Works on the Charles Cross Transport Improvement Scheme will begin on Monday 4 February.
Charles Cross roundabout, with Charles Church at its centre, is one of the key junctions on Plymouth’s transport network and accommodates the majority of the city’s bus routes as well as high volumes of traffic. It is also well-used by pedestrians.
The aim of the scheme is to reduce delays and improve traffic flow by creating more room for all vehicles whilst making crossings friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists.
Infrastructure specialists Balfour Beatty have been appointed to carry out the works and will be working 12 hour days, six days a week, to reduce the overall time spent on the project.
Lane restrictions will be removed during peak traffic flows where possible and night working will be carried out when necessary with consideration given to neighbouring residents.
Works are expected to be finished by winter 2019.
Councillor Mark Coker, Cabinet member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Balfour Beatty on board. They come with a reputation of professionalism and we look forward to working with them.
“We know that there is never a good time to carry out a major road scheme, especially one as central as this. That’s why appointing a contractor with a proven track record of getting things done fits the bill.”
James Wells, Balfour Beatty Project Manager, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this contract by Plymouth City Council, building on our expertise in successfully delivering transportation schemes across the UK.
“We look forward to working closely with Plymouth City Council over the coming months to deliver significant benefits to the local community and the travelling public.”
So what’s actually happening at Charles Cross?
Planned improvements include an extra lane for traffic heading southbound on to the roundabout from Charles Street and a new layout for traffic and pedestrians designed to ease queuing on Exeter Street. This will include removing the existing separate bus priority signals from Exeter Street onto the roundabout, improving the flow for all traffic, but with additional bus priority on the roundabout itself.
The road layout northbound on Charles Street will see the removal of the traffic island between the roundabout and the entrance to Drake Circus car park, to improve the flow for all traffic.
The pedestrian crossings at the Drake Circus car park entrance are to be widened and straightened to provide a more direct link for people walking to The Box when it opens in 2020.
Improvements to Hampton Street and the Ebrington Street junction will see the ageing subway filled in to make more space for the new lane from Charles Street, while improvements will be made to the existing surface level crossing on Hampton Street to compensate.
Charles Church, in the centre of the roundabout, will remain unaffected; respected as a monument to citizens of Plymouth who lost their lives during the Second World War.
What does this mean for my journey?
Initial works will involve setting up the site compound. This will be on Hampton Street, outside of University of Plymouth’s Cookworthy Building, and will mean that Hampton Street will only be open northbound for the entirety of the works.
Setup is expected to take around a week, after which there will be an off-peak lane closure on the south-bound side of Charles Street along with a suspension of the bus lane that leads from Exeter Street onto the roundabout.
We’ll be giving residents constant updates on the rest of the traffic management plans as the scheme progresses through social media, through the dedicated Charles Cross webpage and also through the press.
So what are the Council doing to try and avoid delays?
All we can. But we’re realists. We know that this project is going to cause delays at some point during its construction.
As the project goes on, we will be reviewing traffic management daily to ensure that we’re not creating any more problems than is strictly necessary. The safety of the workforce, road users and pedestrians will be the driving decision maker.
We have been working with partners and people who use the roundabout daily, as Richard Stevens, Managing Director of CityBus explains: “We have been working with the Council on this project right from the start and have had an input into how the scheme will be constructed to ensure that our services run as smoothly as they can.
“Are roadworks ideal for us? No, of course not. But we accept that this will be short-term pain for long-term gain and that the finished scheme will make the roundabout far easier to navigate for all of our vehicles.”
The Council’s message at this stage is simple. Plan your journey. Think about how you get to the city centre. Could you car share? Park and ride? Use the bus? Maybe even take up cycling? Even if you can’t do any of those things, just slightly changing the times at which you travel could make a big difference to you.
The fact is that this project is essential, not only to effectively deal with the current amount of vehicles that use it, but also for the future growth of Plymouth. If it wasn’t worth doing, then we wouldn’t do it.
More information on the scheme and on different ways to get around can be found here – www.plymouth.gov.uk/charlescross