The traffic lights mystery – wrong problem, wrong solutions

Residents had long complained about traffic congestion along the A96.  Amid the general rejoicing over the summer  that the Sainsburys’ development was going ahead, few folk noticed that the conditions in the small print included a requirement from Transport Scotland not for any replanning of junctions in the centre (as the NICE proposals had suggested), but for the installation of four additional sets of traffic lights through the town.

These were not, however, for the hordes of Sainsburys’ customers.  It emerged that – without any local consultation or publicity – the lights had been introduced because Highland Council and Transport Scotland had requested consultants to make plans to cope with the expected extra traffic on the assumption that a major housing development at Sandown would be agreed.   Despite the refusal of the Sandown application, the traffic lights still appeared – although strangely, not at the key Waverley Road turning to the hospital and Cawdor;  and with no improvement to the hazardous Sandown Lane junction.  Funny how Transport Scotland seem to think they know better than the locals….

What do residents think about the extra lights?  Please let NICE have your comments.

6 thoughts on “The traffic lights mystery – wrong problem, wrong solutions

  1. I don’t see how anyone can seriously be complaining about the lights now that they’re installed and fully functioning. It’s much easier to get onto the A96 not just from the junctions with lights, but also from (e.g.) Manse Road, Waverley Road, Wellington Road, Newton Gate etc. It’s also much easier for pedestrians (esp those with young children or the elderly) to cross the road safely. Yes, there are some traffic jams through the town on the A96 but they seem to be in the usual places from before the new lights were installed, i.e. Leopold St, Lochloy Road and the pedestrian crossing at the bottom of the Brae. Overall a good thing for the town, even if they are arguably in the wrong places (Manse Road / Waverley Road junction would have possibly been better than either Albert St or Seabank Road).

  2. The traffic lights solved problems that did not exist, but failed to deal with the problems which did need tackling.

    There was no problem at the Albert Street and Seabank Road junctions with the A96 that could not have been resolved by the use of yellow-box markings to enable turning in and out of those streets. So the new lights there, though they do no harm, were hardly necessary.

    The junction most in need of review and change is the A96/Sandown Road crossing. There has been at least one fatality, and other accidents there. Putting lights through town while making no change there reveals a curious sense of planning priorities.

    The other awkward junction along that part of the A96 is the turning into Waverley Road leading to the hospital and on to the Cawdor Road. It is astonishing that the consultants who delivered the traffic study to Transport Scotland and the Council did not even assess that intersection, where vehicles turning right across the westbound traffic can hold up the flow coming from the Inverness direction. That is a junction with an obvious need for a filter lane and right turn control.

    The systemic problem – which the new scheme has not addressed (but which NICE looked at) is that there are so many junctions, crossings and turnings in the short stretch of the A96 between Leopold Street and the mini-roundabout by the Reformed Church, and that the lights which control vehicles and pedestrians there are not synchronised. Buses and cars have to turn in and out of the bus station area, the fire station needs an emergency access, there are four entry/exits to the Co-op and car parks, as well as junctions with Viewfield, Claymore Gardens, Douglas Street and Gordon Street. A sensible traffic management system which also provides safe crossings for pedestrians has to involve redesign of this stretch of trunk road and co-ordinated lights.

    The four-way Harbour Street/Brae intersection with the A96 still has only two-way traffic lights – and they are controlled by push-buttons which are out-of-sync with the rest of the system. If any junction needs a full set of lights, it is that one. The new scheme made no improvement (and messed up the yellow-box markings!). The fact that this junction is not linked to the timing of the Lochloy lights means that at busy times the A96 traffic “backs up”. Even worse when caravans try to turn in or out of the Maggot.

    Finally the lights for the Grantown Road are superfluous. There was never a problem there. But having installed lights, they might at least have included a left-filter to enable vehicles from Grantown to turn left towards Nairn, while eastbound traffic continues to flow.

    Why is it that – faced with an opportunity to make things better – our transport planners seem to make the wrong choices?

  3. I fully agree with regard to getting out of Harbour Street to go ahead, left or right is now much more hazardous. It’s tending to send people through Fishertown’s smaller streets to emerge at the King Street roundabout where at least there’s a fihgting chance of getting somewhere.

    And what fool decided that the roundabout at Sainsbury’s should go against the grain of the Highway Code, they tried this kind of thing at the Tesco roundabout in Elgin, but in the end reverted to “Keep Left”. It just confuses drivers who are unfamiliar with the junction – what a welcome to Nairn – an obtuse roundabout and then the lights…

    To those tourists leaving town towards Aberdeen having traversed the lights it must give them a final chuckle thinking “Poor bl**dy locals having to contend with that on a daily basis”.

  4. Interesting evidence in the Nairnshire Telegraph that the extra traffic lights have, as predicted, added to the difficulty of transit through the town. Highland Council’s own transport officer is quoted as saying, in a letter to a local community councillor, that the extra traffic lights was one of the reasons why it had become “no longer practicable” for Stagecoach to continue to operate the No 20 bus route between Tradespark and the town centre.

  5. It took me 40 minutes to cross town this evening arriving on the western outskirts at 5.05pm (Friday 13th April) and reaching Sainsbury’s by 5.45pm.

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