Impact of COVID-19 has skewed major 18-month traffic trial

South Gloucestershire Council is seeking government guidance on what to do about the traffic trial it has been running since August 2019 along the A4174 Ring Road between Bromley Heath Road and M32 junction because of the impact of the pandemic on data.

A national assessment of local authority roads had identified the A4174 between Junction 1 of the M32 and the A4017 Bromley Heath roundabout as not complying with legal limits for roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations. South Gloucestershire Council was subsequently ordered by the government to tackle air pollution on this part of the ring road in the shortest time possible for people living nearby and all road users, including motorists, bus passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.

An 18-month Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) restricting some movements for vehicles at the Hambrook traffic lights was introduced in August 2019, aiming to improve air quality and test traffic flow before deciding whether to make the changes permanent.

The trial, in line with the arrangements implemented during the Bromley Heath Viaduct works in 2017/2018, has seen the removal of the right turn on to the B4058 from the westbound carriageway of the ring road. The straight-on movement for the B4058 northbound from Frenchay has also been removed, as has the right turn from the B4058 from Frenchay onto the A4174. The changes also include the removal of the bus lane through to the M32 so drivers can use all three lanes on the westbound approach.

The changes make some journeys longer as drivers have to drive around the M32 roundabout in order to access the B4058 northbound and or the ring road from Frenchay.

People were asked to comment during the first six months of the trial and the council received over 1,300 responses. The council had been scheduled to spend the six months from last February examining those responses, and analysing air quality data but the pandemic has impacted monitoring. The final six months of the ETO had been due to be used to decide what the council is going to do and, if it decides to make the changes permanent, to complete the legal process.

This week a council spokesperson told us: “The data from our nitrogen dioxide (NO2) monitoring along the A4174 Ring Road between the A4017 Bromley Heath Road and M32 junction has been significantly impacted by the reduced traffic levels due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

“As only a limited period of the monitoring data is representative of normal traffic conditions, we are seeking guidance from the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit as to the way forward with the scheme.”

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