Ochre Yards Options Appraisal
During our consultations on our experimental cycling and pedestrian improvements in Gateshead Town centre, a number of potential changes to the highway were suggested. We agreed to consider them and then explain why they could or could not be implemented.
Our engineers considered safety, design guidance, cost, and practicality amongst other things when they appraised the suggested proposals. Below are the suggestions you made and our detailed appraisal of them.
Access to Trinity Square
Currently, access to Nelson Street from Prince Consort Road is closed to all traffic. A request was made to see if we could reopen this access.
We were concerned that traffic would use this route as a rat run to the Tyne Bridge and traffic which that previously used Askew Road would simply transfer to this road, subjecting Nelson Street to volumes of traffic it was never designed to accommodate.
This could also make access to Trinity Square for delivery vehicles, servicing and public parking extremely difficult.
However, we are now looking at an alternative which would still allow access to Trinity Square from both the High Street and Prince Consort Road but without creating a rat run. We are looking to trial this new proposal soon.
Half Moon Lane exit from Wellington Street
It was suggested that Half Moon Lane could be used by traffic to access the Tyne Bridge by opening the recently closed eastern end of Hills Street.
There are several reasons why this proposal is not viable.
Half Moon Lane is too narrow for large volumes of general traffic, and it would likely receive large volumes as it would quickly become a rat run for vehicles from Askew Road. There would be no easy way to prevent this.
Some of the residential properties in Half Moon Lane, and The Central pub, rely on this lane for deliveries. These would block the lane and cause substantial tailbacks of traffic.
The timings for the traffic signals at the junction of Askew Road have already been increased to improve vehicle flows and this reduces the opportunity for any traffic on Half Moon Lane to exit.
It would mean cycle and pedestrian safety would be compromised on a busy route.
Access to Hills Street
It was suggested that Hills Street could be used to access Wellington Street from the Tyne Bridge (Northbound) by opening the recently-closed end of Hills Street.
There are problems with this proposal.
It would almost certainly become a rat run for vehicles travelling from the Tyne Bridge to Askew Road and there is no easy way to stop this.
It would mean cycle and pedestrian safety would be compromised on a busy route.
Improvements to Junction of Charles Street and High Street
On the approach to the junction from Charles Street (eastbound) the left lane is reserved for left turning traffic only. It was requested that we look at changing this to allow both lanes to go over the junction towards the roundabout.
Due to the width of the road at this point, the traffic islands and the traffic signal equipment, it is not possible to achieve this without significant expenditure. However, this junction will be looked at again as part of our regeneration proposals for the town centre.
We have now adjusted the traffic signal timings so that there is more time for traffic travelling up and down Charles Street and this has improved traffic flows in that location.
Improvement to Junction of Regent Street and High West Street
On the approach to the junction of Regent Street (eastbound) and the town centre, the left lane is reserved for left turning traffic only. It was requested that we look at changing this to allow both lanes to go over the junction towards the roundabout.
As with Charles Street, the width of the road at this point, along with the traffic islands and the traffic signal equipment, means it would be very difficult to do this without incurring significant costs. The offset nature of this junction also makes this difficult.
However, we have looked at this junction and are currently working up a proposal which we can introduce in the short term to improve the junction by reducing the turning manoeuvres and restricting traffic on the High West Street (Northbound) approach to the signals.
Longer term, this junction will be looked at again as part of our regeneration proposals for High Street South.
Access to West Street
It was suggested that we could allow traffic to exit Wellington Street and use West Street/Nelson Street to access Trinity Square car park and Eastgate junction for journeys onwards to the Tyne Bridge.
This route would become a rat run.
Cyclists using West Street - which is part of the National Cycle Network - would be badly affected. The government's Gear Change policy suggests we should be looking to improve facilities by, for example, creating segregated cycle lane and side street closures rather than degrading existing cycling facilities.
It would also affect pedestrians crossing Nelson Street at the junction with West Street and make crossing more difficult and dangerous due to the increased volume of traffic.
We don't want to encourage additional traffic onto the already busy Eastgate junction (bottom of High Street) as this would damage our efforts to improve the main North/South flow at this junction.
The main reason for this suggestion was to improve access to Trinity Square which the other option has now addressed.
Askew Road Bus Lane
It was suggested that we allow 'Ochre Yards' and Wellington Street area residents to turn left out of Wellington Street and use the bus lane to the Tyne Bridge Approach.
Askew Road was closed to general traffic to discourage through-traffic and promote a safer and more attractive route for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as improving bus services between Gateshead and Newcastle. This aligns with the Department for Transport's principles towards a hierarchy of highway users, with the most vulnerable user taking priority.
Any additional traffic on Askew Road affects the North/South flow on the Tyne Bridge. This is a major factor in why we restricted this to buses only.
Allowing some private cars but not others to legally use a bus lane would be unmanageable, and it would quickly become a free-for-all.
Residents in the Ochre Yards area are not the only people affected by the proposals as it affects all traffic from the west heading to the Tyne Bridge.
Fletcher Road 'one way'
Currently, Fletcher Road has a no-entry restriction preventing entry from Half Moon Lane/Hudson Street. It has been requested that we look to reverse this to allow access.
We looked closely at this proposal.
Fletcher Road is a residential road with driveway/car parking accesses and it is felt that anything that would increase traffic in this residential setting would be unwelcome. The existing access on High Level Road is better suited to this level of traffic as it has no side entries.
Fletcher Road also has a rail bridge with limited clearance (11' 6") and there is a risk that encouraging more use of this road could lead to increased bridge strikes. High Level Road also has a bridge with limited clearance (12' 3") but this is marginally taller.
The cycle routes through the Ochre Yards development could not easily be accommodated at the bridge. The eastbound cycle route remains on road and the westbound on the shared use path at this point and this would be difficult to resolve.
Signage on approach to Wellington Street
Concerns have been raised that the signage on the approach to Wellington Street does not indicate that this is not a through road, and it also still has legacy destinations which are no longer valid. Additionally, a request to add Ochre Yards to the signage has been received.
We have taken this on board. We have ordered new signs and patches for existing signs (as appropriate) to show that Wellington Street is a no‐through road.
We are only allowed to indicate destinations on advanced directional signs and not named housing estates, therefore we will not be able to add the name Ochre Yards to the signage.