Fears of major chaos ensuing on the roads around Lancaster as major repair work began on Greyhound Bridge this week have been largely unfounded.
With two-way traffic introduced on Skerton Bridge for the first time since the 1970s as part of six months of work by Lancashire County Council, many motorists feared the one-way system would struggled to cope with the volume of traffic.
The switchover took place at the weekend, and traffic came to a standstill during rush hour on Monday as many motorists experienced the route change for the first time, with commute times increased by up to 45 minutes.
However, since then congestion has eased, with many motorists reporting traffic flow to be ‘normal’ and journey times largely unaffected.
And with city centre shops having feared a knock-on effect on trade, business leaders insisted shoppers should not stop visiting.
Rachael Wilkinson, manager of Lancaster BID (Business Improvement District), said it was important for people to continue to support businesses in the city centre.
“We’re pleased that Lancashire County Council delayed the planned start of this work until after the busy Christmas trading period, where Lancaster performed significantly better than the north west and UK averages in terms of footfall impressions,” she said.
“It’s inevitable that there will be some initial disruptions to traffic, but the advance information and carefully planned diversion routes should ease any teething problems.
“The new Bay Gateway and dual access over Skerton Bridge will still allow easy access into the city centre and there is still great access available via train and cycle routes, which are unaffected by the work.
“We are planning a strong programme of events to entice people into Lancaster over the next six months and will be maintaining close engagement with the Lancaster businesses during the period of the works to try and ease any issues which may arise.
“Lancaster is still very much open for business as usual and choosing to shop local over the next six months will give a real boost to the local economy, supporting the businesses who operate here.”
Greyhound Bridge Road will remain completely closed to all traffic until early August while the major maintenance work takes place.
Lancashire County Council is undertaking the refurbishment to maintain the capacity of the bridge and to prevent the implementation of restrictions to abnormal loads and HGVs.
Refurbishment of the bridge includes concrete repairs and recasting around bridge joints, replacement of bridge joints, repainting of parapet, piers and superstructure, replacing road surface and footway, and waterproofing the bridge deck.
The required works had been deferred for a number of years until the completion of the Bay Gateway.
The main Lancaster to Morecambe cycle route remains open with some changes, while the park and ride at junction 34 also provides an alternative to bringing your car into the city centre.
Traffic management teams were in place at all key junctions to assist traffic getting used to the new layout throughout Sunday night and Monday.
Businesses that believe there has been a “material change” that affects their business as a result of the works will be able to apply to the Valuation Office Agency for a temporary reduction in their business rates.