The Neighbourhood Plan is looking for feedback on traffic. We all complain about parking, congestion and the number of heavy goods vehicles coming through the town centre. Solutions are considerably harder to define and, regardless of what we may think, traffic management is a County Council decision. Traffic management costs money…serious money. In the current economic climate anything which costs serious money takes a lot of persuasion and doesn’t happen overnight. We need the strategy but then we need to sit and wait until the climate changes or the small opportunities emerge which move us a little closer in the right direction.
Those little opportunities come along all the time and they need to be taken. My attention was drawn recently to a strange and unnoticed feature of the Ashbourne landscape. Despite the volume of traffic flowing through the town we don’t do a great deal to protect against its ravages. Lorries regularly mount curbs and they can do so because there is very little to stop them. There is a metal barrier but the barrier is set a long way back from the road – it almost encourages the HGVs to use the cobbles. It would make a huge difference if it was moved to the edge of the pavement on the corner of the junction. The impact would be remarkable. Any lorry struggling to make the corner would fall foul of the barrier. Now if a similar barrier was placed on the opposite side of the road outside Staples there would be an interesting dilemma for the lorry drivers. They would certainly drive slower, the pavements would be protected from damage and some haulage firms may even have to choose a different route. All from a very small investment that is more controllable at local level.
It got me thinking about what else we could do which would make a significant difference. Physical barriers could play a part elsewhere too. People tell me that the bridge over the A515 used to be lower and, as a result, there were fewer HGVs in the centre of the town. Adding a height limit there again could force some of the large lorries which come down the hill into the Market Square to choose a different route.
Our road signs leave a lot to be desired. We don’t advertise our local attractions anywhere near enough. We also don’t make enough of the opportunities to move traffic which doesn’t know the area to the right places. This isn’t just within the town – it begins at the A50 and at Buxton. Once traffic leaves Buxton on the A515 they can hardly avoid Ashbourne. Sending traffic along the A6 or the A53 at Buxton can spare Ashbourne’s gridlock and driver’s tempers. Signs are such an easy way of helping but it seems they stay fossilised in our area rather than constantly reviewed in the light of the current mix of traffic.
There was an excellent letter in the Stunner a couple of weeks ago pointing out the unnecessary wait for traffic turning left at junctions. In particular traffic heading East along Sturston Road has to wait at the red light before turning left onto Park Road with no contention from other traffic. The same is true with traffic on Dig Street turning left along Church Street. Of course pedestrians need time to cross too but in America the amber flashing signal and priority allows them to cross safely. Thinking about allowing traffic to keep moving wherever possible is a small but valuable improvement. In that vein, is there any merit in reconsidering the one way system? What about a roundabout at the bottom of the Market and making St John’s Street two way to Dig Street. This really is an opportunity to reconsider everything…and I mean everything.
When we lost the railway station all those years ago we lost a method of transport which we could really do with now. One thing we didn’t lose was the tunnel. It’s a great attraction to the town but it is slightly disconnected from the Tissington Trail. Many visitors don’t even know it is there. During the Summer one idea would be to offer out-of town free parking at the Tissington Trail Cycle Hire Centre and encourage people to walk into the town through the tunnel. Better still during the Summer some enterprising person could set up a tourist train which made the regular round trip to the Market Square and back again every half an hour. It would be an opportunity to show off the attractions as well as reducing unnecessary traffic.
Who knows! Maybe the success of a little train could one day lead to reinstating a more substantial Ashbourne railway link.