Multi-million pound Northampton orbital road will only improve peak journies by 40 seconds - figures reveal

A protest group has presented a major challenge to a proposed ring road around Northampton after claiming the scheme will only bring "miniscule improvements."

Monday, 25th September 2017, 11:43 am
Updated Monday, 25th September 2017, 11:44 am
Campaigners against the orbital road in the north of Northampton say the traffic modelling for the scheme shows only negligible improvements.

Campaigners against the Northampton Northern Orbital Road plans have claimed Northamptonshire Highways’ own traffic modelling does not support the claim the road would ease congestion in Kingsthorpe and in surrounding villages.

One graph appears at first glance to show the road creating a huge improvement in journey times north of the town.

But a closer inspection revealed it will only improve speeds by around 1km/h.

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The proposed road would cut through countryside north of the town.

Tracey Onley from Kingsthorpe, who started the Northern Orbital Route Facebook group, said: “Anyone glancing quickly at the consultation material might be impressed with the graphs. For example, one shows improved journey times offered by the NNOR. However, the maximum is just 40 seconds but the huge scale on the graph makes it look significant. Similarly, the maximum improvement in average speed is just 1km/h.”

Exaggerating the significance of tiny improvements was an issue identified in the Council For The Protection Of Rural England 2017 report The Impact Of Road Projects In England, concluded the appraisal of road schemes should be "radically changed" by reducing "manifestly ridiculous priority given to seconds of drivers’ time savings.”

The campaigners are now questioning whether Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet can make a decision on the route in November, given that Northamptonshire Highways’ own figures do not appear to endorse the scheme.

The consultation papers suggest eight possible routes. But according to the traffic modelling, "Option 8" will bring the biggest journey time improvement - of just 40 seconds to an evening rush-hour commuter.

The proposed road would cut through countryside north of the town.

“Have our local politicians read the consultation and also misread the graphs or do they know the figures don’t add up but still intend on giving the project the green light?” said Tracey.

“If the reason for the road is simply about opening up more land for development and ticking a box to allow huge developments to proceed, our local authorities should at least be honest about this.”

“Most in our group understand the need to deal with the traffic issues but this road isn’t fit for purpose.”

“Virtually no effort was made with this summer’s consultation; even Northamptonshire Highways’ Twitter feed announced the start 10 days after it actually began.

“We will not leave any avenue unexplored in this matter. For too long the people of this county have been bottom on the list of priorities for our local authorities when it comes to planning decisions.”

The group is holding a public meeting on September 27, at 7.30pm in Boughton Church Rooms for anyone with concerns about the overdevelopment of Northamptonshire.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “The scheme has been promoted in response to public pressure from those who struggle with the current traffic problems in the area. There have been a number of public speakers at council meetings and resolutions that we should take the scheme forward.

“The traffic modelling is only one of the pieces of information that we are presenting and which are used in assessing the scheme. The traffic modelling is undertaken in accordance with methodologies set out by the Department for Transport.

“The information on average speeds and average journeys times is for all trips made across the northern part of Northampton. This is the summation of all the small changes in individual journeys.

“The group sent their complaint to us last week and we will respond to them in full when we have had the opportunity to study it in detail.

“We are currently analysing some 1,200 responses that we received during the consultation. A report is due to go to November cabinet.”