The Leamington Observer posted a short and somewhat cryptic story a short time ago entitled County Council approve plans for improvement works to A46. It peaked my curiosity as this would have an impact on my daily commute. The article was based on a Warwickshire County Council News item. It also talked about some three phase project that impacted the route from the A46 to the University of Warwick. Still, it is rather cryptic. It entails a new road that links the A46 from Stoneleigh Road westwards to Westwood Heath.
Not quite sure what to make of it after reading it, I decided to go on another quest for information from Warwickshire County Council. I ended up speaking with Adrian Hart, Senior Transport Planner for the County Council. The conversation was very cordial and enlightening.
The missing piece in all of this is that the area to the south of the University of Warwick will not only see the HS2 train project (that much is known) cut through the fields there, but apparently also a major road project that will rather dramatically change the entire area. Part of plan is based on the projected expansion of the University of Warwick and what will – according to Mr. Hart – be the new main entrance to the University.
Phase 1 is a reconfiguration of the A46 Stoneleigh interchange which now functions more or less, but is relatively straightforward for a cyclist to navigate. The plans for the interchange will make it much more complex.
The image below is from a planning document, which is available here.
For those not familiar with the interchange, here are the most salient changes. The project will turn the existing one bridge design into a large gyratory with a new bridge being added on the northern side. The existing roundabout on the western side will be demolished and replaced with a new one that is supposed to be better aligned with what will be the new road towards the new main entrance to the university – on the road that is yet to be built once you move past Dalehouse Lane and which will be on the southern perimeter of the university grounds.
Initially, this will mean no change to the traffic volume on Stoneleigh Road which often sees bumper to bumper traffic. That will only be alleviated when Phase 2 of the project is completed and for which no public plan exist at this point.
Mr. Hart assured me that in all phases there will be provisions for cyclists and that there are initial plans to put in place a stop on the rail line between Kenilworth and Coventry (something that I have long been thinking should be the case). So far, so good.
The problematic bit of this is that the existing bridge which currently has two lanes is slated to be expanded into three lanes (as per the above description), which would triple the existing capacity. This seems a bit odd given that the existing structure can cope (if not exactly well) with the traffic volume. At least two problems. First, the existing scheme does nothing – I repeat: nothing! – to deter individuals to come to the university by car, but rather encourages that mode of transport. Second, the three lane layout will make it impossible to put a badly needed bicycle lane in place if one expands the capacity to such an extent.
So, it will be interesting to see the exact plans for this project. Mr. Hart was kind enough to agree to come to a meeting of Cycleways, the local Leamington Spa advocacy group that I am a member of. We will keep you posted on what the next steps in this project will be.