Better planning needed to avoid further traffic chaos

Traffic chaos in Todmorden town centre on Saturday, November 2
Traffic chaos in Todmorden town centre on Saturday, November 2

A businessman has called for better traffic management to avoid the disruption that brought Todmorden to a standstill a month ago.

Mike Woollerton, of Todmorden Toy and Model Museum, estimates he lost more than £200 over the weekend when the traffic problems hit the town on November 2, and says planning for situations like this must improve.

Northern Gas Networks needed to carry out some work at the junction of Rochdale Road with Rise Lane, necessitating temporary traffic lights on the busiest shopping day of the week.

It resulted in tailbacks of two miles at points during that day, reducing travel to a standstill.

Mike says that on a day when trains were not running either due to engineering works in preparation for re-opening the Todmorden Curve, it meant people could just not get to him or other businesses in the town.

Mike says the problem seemed to be the equal length (20 seconds on green, 20 seconds on red) of the traffic signal changes.

He asked workmen whether this could be altered but was told to mind his own business.

A day later on Sunday he phoned council highways partners Amey and on Monday morning an Amey supervisor came out and changed the timings to 35 seconds on green and 10 seconds on red which largely dealt with the problem, said Mike.

He said: “It’s not good enough.

“Calderdale should have some responsibility for contractors and particularly those in partnership.”

When he managed to get through to the highways department around a fortnight later, he was told the council was only interested in “current problems”.

But he asserts the council, in partnership with contractors, should plan these things to minimise the impact on trade and drivers.

He says: “All I am asking is that they plan the intervals on the lights.

“I made it clear I was talking about planning not to get a problem.”

Geoff Willerton, Calderdale Council’s head of planning and highways, said all utility companies, whether gas, electric or water, had a duty to notify the council as well as each other when planning any road works. This is managed on an electronic system, which is used nationally.

“Whilst we don’t supervise the works, we have the power as highways authority to impose restrictions on planned works if we feel it’s necessary; for example we may ask that the work is done outside of the rush hour to limit disruption.

“We were notified of these works, which were essential so they needed to start as soon as possible.

“They were planned to begin at the weekend to try to minimise disruption.

“Responsibility for the sequencing of traffic lights lies with the contractor, and in this case traffic management was provided by Northern Gas Networks.”