All systems go at Canford Bottom roundabout after £5.7m revamp
By Stour & Avon Magazine | Friday, June 29, 2012, 11:30
IT'S open. After work which began last September and following intermittent overnight road closures since the beginning of February which resulted in lengthy diversions, the re-constructed Canford Bottom roundabout became fully operational at 6am on Tuesday.
The £5.7 million scheme for a 'Hamburger' junction was first announced in July 2010 but was delayed due to government spending cuts. The aim of the scheme is to reduce congestion on the A31 but it received considerable opposition from local people, business leaders and MPs.
Over the years the roundabout has been the subject of numerous letters in this magazine, and its safety level was frequently called into question. Between May 2005 and April 2010 there were 16 personal injury collisions at the roundabout and 16 slight casualties.
Roads Minister Mike Penning said: "The A31 is a vitally important route in Dorset and part of the Olympic Route Network. Completion of the work at Canford Bottom will help those travelling to Weymouth for the Games. It will also significantly improve journey times through one of the A31's busiest junctions for years to come."
Robert Mackenzie, Highways Agency project manager, said the traffic signals would be fine tuned over the coming week to ensure traffic is flowing as well as possible.
He said: "We have been seeking a solution to the congestion and safety issues at this junction for many years and during that time the A31 has become part of the Olympic Route Network. Although the scheme is entirely justified by the benefits that will be gained over the next decade or so, it will also hugely benefit the operation of the Olympic Route Network to Weymouth.
"On behalf of the project team, I thank road users and people in the local community for their patience during the work, and for their understanding during the inconvenience caused by this important junction improvement work."
The A31 has been extended across the old Canford Bottom roundabout to create a hamburger junction, and the whole interchange has been signalised. A toucan crossing has been created linking roads either side of the A31, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross safely.
Lighting columns have been upgraded, drainage and landscaping improved, new signs and road markings installed, and CCTV to monitor traffic flows and keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible.
Chris Chope, MP for Christchurch in whose constituency the junction lies had been vociferous in his objections to the scheme.
He said: "The deed is done, and let's see whether the new junction will solve the problems."
Annette Brooke, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, the adjacent constituency, said: "I really hope the roundabout scheme does work for local residents as well as for the through traffic on the A31. I continue to have doubts as I still think traffic will just back up from Merley and other roundabouts and I find it difficult to come to terms with over 70 sets of traffic lights. I will be delighted if I am proved wrong!
"My worst experience of the problems was when coming from St Thomas's Hospital by ambulance in March after my accident. The morphine was wearing off and I was lying flat. We reached the roundabout at about 10pm and I felt as though I would never reach home as the London ambulance drivers struggled to find a route through!"
Dave Mitchell, chairman of Colehill Parish Council said: "I do feel that it is far too soon to pass judgement. Certainly the road signage is good and the markings are clear. I have used the roundabout now perhaps some 10 times and have had no problem although the space available at each intersection is not great so that if anyone 'jumps' the light they could have a problem. That said the times on light phases seems to be quite quick. I did notice yesterday that the traffic travelling east to west on the A31 through the roundabout at rush hour was considerably lighter than used to be the case. Whether this is a good spin off from the development or that people are avoiding the intersection remains to be seen."
However, he added: "I think the people that will have most problem with the system will be locals who are a) not used to lights on the roundabout b) accustomed to doing their own thing as they go round and c) will not like the change anyway because they wanted a flyover.
"The reality is of course that there was no money so the flyover was not an option and may well not be for another 20 years. Doing nothing was not, in my view, a choice that could be made and I hope that this will settle down and prove to be at least a significant improvement and one that will see us through until the proper flyover and dual carriageway is a possibility."
The A349 from the Oakley Hill roundabout to the A31 at Merley will be closed for three weeks 29 July - 11 August during the Olympics in order to improve traffic flow. These measures will not apply during the Paralympic Games. Access to and from Merley House Lane will be maintained from the A31 in both directions and emergency services will be exempt from the closures.
See letters on page 47