Collision ‘risk’ due to new lanes at redesigned Rhubarb Bridge roundabout

The addition of new lanes at the Rhubarb Bridge roundabout has created a risk of collisions between vehicles, according to a new safety audit,

By Joel Lamy
Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 5:05 am

Inadequate road markings have led to an “increased risk of side-to-side collisions” for vehicles heading off the roundabout eastbound onto the A47

The safety audit carried out by Skanska said engineers had observed “conflict” with “lots of horn hooting” as it was unclear which lane motorists should be in to exit the roundabout.

This is because two lanes merge into one ahead of arrival to the exit slip road, meaning drivers have to “jockey for position”.

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Vehicles travelling southbound at the roundabout

The contractors have now advised Peterborough City Council to urgently change the road layout and submit a revised scheme to Highways England.

The council said it will be “proceeding with a two-lane eastbound exit onto the A47 and additional signage as soon as we are able to get these works booked in with Highways England” and that in the interim it will alter the road markings.

A spokesperson added that the junction was “signed off as safe” by Skanska with the latest recommendations made to “improve safety further”.

A further 15 ‘problems have also been identified in the audit which include inadequate markings, narrow roads and a failure by drivers to adhere to the new 30mph speed limit, all of which increase the risk of collisions.

Rhubarb Bridge lanes going west to join the A47 EMN-210426-172804009

The £5.5 million Rhubarb Bridge scheme has proved controversial since the outset after the council planned to demolish the popular foot and cycle bridge and replace it with pedestrian crossings across the slip roads at the A47/A15 roundabout, near Brotherhood Shopping Park.

Black and yellow tape at Rhubarb Bridge EMN-210223-081616009

The council said the bridge needed to be knocked down as it was ‘at the end of its life’ and would allegedly cost up to £30 million to replace.

But after a backlash from residents, even though the demolishment had long been earmarked in public documents, the council did a U-turn after a new assessment revealed that Rhubarb could be repaired at the same cost as being demolished.

However, the at-grade crossings were kept as part of the plans despite safety fears from campaigners.

The new layout at the busy roundabout included introducing a new lane of traffic which has created further problems.

What is in the safety audit

The latest audit is the fourth to have been provided by Skanska - the council’s official highways partner - following inspections last December once the scheme had been completed.

A total of 16 “problems” are highlighted including eight which are new and eight which had been previously been noted.

The most significant concern relates to traffic entering the roundabout from Bourges Boulevard seeking to head onto the A47 eastbound.

According to Skanska, lane two is marked for traffic heading either onto the A47(E) or A15(N), while lane three is marked solely for traffic heading towards the A47(E).

However, before drivers even make it half-way around the roundabout, this changes with only one lane earmarked for A47(E) traffic, meaning drivers have to “jockey for position”.

Skanska noted: “Conflict was observed (with lots of horn hooting), with it being unclear which driver is in the ‘correct’ lane on the approach to the northern stop line.”

That problem is made worse by queues forming at the stop line, blocking A15-bound drivers, and leading to “increased risk of side-to-side collisions”.

Discussions are ongoing with Highways England to revise the scheme so two lanes of traffic can exit the roundabout onto the A47(E).

Further, new issues identified in the latest safety audit include:

. Two lanes of traffic exiting the roundabout to head towards the A47(W) merging into one “just beyond the brow of a hill”. Skanska noted: “There may be an increased risk of nose to tail collisions if road users concentrating on merging fail to observe queuing traffic ahead.”

The council said: “Discussions with Highways England designed to ensure a safe merger is achieved are ongoing.”

. “Poor speed compliance” of the new 30mph speed limit on Bourges Boulevard and on the roundabout itself.

. A risk to sight-impaired pedestrians from part of the new inclined bridge structure which extends into the footway. Black and yellow markings are already in place and hazard tactile paving is to be introduced.

Previous issues which remain include:

. “Insufficient” carriageway width for vehicles heading off the roundabout westbound towards the A47, and on the eastern section of the roundabout. This will be monitored going forward.

. An absence of lane lines on the roundabout for motorists heading towards the city centre. Skanska said: “Road users are required to move from the inside of the roundabout to the outer two lanes.

“The absence of tracker lane lines to direct road users could increase the risk of late/sudden lane changes and the increased potential for side-to-side collisions”.

. A risk of collisions, particularly between cyclists and visually-impaired pedestrians, as it is unclear where the footway/cycleway at the northeast and southeast points of revert to a normal footway. New signage will be introduced to alleviate this.

Previous safety audits by Skanska warned that bringing in the crossings could see multiple collisions every year, including ones which may be serious or fatal.

It “strongly” urged the authority not to progress with the crossings but to instead focus only on repairing Rhubarb Bridge.

However, the concerns were dismissed by the council which insisted that the overall scheme is safe.

The latest safety audit only raises one risk from the crossings which is pedestrians and cyclists being able to see multiple green ‘go’ signs and possibly mistaking which one relates to the crossing they are at, meaning they may attempt to cross a slip road when it is not safe to do so.

The council said it would seek to address this and potentially add in ‘LOOK LEFT’ or ‘LOOK RIGHT’ markings.

A spokesperson said: “The Stage Three Road Safety Response Report clearly shows that of the remaining outstanding issues picked up at the time of the inspection in the winter of 2020/21, all will be resolved either fully or partially by end of the scheme. Skanska designed the scheme and confirmed that the junction was safe to open in November 2020.

“The works to the junction - including the creation of pedestrian crossings - were completed in late November. Rhubarb Bridge itself is now being resurfaced and waterproofed, which is the final stage of the project.

“These works will enable the footbridge to be used for another 10 years and will continue until mid-May. During this time the footbridge is closed, however, the pedestrian crossings are in use.

“Once completed the finished scheme will give people choice. They can choose to use the bridge and subway or the pedestrian crossings, depending on their mobility, weather conditions and time of day.”

The bridge has been closed since early February.