10:50AM, Thursday 08 July 2021
Drivers have had mixed reactions to a busy Maidenhead junction after work to change it from a roundabout to traffic lights was completed last week.
Alterations to the controversial Bridge Road/Oldfield Road junction are finally finished after months of tailbacks on one of the main routes into town – but some drivers have warned of near misses on the new system.
The Windsor and Maidenhead council carried out the project as part of increased capacity work on six key roundabouts across the town.
It added that the works are in preparation for the regeneration of Maidenhead, and the predicted increase in new homes and jobs to follow.
The Oldfield Road works are part of the £6.33m road improvement scheme, funded with help from the Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
But the council’s lead member for transport, Cllr Gerry Clark, has been under fire by unhappy motorists since construction started, with delays rife.
The Conservative councillor issued an apology for traffic problems in May but hit back the following month, claiming that some of the complaints had been ‘political’.
And in an announcement last Thursday (July 1), the Royal Borough council confirmed that works had been completed on the A4 junction.
Reacting to the news on Facebook, Advertiser readers’ views were mixed over whether the change to traffic lights had been a success, with some claiming that the existing roundabout should have been ‘left alone’.
But most of the complaints seemed to be centred around the lack of a right-turn filter on to Oldfield Road, with drivers reporting near misses when making this manoeuvre.
Maris Maskell lives nearby and uses the junction regularly, and said: “As the light turns green for me to move off and turn right into Oldfield Road, it also turns green for the traffic coming from Maidenhead Bridge.
“So I end up having to floor it to get out of their way, and hope the lead car coming at me isn't flooring it, too.
“This is dangerous. Having spent the last 18 weeks avoiding the A4 because of the tailbacks, I'm now avoiding the A4 when going home so as to avoid an accident.”
Other resident complaints concerned difficulty negotiating the junction when emerging from Lassell Gardens, while some readers were unsure how the junction would cope with an increase in traffic predicted by the council.
Reactions were not all negative, with Faye Ludford calling the junction ‘so much better’, while Nathan Joyce said that ‘traffic flow seems much better now’.
He added: “Bar the need for a right filter you can already tell it will ease congestion at busy periods.”
Speaking to the Advertiser, opposition councillor Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) said that he had not yet driven the junction in rush hour, but he was pleased with what he had witnessed so far.
“It seems to be working out well, traffic queues are down,” he said. “I am surprised. It remains to be seen how it is going to take a proper traffic load, but right now with fairly minimal traffic, I think it is working well, credit where credit’s due.”
Cllr Hill did have some concerns, though, over the right-turn filter on to Oldfield Road, as well as implications for cars emerging from Ray Street, a smaller road that branches on to the A4.
He said that vehicles are ‘moving fast’ here and people are having difficulty turning right across two lanes of traffic.
Addressing concerns over the Oldfield Road right-turn, Cllr Clark said that he has ‘queried this’ with road engineers, who were due to investigate the issue yesterday (Wednesday).
“Because the concerns were raised, I asked the engineers to revisit and look specifically at this,” he said. “I would like it made clearer for those turning right [into Oldfield Road] if it is appropriate and possible to do so.”
Cllr Clark added that the filter lane with a separate light for traffic turning right comes into force when there are four or more vehicles waiting in the lane.
He said that signs could be used to educate drivers about how to make the turn safely, and he would also see if it is possible to implement a filter on the Oldfield right-turn during lighter traffic times.
The transport lead also confirmed that traffic is not allowed to turn right into Lassell Gardens when travelling from Maidenhead Bridge.
Cllr Clark urged people to use the council’s ‘report it’ system to log any issues they have with the junction, including difficulties emerging from smaller branch roads like Lassell Gardens.
“I think people have to become familiar with it, and we have to make sure the junction is as clear as it can be,” he said.
“The junction is doing its work and will facilitate a [higher proportion] of traffic. It is not a junction for today, but for the future.”
A Windsor and Maidenhead council spokesman said: “The safety of all road users is at the forefront of our minds when designing changes to the highways network, and extensive work has gone into designing the capacity improvements made at this new junction.
“As with any major highways infrastructure project, we are monitoring how road users interact with the junction, at different times of the day and week, alongside considering feedback from road users, to determine if any adjustments are required.”
Maidenhead reporter (and The Beautiful South super fan) Shay Bottomley tested out the new junction on his travels for the first time this week.
This is what he made of it during a quick trip to Slough and back:
"After months of frustration, the Oldfield Road junction works are finally complete.
"To test the new junction’s effectiveness, I loaded The Beautiful South’s Carry on Up the Charts into my Spotify playlist and set off towards Slough before making a U-turn at the roundabout next to the Volkswagen dealership and travelling through the new signals in the other direction.
"In fairness, I completed my lunchtime journey in under eight minutes (although, it should be mentioned, there are road works ongoing in Taplow which caused a backlog across Maidenhead Bridge, so the journey time would likely have been shorter).
"I was impressed, and somewhat relieved, that the journey had been relatively plain sailing.
"I also tested turning right into Oldfield Road. This was highlighted as a cause for concern amongst some Advertiser readers on social media; I can see why, but the relatively clear road at the time meant I had no issues in this instance.
"I am no traffic signalling expert, but after several minutes of observation, it became clear that the A4 had – rightly – been prioritised as the busier road, with the lights on green for much longer than the quieter Oldfield Road.
"There are also two lanes, with the inside lane being for left-turns only. Again, this seems to be a sensible idea, as it encourages traffic heading towards the M4 to avoid the busy town centre.
"That said, I did have some issues when I tried to emerge from Lassell Gardens.
"Albeit the least-used of the four exits, anyone who wishes to head towards Maidenhead from this direction may struggle to turn right, particularly when traffic backlogs across the junction. I feel a yellow box junction could be beneficial to ensure that traffic is able to move safely and freely in all directions.
"Overall, I am glad to see that the four-way control system during the works was not reflected once they had been complete. However, with further road works down the line, I sincerely hope that the council can take onboard the serious feedback from rightly-concerned residents to minimise disruption going forward.
"Only time will tell whether the months of delays and heavy congestion will be beneficial in the long-run, or whether a roundabout would have performed equally as well."
The UK has voted to leave the European Union in yesterday's referendum - and while the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead fell into the remain camp, Slough voted to support a Brexit.