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Lincoln Newark Road improvements: worth the effort?

Last year we carried out some major work on Newark Road to improve traffic flow, as well as provide better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. The scheme cost just over £2 million to complete, with most of the money coming from a government grant.

At the time we said the increase in junction capacity would lead to fewer tailbacks, particularly for westbound traffic coming out of the city. Since we finished the work, I’ve had some people get in touch to say that it’s made a big difference, and others who’ve said it’s done the opposite, and that we were what the French would call, “les incompetent” (bonus point if you can guess the movie quote!).

Our highways team, as they always do following a major project like this, looked at the data from our traffic light system from a random midweek day from this year, and the same from the year before. These graphs indicate the average delay per vehicle throughout the day, and they’ve been labelled to show the approach – either inbound or outbound. The blue line is last year, and the red line is this year.

Traffic flow comparison charts.
Traffic flow comparison charts for Newark Road.

There are some major gains on Newark Road with big reductions in delays, but there are benefits on other approaches too. People I’ve spoken to have said they’ve seen big improvements on Brant Road and Hykeham Road in the morning peak, and the graphs support this.

That said, the delays are clearly slightly worse now on Rookery lane, particularly around school leaving time and the evening peak. It can also take slightly longer now to turn right into Brant Road, but there’s not much in it.

Overall the data speaks for itself, warts and all. The scheme delivered what it set out to – bringing reduced journey times for those leaving the city on Newark Road, and for those entering it. We said originally that we thought we could shave up to two minutes of the waiting time for queuing traffic, and the graphs show that at peak times, we more-or-less have done.

As I’ve said, congestion has slightly increased on Rookery Lane. It’s only when you carry out traffic modelling across a whole city it shows just how interrelated everything is. Problems at one junction are often caused by a lack of capacity in another junction the other side of town. With that in mind, the £30 million of work we’re doing later in the year on Canwick Hill and on the East-West Link Road will make a big difference, not just in isolated areas but across the whole city — Rookery Lane included.

Of course, the data doesn’t tell the whole story – we also carried out a lot of general maintenance work while we were on Newark Road. This had no impact on journey times, but it did extend the lifespan of the road and Brace Bridge by 20 years. And the data is also blind to how much pedestrians and cyclists have benefitted from the changes – and we’re pretty sure that the improvements have made a big difference.

The road works at Newark Road were annoying for motorists and they caused people a lot of irritation at the time, but that’s the price of change. You can see that they’ve made quite a substantial difference to the area, and thanks to the government grant, they came at a relatively small cost to the local taxpayers.

Hopefully, over the next few years we can continue to unlock Lincoln’s traffic problems one-by-one, helping to support the city’s growth and development in the process.