The A1(M) Junction 6 – Improvement or otherwise?

The Improvement.

Late in 2014 the Highways Agency (now called Highways England) announced that as part of its ‘Pinch Point Programme’, it would be ‘improving’ the northbound carriageway and slip roads at Junction 6 in order to ‘improve’ traffic flow between Junctions 6 and 7. This stretch of motorway carries 39,000 vehicles per day, and the ‘pinch’ is caused where the road going North at Junction 6 reduces from three lanes to two.

The Improvement work was completed in two phases at a cost of around £2.2million. and overhead gantries have now been installed. The Motorway layout has indeed been ‘changed’:-

a) to provide a ‘lane drop’ at Junction 6, leaving just two running lanes continuing to Junction 7, and

b) to lengthen and ‘amend’ the layout of the Junction 6 ‘on-slip’ at The Clock, with the purpose of reducing the traffic feed entering the A1(M) to a single lane, so as to ease the merging of traffic on the main carriageway further along.

The Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) view.

The Spring/Summer 2015 Edition of the WHBC Newsletter ‘On The Move’, (which regularly documents progress on projects/actions), reported that ‘Early indications are that the scheme has not lived up to expectations. Queues are longer, and anecdotally there appears to be more rat-running along the A1000.  Highways England is currently evaluating the situation and considering further measures to improve performance of this congested junction’. 

The Welwyn village view.

As reported above, evidence is mounting that the changes to the Motorway have made what was a serious local traffic issue, infinitely worse:-

a) the lane-drop has provided north-bound rat-running traffic with a one mile clearway to Junction 6, and

b)  the narrower ‘on-slip’ road at The Clock, regardless of its new length, causes rat-running traffic to back up to the already congested Clock roundabout, regularly causing a gridlock at rush hour.

The Danesbury Residents Association (DRA) solution.

The DRA has been voluble over many months, and active in raising concerns to local Borough Councillors, and to local resident County Cllr. Richard Smith.

The DRA Chairman Peter Branchflower, has put forward a remedial short-term solution. The suggestion is to install a single traffic light control at the southern entry point to the Clock Roundabout. This would regulate (i.e. halt/discourage) Motorway rat-running traffic, with the important side benefit of making it easier, and safer for local traffic to enter the roundabout at all times from the B656 Link Road (Codicote Road), and the B197 Great North Road (Oaklands/Woolmer Green/Knebworth).

The DRA suggestion has the active support of County Councillor Richard Smith, and the support of the local Borough Councillors too. County Cllr. Richard Smith raised concerns on 28th June with the County Executive Member for Highways and warned of worsening problems as The Clock development nears completion and current congestion problems worsen. (The Clock will soon open its 50 doors to new residents, with a projected 50-100 extra car movements directly onto the Roundabout).

The Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (HACC).

One of the local Borough Councillors, Cllr Mandy Perkins, sits on the Hertfordshire A1 Corridor Consortium. (To learn of the purpose and membership structure of HACC please go to the Hertfordshire A1 Consortium.)

One of the HACC’s aims (apart from the Junctions 6 – 7 Improvement Scheme itself) is to deliver a strategy for the A1 corridor which will be available late Autumn 2015. It will be a fairly high-level document that will highlight problem areas and suggest interventions at junctions along the A1 and the adjacent local road network.

But this is clearly long term planning that will not help anybody in the short term, and in the short term, things do not look good.

Nevertheless, through the HACC there is an opportunity to bring pressure to bear on Highways England (HE) to bring about further works to improve the operation of their scheme. And indeed, at the 6th July 2015 meeting, local Consortium representatives vigorously urged Highways England to re-think on the current local rush-hour problems caused at The Clock Roundabout.

Where do we go from here?

On 7th August 2015, the DRA were advised by County Highways, (Andrew Morris – Highways Major Project Group) that ‘signalising the Clock Roundabout is not a proposal being considered in detail as part of the A1 Strategy. Even if the Strategy were to recommend this type of scheme, there would still be a need for further analysis, design development and funding obtained. To my knowledge HCC does not have any current proposals for signalising that junction’.

And then on 26th August 2015, County Cllr. Richard Smith again discussed these matters  with the County Executive Member for Highways and pressed for short term measures to reduce the daily congestion.

For the moment, we must remain hopeful that somebody in authority has the capacity to apply ‘The Churchill Factor’ and “Action This Day”.