Drivers face months of misery on Newcastle roads
MOTORISTS face three months of disruption as a £1 million town centre improvement scheme gets underway.
The work along the A527 Barracks Road, in Newcastle – one of North Staffordshire's major commuter routes – is due to start on Monday next week.
It will involve creating a new bus lane and traffic signals, so vehicles can head out of the bus station and turn right onto the southbound carriageway.
This will, in turn, free up Hassell Street to become a pedestrianised area and home to some of the town's market stalls. The wider changes also involve moving a taxi rank.
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People today voiced mixed opinions about the proposals, which are aimed at improving traffic flow and making the town more appealing for visitors.
While roadworks are in full swing, commuters face significant delays and pupils travelling to Hassell Primary, in Barracks Road, will also be affected.
The first phase will see one lane of Barracks Road closed in the northbound direction, between the Hassell Street junction and the roundabout. This stage is due to be completed on July 22.
Then one lane on both the north and southbound carriageways will be shut between July 23 and September 12. This will enable workmen to remove the wall in the middle of the road, so the carriageway can be widened. Once finished, there will still be two lanes for motorists in both directions.
Taxi driver Andrew Davies believes many people will see little benefits and will have to endure the pain of roadworks.
The 54-year-old, from Wolstanton, said: "Closing a lane is going to snarl up the traffic, which will back up along the ring road. It will be organised chaos.
"As taxi drivers, we can't use a different route because we still have to use the taxi rank. It's going to be difficult to get to the rank."
But Carl Evans, president of Newcastle Chamber of Trade and Enterprise, welcomed the changes.
He said: "At the end of the day, it should improve the town centre. Newcastle needs to improve to compete with Hanley. There was inevitably going to be some disruption while the roadworks take place."
Staffordshire County Council is carrying out the road changes and contributing to the overall £1 million cost of the scheme. Newcastle Borough Council is footing £415,000 of the bill.
Councillor Stephen Sweeney, who sits on both the county and borough councils, said: "The road improvements, to give better access from the bus station onto the road, are part of the wider project to make Newcastle a more attractive place.
"They are necessary because Hassell Street will be pedestrianised and buses will have to turn right only onto Barracks Road."
Borough councillor Eddie Boden added: "I would ask drivers, shoppers and residents to bear with us while this work is carried out."