CHARLES GRAHAM - Roads vital to our survival

Traffic in Hindley
Traffic in Hindley

TRANSPORT is one of those topics in Wigan which can give rise to the most passionate of debates.

Its failings are not something that usually bothers us every moment of the day, but come the moment you need to go somewhere and suddenly it’s an over-riding priority and its shortcomings a major problem.

I recall a Disney cartoon (Motor Mania) in which a mild-mannered Goofy turns into a slavering monster the minute he gets behind the wheel of his car.

And there are opportunities aplenty in Wigan borough to cultivate that Jekyll and Hyde transformation given its historic infrastructure issues.

I pity anyone who has to commute between Wigan and Hindley in the rush hour on a daily basis. It’s bad enough crawling along the A577 at any time of the day.

And the Saddle junction, for all the alterations made to it thus far, is still a bit of a nightmare. Especially those traffic lights which seem to be deliberately co-ordinated always to turn to red just as you arrive at each set on the circuit.

That almost-always-empty bus lane on Pottery Road has also long added a few extra points onto a car driver’s blood pressure too.

These and other gripes were well aired in a series of articles in the Wigan Evening Post over recent days as the public, businesses, bus firms and taxi drivers were all canvassed for their views on the pluses and minuses of the local road system and public transport.

Good to see that it was not all gloom and doom. And better too to see that the council is very willing to address these matters.

A big drawback at the moment, of course, is money. Some of the congestion-relieving projects have been on an authority wish list since the end of the Second World War (see the Route 225 between Orrell and Westhoughton) while others are three-quarters finished (like the Wigan town centre ring road which has just needed to be joined up round the back of Asda since about 1987).

But never say die. And don’t stop adding to the list either.

I think the Saddle Relief Road that is actually being constructed near Wigan Pier at the moment could certainly help the traffic to some degree. Bus firms aren’t happy because it will mean the Pottery Road bus lane’s disappearance, but if that restricted piece of tarmac was designed to get more people onto public transport and have fewer cars going down that street then it didn’t work.

Encouraging also to see a statement of intent to create a Hindley bypass which would see traffic cut through from Wigan Road to Liverpool Road and so ease the horrendous snarl-ups at the town centre crossroads.

Sadly there is no sign of the (modest) £3.5m needed for this to become reality any time soon, so motorists’ patience will have to be tested even further.

In the meantime there will be even more people using the A577 than before: that’ll be the people from the western side of the borough who, since the closure of Orrell recycling centre on February 29, will now have to drive all the way to Kirkless tip at Ince to drop off any waste that won’t go in their bins.

Other road plans remain on the files, including that one linking Warrington Road at Goose Green to that huge area next to Wigan town centre called Westwood Park which could one day become a major business hub if investors can be found and it can be serviced properly by roads.

I know the green lobby don’t like road improvements because they think it just helps to keep folk in cars and off their bikes and buses.

But a decent network of highways is crucial to the economic well-being of the borough, as well as motorists’ stress levels!