Have five years of changes to Norwich roads put motorists off driving in the city?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 23 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:56 23 June 2018
Anyone who drives through Norwich will know how the relentless stream of changes to the city’s road layout have been a continuous bugbear.
But despite the frustration members of the public have expressed at changes - including the latest to roads around Prince of Wales Road - those behind the changes over the past five years say they have not only improved access to the fine city, but also resulted in a 97pc increase in cycling.
In recent years, Westlegate, Tombland and Golden Ball Street have all been regenerated, along with Ber Street, Rouen Road and Finkelgate.
The £2.75m scheme for Prince of Wales Road is the latest major regeneration for the city centre, which in recent years has seen wholesale changes made in Transport for Norwich projects.
Starting in November, the Prince of Wales Road scheme will see layout changes, a new right turn out of Mountergate and the closure of three current roads.
It will also see King Street, St Faith’s Lane and Eastbourne Place become pedestrian and cyclist only routes and new cycle lanes on Bank Street and Prince of Wales Road itself.
Many of the roadworks have led to frequent delays for motorists moving around the city while the schemes were carried out.
And they have sparked a fierce debate about whether they have been a net positive for the city, or just caused greater problems for people driving through.
Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), said many of the changes had made life more difficult for businesses in the city.
He said: “I think the amount of roadworks has made it harder for businesses, but the strength of the city and our position within East Anglia has meant we have been resilient.
“I live and work in the city myself and roadworks can be frustrating, but I am aware that if you have no regeneration or change the roads will deteriorate and we will be left having conversations about why the roads are not being improved.”
Mr Gurney did, however, say he felt some projects had been done “out of phase”, exacerbating strain on city traffic.
He said: “The closure of Westlegate would have been better done after the completion of the Northern Distributor Road. The timing caused lots of issues in the city centre and particularly on the inner ring road, although I understand that when funding being made available there is a need to produce results.”
Since 2013, there has been a gradual decline in the number of vehicles using the inner ring road, which could suggest motorists are more reluctant to drive into the city.
A count of motorists using this road conducted over a 12-hour period in the autumn of 2013 found 84,667 vehicles. The same count in autumn 2017 produced 77,843.
However John Fisher, Norfolk County Council’s chairman of the Norwich highways agency committee, said: “Over the last five years, there’s been significant investment in the city through Transport for Norwich (TfN).
“We’ve seen a huge increase in cycling and a transformation of the city centre around Westlegate.
“Completion of the Broadland Northway (NDR) and junction improvements within the city have also contributed to improved journey times for motorists and bus passengers.
“Through delivery of the existing TfN strategy and our recent review of transport priorities, we will continue to identify infrastructure projects that combine to make Norwich the vibrant and people-focussed place it is today.”
With Department for Transport (DfT) funding specifically geared towards improving the city’s cycling infrastructure, TfN primarily measures the success of these schemes on their impact on cycle use.
TfN keeps track of the number of cyclists using the city through both manual and automatic counters, and where the automated systems are in place there has been a 40pc increase in cycling in the past five years.
An eight-mile cycle route linking the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Heartsease, which passes through the city, has seen a 97pc increase in cycling since 2013.
A TfN spokesman added: “Changes on St Stephens Street and Chapel Field North were to target improvements to bus journey times and reliability and this has since been reflected in an increase in people using local services.
“With Golden Ball Street becoming two-way and a right turn into John Lewis car park, we now have a corridor through the city centre which gives easy access to a number of car parks.”
The changing face of the roads have been met with mixed responses from people we spoke to in the city, with some saying they find it tougher to get around these days.
Kirsty Atkins, 48, a cashier of Reymerston, said: “I think it is harder to get around. The road layouts keep changing so you don’t know where you are going. One minute it is that way, the next it says no entry. I don’t even bother driving in the city now - I use park and ride.”
Ken Murray, 74, of Sheringham, said: “Getting around compared to five years ago is not so good. I don’t think it is easier - I tend to come in on the train.”
Graham Evans, 37 of Maud Street, Norwich, a publication planner, said: “I don’t think it is easier - going into the city is not a quick thing. I live in the centre and still think it is a chore. It is much easier for me to get around on foot.”
Liz Cannon, 67 of Colney Lane, Norwich, said the roadworks had been “horrendous”.
She said: “I like the fact there are cycle ways but I’m not happy with the cycle paths put in. I think it is probably harder to get around the city.”
Christine Pugh, 66, said: “I don’t drive in the city at all - the bus is easier. I don’t think I would be able to even find my way around if I came in the car as the roads have changed so much.”
Catherine White, 64 of Jewson Court, said: “I’m not really a car driver but there is always a lot of roadworks.”
Peter Calhan, 58, of Framingham Earl, an agency worker, said: “I would say it varies, depending on the time of day and year. At Christmas it is a lot busier but at the moment, I think it is pretty reasonable.”
Brewery account manager Angela Brett, 39 of Newmarket Road, said: “I find it easier to get around. I know a lot of people complain about it but I don’t think there is a problem. I think it has improved and even if there are roadworks, I just avoid them.”