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Abingdon Integrated Transport Strategy (ABITS)

The Current Situation, April 2007

[posted 21/04/2007]

The Abingdon Integrated Transport Strategy (ABITS) which is still in its implementation phase, has come in for a bit of criticism lately as a result of increased peak time delays experienced mainly by through traffic trying to cross the town centre. In fact, this was always an expected outcome of the scheme, which was never intended to alleviate congestion per se. A local transport pressure group, Abingdon Transport 2000, was instrumental in getting the current scheme adopted, in preference to alternative schemes that would have been far worse. A spokesman for Abingdon Transport 2000 explains:

 

“The ABITS scheme was proposed principally as a means of removing vehicular traffic from the historic town centre of Abingdon, to make the town a more pleasant place for other road users, visitors and shoppers. In this respect, I believe the plan has had a measure of success. At non-peak times, including Saturdays, the environments of Stert Street and High Street are much more pleasant. They are no longer choked with traffic, crossing the road is now much easier and safer for pedestrians. Abingdon has become a much more pleasant place to be in. Driving through the town at these times is also much less troublesome.
 

A key element of the scheme is contained in the word “integrated” in its name. Integrated Transport means making it better, more accessible and safer for other users, pedestrians, bus users, cyclists, not just motorists. One suspects that it is only motorists who are complaining.

 

The downside is that, due to the inevitable reduction in road capacity, there has been some increased congestion at peak times, most particularly at the junctions at either end of Stratton Way, now two way. Abingdon Transport 2000 originally proposed roundabouts at these junctions, and did warn that junction capacity could be reduced by use of traffic lights. However, the planners have at least followed our advice and installed a traffic light system with integrated flow control, ie, lights which operate collectively to control the traffic throughout the whole town, not just at individual points. However it is a tall order to expect such a system to operate automatically and flawlessly from day one. There may well need to be a substantial period of adjustment in order to optimise the operation, assuming, of course, that the system is one that is capable of working properly at all.

 
A further point to bear in mind is that it has taken over 7 years to bring these plans to realisation. During that time, traffic levels in the town have risen significantly and the original flow data, upon which the road design was predicated, are no longer valid. Traffic levels in the town had reached peak saturation, and ABITS could only make things worse for through traffic in the short term.
 

This does not mean that the town should revert to the old scheme. That was destined for gridlock anyway, and, at least the town as regained some of its original pleasant character, which had hitherto been lost. This will hopefully be capitalised upon as a result of further improvements to the street environments in High Street and Stert Street.

 
People have short memories. There were, in fact, two extensive public consultations on the scheme, at around the turn of the millennium. The overwhelming view was that something had to be done. Doing nothing was not an option. Traffic consultants, Halcrow Fox, originally proposed schemes that would have had an even more draconian effect on vehicular traffic. Under their schemes, the A415 would have been effectively severed except for a trickle of exempt traffic. The town might thus have been rendered traffic-free, but at a price. If you do not like what is there now, that would have been a whole lot worse. At the second consultation, a significant majority of people voted for the current scheme as the best compromise over an alternative scheme that would have closed one or other of Stert Street or High Street to normal traffic completely.
 
Abingdon Transport 2000 was at great pains to point out that no tinkering with the town centre traffic was going to solve the problem. They proposed some additional measures, such as improving access to the A34, particularly at Lodge Hill, thus easing traffic congestion in the Fairacres/ Tesco area, another very congested part of the town. Most importantly, they showed that one or more new river crossings would be needed to solve the problem by taking traffic away from the town centre completely. Council officers made it clear that Government would not put up money for a new river crossing unless and until other schemes, like ABITS, had been tried. If ABITS did not work, Government would have to consider funding river crossings.
 

That was 7 years ago. ABITS now looks like a case of too little too late, while a new river crossing still looks as remote as ever.”

 

 
 

 

 

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