THE COUNCIL’S STATEMENT
Here is a letter sent to the Christchurch Times by Cllr Daryl Turner, Dorset County Council’s Cabinet Member for the Natural & Built Environment, and published on Thursday, September 20:
“On behalf of Dorset County Council I felt I must write to express my regret to your readers at the delays and frustration associated with the start of the a construction scheme.
To give this road scheme some context, the work currently being done on the A338 forms part of the Bournemouth International Growth (BIG) Programme, worth a total of £45.2m. Over £20m of that investment is helping fund the series of highway improvements along the A338 and B3073 corridors, aimed at facilitating better access into and around Bournemouth Airport, as well as unlocking employment land at Aviation Business Park and at Wessex Fields.
If we do not carry out this improvement work, then growth and jobs would be constrained, and the current road network will become a blocker to investment and prosperity in the area.
I wish to emphasise that this project is a joined Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Bournemouth Borough Council and Dorset County Council project. The LEP is funding it, while Bournemouth Borough Council is leading this project, with Dorset County Council and Hanson Contracting employed to carry out the construction. Bournemouth Borough Council, as the project lead, is managing the communications and is accountable to the LEP for the project’s delivery,
The same design and construction team from Dorset County Council that successfully managed the A338 Major Maintenance scheme north of Blackwater junction in 2016/17 is the same team delivering this project on the ground. This team is well-versed with the local traffic network and the disruption this type of work can bring to the surrounding community.
Many options were considered for the traffic management necessary for these works, including all those that have been suggested recently. Some of these will be employed where appropriate as the scheme progresses, such as night-time work.
However, we must strike a balance between what is safely possible to work on, while keeping disruption to a minimum.
That officers and elected members from Dorset County Council and Bournemouth Borough Council met last Tuesday to discuss emerging issues, review our approach and any further measures that could be put in place.
Once explained in full, members understood that any alternative options to the current construction program would not address the traffic flow issues.
Further answers to FAQs can be found at www.A338.info (*see note below), and up-to-date live travel information is shared by the travel Dorset Twitter feed, which together with the A338 Blog we would encourage people affected by these roadworks to follow. These channels of communication will be updated as the traffic management phases change, or issues emerge which we need to communicate quickly and consistently to the public.
We have seen promising results in a reduction in the waiting times on the route, which were reduced from 90 minutes on Monday, September 3 to just 20 minutes on Monday, September 10. This gives us cause for optimism that while delays are still being encountered, they are decreasing. We need to be realistic, though, that these may not reduce much further. The only other option would be to not continue with the works, but that will just store up problems for the future.
Unfortunately, the traffic flows on the A338 are even higher south of Blackwater than to the north. Keeping two lanes free northbound, wherever possible, has been highlighted as a key objective to reduce the potential for traffic tobacco towards Cooper Dean roundabout.
I would like to reassure your readers that there is a genuine commitment from all the partners to get things right for residents and businesses and to improve the communications from this point onwards.”
*I am not sure what is on this site (A338.info) but apparently it is ‘tasteless’! This is what I see when I try to get on: The account holder has activated SafeGuard and this page is blocked by the category pn_tasteless
If you have more luck with it than I did, please let me know. Contact form on menu.
This major roadworks is already causing traffic chaos across the area, hence the need for this page. It is a massive project to add an extra lane to this busy road, the A338, and will go on for about nine months. For information it is called the Spur Road as it comes off the A31 (Guildford to Bere Regis) to go to Bournemouth. There is lots of information about the A31 here.
Travellers have been advised to
- Find an alternative route – people are indeed finding these, but there are very few viable routes. As a result, roads across the whole area are frequently at a near-standstill.
- Allow more time for the journey. Sounds good, but difficult if you have to be at work, have children to take to school or schools, have a hospital appointment, are perhaps a carer with multiple clients and little time between them. It is also impossible to predict how much time to allow, often it is a lot!
This is a map of where the road works are happening, as of 8 September 2018.
You can see their website here
12 September – BBC News Report from yesterday
This is an interesting comment from the item:
Bournemouth Borough Council, which was initially leading the works – which are part of a £20m scheme – has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment.
A Road System for the Future?
The North Bournemouth Corridor – Is now the time to seriously discuss the Christchurch By-pass?
This is the title of an article from BHLiving, described as News from the Three Towns of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch. As the Unitary Authority will soon become reality, it is worth reading this. Thanks to Brian Case for passing it to me, along with permission to use it on this site.
This is a summary of a few of the points made in the article:
- It appears that in the past those County Councillors in Dorchester were not really interested in this massive development, which would primarily benefit Christchurch.
- This week there has been traffic chaos – an accurate description – because of the road works. This will go on for many months.
- It will only get worse, with proposed developments –
- Nearly 900 homes at Roeshot Hill; A new school at Fairmile; Building on brownfield sites in Christchurch; Industrial development and increased traffic around the airport, which is also set to expand; The Wessex Fields development off Castle Lane; Expansion of the Royal Bournemouth Hospital; Increased capacity at AFC Bournemouth (Premier League, no less!).
In the article there is a revealing description of the current high traffic counts at various places. The main point of the article is that the ‘merger’ of the three towns will bring new opportunities and, indeed, will emphasise the need for a strengthened and developed traffic infrastructure.
Although I voted for, and even canvassed for, Christchurch to remain discrete, I do agree with the tenor of the article. I can best conclude with a sentence from local Councillor Claire Bath, who wrote:
Now that we will become part of the coastal conurbation council, this opens up greater opportunities to push for this to become a key economic priority to improve access to areas identified to economic growth locally.
Do read the full article by clicking the title image above. That page is open for comments, with no need to register, and they would be very welcome. I have not enabled comments on this page: if you have something to say, BHLiving is an excellent forum.
This report appeared on BBC South Today on Wednesday, 26 September
Bournemouth council respond to A338 chaos
This is the text of the response from Cllr John Beesley to an Echo request for information about the road works. It is also available online, along with comments from readers, You can also comment below.
‘Dear Tony, Paul and Martin,
‘Thank you for your emails.
‘First of all, I think it may be worth clarifying the Council’s position in terms of these roadworks and what degree of influence I actually have.
‘As previously highlighted, the partnership with the Dorset LEP dictates that Bournemouth Council is leading on the coordination of the schemes along the A338, in terms of providing a senior responsible officer, and the communications strategy for the works.
‘The roadworks themselves and their management are an integral part of the BIG Programme funded by the Dorset LEP and delivered by Dorset County Council.
‘Therefore, my influence in this matter is limited. I am pleased that you appreciate the long term benefit to Bournemouth and the surrounding area that the BIG Programme will bring.
‘It is for this very reason that Bournemouth Council is supporting the programme and we are doing all that we can to ensure it is delivered as efficiently as possible to reduce the impact on the town.
‘The provision of an additional lane and resurfacing of the carriageway on the A338 southbound from Blackwater Junction will be a huge benefit in the longer term, both in terms of traffic flow and economic benefit of opening up land for development.
‘I have asked for an update from our Officers involved in the coordination of these schemes which include the improvements to Blackwater Junction, the widening and additional lane on the A338 from there to Cooper Dean and the access to Wessex Fields, pending planning permission.
‘I have been assured that the project team, working with the contractor, are doing everything they can to reduce the impact on traffic coming into the town.
‘However, I have been made aware that there have been a number of incidents in the past week on adjacent networks that haven’t helped the situation.
‘For example on Saturday, when you reported experiencing delays, we are aware that there was a police incident and a lane closure away from the B3073 along Fairmile towards Christchurch.
‘Apart from these incidents, I am told that the delays are easing and the network is settling down as we move into the next phase.
‘There will always be some delays and these tend to be worse in the morning peak, travelling south.
‘At other times the delays we are seeing are generally minimal. I am updated on a daily basis by my PA who travels at peak times along the A338 from Ashley Heath to Bournemouth.
‘These schemes are very different to the previous roadworks on the A338 and involve working on the bridges adjacent to Blackwater Junction which obviously adds to the constraints of the works.
‘The area in which the works are being undertaken within the central reservation area is very constrained and therefore does not allow for a significant number of workers to be there at any one time.
‘Complex repairs are required to the two bridges that carry the northbound and southbound carriageways over the River Stour.
‘These effectively need to be joined together as there is currently a gap. This is one element of the widening works and has to be undertaken during daylight hours.
‘From the beginning of this week, there has also been a nightshift, which entails the construction of the new embankment adjacent to the southbound carriageway within the verge.
‘The project team continue to look for ways of reducing the impact of the programme wherever possible.
‘For example, they are currently looking at the option of increasing night time works on the northbound carriageway during this first phase to reduce the length of time needed for a contra-flow system in future phases.
‘Every endeavour is being made to ensure that the works are completed as efficiently as possible, but due to the complexities of the bridge works in particular, this cannot be rushed.
The steel barriers are now in place to enable Phase 1 of the works to start, and this phase will be completed in mid-November ahead of Phase 2.
The steel barriers are in place to protect the workforce. During the upcoming phases, the traffic management will be altered which will allow an early diverge from the A338 onto Blackwater Junction which will assist with the length of the queues.
‘We can provide a presentation that has been given to stakeholders explaining this in further detail.
‘The roadworks were programmed to start after the summer and the Air Festival, when the traffic flows are higher for a number of months.
‘The lowest traffic flows occur between November and January. As the works are scheduled for 9 months it is impossible to avoid some disruption through seasonal activities.
‘Traditionally for highway schemes, these would normally only be suspended for a two week period across December/January when workers take their Christmas break.
‘When Officers discussed this in May in consultation with the Bournemouth and Poole Tourism Management Board, concern was raised about the length of the Christmas break.
The project team have ensured that works can be phased in such a way as to remove the traffic management from 10 December until 7 January, a four week period, without impact on the end date of the programme.
‘This is above and beyond what would normally be agreed and what was undertaken on the previous A338 works.
‘In addition, the second phase of works which are programmed to begin in mid November, will see a change to the current traffic management layout which will reduce the length of delays further.
‘In relation to the advice which has been given suggesting alternative routes, public transport, car sharing, working from home, or readjusting travel times, this is aimed at those who can reasonably undertake such changes as it is appreciated that there are also many who cannot.
‘However, even if just 10% of the travelling public are able to make some change during the peak hours, this is shown to have a significant effect in terms of the reduction in the delays.
‘Therefore, those who do have to remain on the route during that time, will have reduced queuing times as a result.
‘Whilst I will do all that I can to influence the way these works are delivered, there is only so much that I can actually do which will make a material difference.
‘However, I have taken the opportunity to discuss this again with Officers, particularly the suggestion of suspending works until after the Christmas break.
‘It has been made clear to me that any suspension of this nature will have a serious impact on the overall works programme. Due to the level of traffic flow increase after June, this would result in wide scale and prolonged traffic disruption far in excess of current levels, and cause severe detriment to our retail, tourism and hospitality sectors throughout much of the summer season.
‘There would also be a financial cost to doing this, as it would be a material variation to the contract for which there is no financial provision. Such variations would need to be funded and would not be included as contingency costs.
‘In conclusion, I would welcome our collective energy being put into promoting a more positive message about how Bournemouth is open for business over the coming months.
‘This together with promoting an appeal to visitors to avoid peak periods means that it should be possible to manage the length of delays to become minimal.
‘As well as the retail offer, surely we need to be promoting the fact that there is so much for people to do and see in Bournemouth during the festive break.
‘If we allow the roadworks and current delays at peak times to become embedded in peoples’ minds, the impact on retail and our Christmas offer will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
‘Together we can avoid this becoming the outcome, and work together to ensure a bumper Christmas season for our local economy.
Regards, John Beesley’
15 October: More from Bournemouth Council
This article appeared in The Echo today:
“BOURNEMOUTH Council’s leader says he is using ‘all the influence I can muster’ to meet the pleas of businesses over the A338 roadworks.
Councillor John Beesley has written to the Echo restating his powerlessness over the work, saying, “Obviously, I cannot instruct the County Council to make changes”.
Nine months of roadworks at Blackwater junction are planned, part of a £45.2 million joint Bournemouth and Dorset councils and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership programme, but with the actual work carried out by a County Council contractor.
“Many people have commented and been highly critical of me even though they must know by now that I have no authority to make any changes myself,” he said. “Far from having my ‘head in the sand’, as accused by a County Councillor of all people, I have been using all the influence I can muster to try to do as Bournemouth businesses have asked and help Dorset County Council to make the changes needed to ease congestion at peak times, especially in the morning rush hour.”
This week business leaders in Bournemouth Business Improvement District called for a longer break in the work before Christmas, as well as more night working and better organisation, to reduce the impact on the festive shopping period.
Cllr Beesley said he was discussing increased night working with County, but the authority had indicated a longer suspension was unlikely as, “They have limited time in which to complete these works.”
He added: “I repeat, let’s all work together to make sure we do everything possible to tell those coming into Bournemouth that at most times of the day and especially at weekends, they have little to be concerned about and will not be unnecessarily delayed.”
The Echo has tried to contact Dorset councillor and cabinet member for highways Daryl Turner, who represents Marshwood Vale, to discuss the concerns of Bournemouth businesses, but has not received a response.
The next stage of the work will see night-time closures. A single northbound lane will be closed between the Cooper Dean roundabout and Blackwater from Monday to Friday next week, between 8pm and 6am. Then, from Tuesday, October 23, to Thursday, October 25, the whole road will be closed overnight between Cooper Dean and Ashley Heath.
Bournemouth Council says this will allow work to join the two bridges which carry the road over the River Stour, just south of the junction.
A crane will be used to lift pre-cast concrete blocks into position.
Larry Austin, Bournemouth Council’s service director for environment, said: “The arrival of the pre-cast concrete units is a key milestone in the construction programme and means we are on schedule to have all lanes open as planned by December 10, ready for the Christmas festivities. The contractor’s staff are currently on site up to 20 hours a day during the week.”
He added: “We fully appreciate the frustration and inevitable disruption these works are causing but we are doing everything we can to ensure the works are delivered as efficiently as possible.
Further night and weekend working is planned in the coming months.”