancers," said Nigel Smith from Ventbrook Ltd, who are handling the project's traffic management. "They chance their arm to see if they can get through, but they have to turn round when they find they can't.

"There are a lot of signs out and the diversions are clearly marked. Yet there are still those who think it doesn't mean them."

The new routes mean that most traffic approaching the closure along the open half of Strand Road, from Water Lane, is being funnelled up onto the slip road to the Guild Way flyover.

That became a pinch point this morning as many drivers in the inside lane tried to join the outside lane at the last minute.

End of the line for traffic on Strand Road.

The only vehicles able to drive straight on are those wanting to turn left into Hartington Road, which locals fear could now become a rat run for those trying to get around the blockage to reach Broadgate or Penwortham via Fishergate Hill.

At the opposite end of the roadworks traffic coming from Lostock Hall or Penwortham is being directed onto Guild Way and then off again to either re-join Strand Road heading north, or take a left into the dock estate.

But hours after the road closure had been put in place on the first morning there was still a steady stream of motorists who sailed past the signposts and ended up with nowhere to go apart from back.

Drivers even went as far as steering around bollards at the end of Strand Road only to be told there was no way through. Others, realising at the last minute they had made an error, were simply turning right into Broadgate and then performing a U-turn to come back out, thus causing a further blockage.

One driver managed to get through - a freight train from the docklands estate.

"We had quite a few ignoring the signs and coming down Liverpool Road early on, but it seems to have eased a bit," said Nigel Smith this afternoon.

"The big test (in the other direction) will be later today during the tea time rush hour when traffic coming along Strand Road heading for Broadgate and Penwortham is usually very heavy.

"As we said at the weekend we just need people to be patient and understand that these roadworks are essential.

"Planning for this closure has been going on for well over a year. And obviously it is going to have an impact on the highway network.

"A lot of people use Strand Road, but we have diversions in place that will take traffic around it.

"We understand the frustration, we really do. We are drivers and we get stuck in traffic jams ourselves. It isn't nice.

Which bit of 'Road Ahead Closed' did some drivers not understand?

"But this work is necessary. It needs to be done. The train tracks need to be replaced because people say they are very dangerous.

"Shutting Strand Road is the only option. They looked at trying to do it in two halves, but the job would have taken twice as long and would have had a bigger impact on traffic for longer."

The Strand Road works were not the only street excavation scheme scheduled to get up and running in Preston today. Electricity North West launched its multi-million pound project to lay underground cables in Fulwood.

Engineers will spend six months digging up more than three miles of roads including Watling Street Road, Garstang Road and Black Bull Lane to improve power supplies and protect them against blackouts during storms.

And work was continuing in the city centre to regenerate the Ringway/Friargate area and reconnect two halves of the city centre.

That project started last Monday and has caused major problems for drivers on what is arguably Preston's busiest thoroughfare.

As part of that scheme parts of Corporation Street and Marsh Lane are also closed to traffic. And motorists there are being accused of making hold-ups worse by not following diversion signs.