TRAFFIC light failure at one of Winchester’s busiest junctions produced a surprise result – fewer jams.
The fault occurred early on Tuesday (October 13) where Southgate Street meets High Street.
The bottleneck often forces drivers to queue for several hundred yards along Southgate Street and the city’s one-way system.
Yet there were only a handful of vehicles on both sides of the junction while the lights were broken. There were also no reports of accidents.
Nearby traders, who see the jams on a daily basis, said the traffic was much lighter.
Matt Lunney, a negotiator at Pearsons estate agents in Southgate Street, noticed the difference.
He said: “Everything is settling down and there’s only been one or two people going a bit too fast along Southgate Street.
“The traffic isn’t too bad. It often goes back a fair way from here but that doesn’t seem to have happened this morning.”
Across the road, Susan Whyman runs the Childhood’s Dream toyshop, and said traffic was flowing freely.
She said: “I drove through it to get to work this morning. There doesn’t seem to be any trouble outside but I’m not sure if it would stay that way if a large truck came around the corner.”
Along with lorries, many buses also use the junction, including the Bluestar 1 service to Southampton.
Alan Weeks of the Winchester City Residents’ Association often rides the bus into town, and went through the affected junction. While vehicles were doing fine, he said it was risky for pedestrians.
“The people crossing the road were taking their life in their hands, as there weren’t any gaps in the traffic,” he said.
Winchester Friends of the Earth spokesman, Chris Gillham, said they wanted pedestrians to have more priority over cars.
One idea to achieve this in Winchester is ‘shared space’, which includes reducing street furniture.
Mr Gillham said they would support having fewer traffic lights, not just as part of the scheme, but to reduce street clutter too.
County council engineers fixed the fault before Tuesday evening’s rush hour. Traffic returned to normal the next day, with longer queues.
The county council was asked if it might consider switching them back off as an experiment, but it said it would compromise pedestrian safety.
Apart from the Southgate Street lights, there are nine further sets on Winchester’s one-way system in Union, Eastgate, Upper Brook, St George’s and Jewry Streets, along with North Walls and Friarsgate.