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Column: Sort out this gridlock for our towns
THE idea of offering free parking in Blackburn on Saturdays is a very welcome shot in the arm for businesses and shoppers alike.
Supermarket and out-of-town retail parks have left town centre traders trying to compete with one hand tied behind their backs.
There’s a strong argument that Blackburn with Darwen Council’s initiative should now be extended to weekdays too, especially during the school holidays when parents are going to be shopping for clothes for the children and holiday goods.
But having done something about making it cheaper to go into town it would be great if all local authorities could now also address the idea of reducing the congestion motorists face on trips into town centres.
Over the past few weeks, for example, it seems all the main arteries into Blackburn from the west and south have been crippled by a series of major roadworks all taking place simultaneously.
We knew a couple of months ago about the biggest investment in replacing gas mains for more than 60 year – 57 miles of pipes across East Lancashire being dug up in a £10million project which is going to last 12 months.
While that’s been moving along important routes like Livesey Branch Road we’ve also got the enormous hole that’s brought traffic to a standstill in Preston Old Road outside Witton Park and more problems in Ewood and Guide.
Add on the, admittedly unforeseeable, closures around Darwen and Lower Darwen caused by the past fortnight’s floods and the result has been a real mess.
The only thing that’s saved us from complete gridlock is the virtual end of the college and school terms.
If the council could actually co-ordinate the activities of these various utilities and construction firms, and simplify their own constantly-changing traffic system within the town centre they’d be in a win-win situation.
Smooth flowing traffic would give the town centres a big advantage over those supermarket and retail parks which seem to have been deliberately designed to be easy to get into but extremely difficult to leave without sitting in long queues while tempers fray.
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