HEREFORDSHIRE transport chief John Harrington hopes to solve Hereford’s congestion problem by turning it into a city free of traffic lights.

The It’s Our County councillor made the remarks as the local authority unveiled the next stages of its review of major road schemes in the county.

Councillor Harrington put the plans for a city bypass and southern link road on hold and commissioned reports on the schemes after his group swooped to power last year with their Herefordshire Independents and Green Party coalition colleagues.

Now he says the administration at Plough Lane is also looking at alternatives should they decide to axe the road schemes – and among those is removing the signals on along the A49.

His plan for a switch-off may have also gained more traction as drivers reported smoother commutes after the lights failed at Steels roundabout last Wednesday.

“The political ambition is that we would love a city, essentially, without traffic lights. If it works and if it is safe,” he said. “We have had discussions with two senior officers at Highways England and they were very happy for us to go ahead and consider traffic light removal. They were happy to be a partner in that.

“What they’ve said is they would need to be involved in the process and that they were happy.”

Coun Harrington says highways officers would run tests to establish whether removing traffic lights on the A49 is feasible.

“We would do the microsimulation and if that came back and said it looks like it would work here, we would then do a live trial where we would have a set period where we stick orange covers over the lights and see how it went.

“This would have lots of safety mechanisms in place.”

He explained the council is also developing a city-wide strategy to look at removing artificial barriers to traffic flow aside from the transport package reviews.

“The other thing I’m looking at is taking out all of the traffic lights that we’ve just put in on Roman Road,” he said.

“I would like most of the traffic lights in Hereford taken out if we can and return to either junctions or roundabouts.

“The traffic lights at Church Road in Tupsley. What are they doing? Maybe a mini roundabout is better.”

“The ones at the Kerry in particular, the ones by Morrisons and KFC and the ones on Widemarsh Street. They cause a tremendous jam.

“The A49 traffic lights are part of the review which might touch on the general principle of removing traffic lights. There are issues there that mini roundabouts are more expensive than lights and sometimes maybe we’ve been making decisions on costs. We need to work out the benefits of removing impediments.”

Any of these schemes would need more development before the council makes any changes.

Coun Harrington also has ambitions for Hereford to become the cycling and walking capital of the UK by following the example of the Spanish city of Seville. The idea is to improve the cycle links to give people more options when travelling around Hereford.

“We want cycle routes improved. Especially east-west cycle routes.

“We would look at putting a good cycle route from the bottom of Kings Acre into town so that anyone who wanted to come in from those areas of Whitecross, Bobblestock or Moor Farm would have a really safe segregated route to travel on. We are a compact city. We are fantastic and unusual in that respect. Really, we should be almost walking and cycling capital of the UK.

“Seville made a huge investment in cycle paths and the modal share for bikes there went from 0.2 to 7 per cent in just a few years.”

He said opposition councillors and business leaders called for alternative schemes to benchmark the western bypass and southern link road projects against as part of the review into the schemes.

Some of those alternatives include turning traffic lights off on the A49, an improved network of electric buses which may be run by an council-owned company, an eastern crossing over the river Wye near Rotherwas and a recovery service for vehicles that break down on the A49.

“More than 50 per cent of people in the Hereford area travel less than two miles by car,” he said.

“That’s people going to work, school or the shop who are travelling under two miles because that is the most convenient for them.

“If you don’t give them an opportunity to travel another way, if you don’t give them a decent cycle path, walking route and good reliable bus service they will probably carry on that way.”

He also said he wants to see two lane bridge over the railway line which goes under Roman Road.

“This is something which is not part of the review. I’ve asked for us to look at the viability of the single lane railway bridge at the end of Roman Road being made into two lanes.

“It might be extremely expensive but we will speak to Network Rail about it.

“We might just be able pull the bridge out and put a prefabricated one in, who knows? But the idea would be to look at these resilience issues.

“Why don’t we have two lanes there. That instantly causes a problem.”

Coun Harrington is expected to confirm the review programme of the Hereford Transport and South Wye transport packages tomorrow.

Officers will be authorised to complete the review within a budget of £451,000 which has a deadline of July 31, 2020. Any decision on the future of both the western relief and southern link road is not expected to take place until after that date.

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