FURIOUS drivers have lamented "shocking" traffic problems which hit Worcester yesterday - after a council survey caused hideous tailbacks.

Worcestershire County Council is facing severe criticism after a traffic survey resulted in some of the worst delays seen in recent years.

From 7am yesterday one in every five drivers on key routes around the city were pulled over and asked to take part in a questionnaire about where they were heading, sparking pandemonium.

The controversial operation, which finally ended at 7pm last night, led to:

  • Massive delays around Worcester's Powick island, with tailbacks spreading down the A449 Malvern Road all the way towards Powick and Callow End
  • Some buses from Malvern took two hours to reach Worcester during the morning rush hour, while car journeys between both locations took a staggering 90 minutes
  • Spiralling delays all the way around the A4440 Southern Link Road including severe delays in Crookbarrow Way, Broomhall Way, Temeside Way and Hams Way as frustrated drivers sat in traffic
  • A huge response to your Worcester News with some motorists demanding compensation after scores of them abandoned trips to work, doctors appointments, business meetings and car MOTs
  • Many drivers saying it was the worst traffic problems they had ever seen in Worcester, comparing it to the floods Ironically, the survey was being done to build up a body of analysis at County Hall to be used in future bids for Government money to improve the roads network.

It included four verbal questions: what is your home postcode, where are you travelling to, where do you park at your destination, and does your car have Bluetooth.

The council yesterday took the step of apologising for the delays, saying it was the only "true and accurate way" of gathering firm details on driver habits.

Mike Briggs, 56, an IT engineer of Callow End, said: "I was in Malvern at 8.15am and literally gave up getting into Worcester after one hour, I was furious.

"I had to take my car for an MOT at Crown Tyres in Midland Road but by 9am I was still miles away from even the Ketch roundabout - it was shocking, a nightmare."

Lo Rogers, a supply teacher from Powick, abandoned her attempt to reach work at a school in Longbridge, Birmingham after travelling one mile in an hour while trying to reach Whittington island.

Her agency told her she would have to forego a day's pay because she could not reach the school in time, despite the whole journey normally taking 40 minutes.

"I am disgusted that I have been forced to lose a day's pay through no fault of my own," she said.

"I understand the need for travel surveys periodically but I am fuming that an utterly cretinous decision was made to hold it in rush hour traffic whilst this route is notoriously known to be an nightmare which is currently made worse by roadworks at the Ketch island."

Robbie Green, 42, of Malvern, was trying to get the bus into Worcester and said it took him two hours.

"It was absolutely horrendous - I ended up over an hour late for my new job," he said.

The survey took place at five locations – the A443 in Grimley, a layby on the A38 Droitwich Road south of Copcut Lane, Crookbarrow Way in St Peter’s, a lane in front of the A449 Powick roundabout for drivers coming from Powick, and the A44 west of the A4440 Grove Way island.


We’re sorry, says council after anger on delays

AN apology has been offered to irate drivers from the council - which has praised drivers for their patience while they were being pulled over.

Two of the main locations surveyed were the Whittington island and Powick roundabout, where lanes were coned off to create single-track routes at key sections so motorists could pull in.

The council says it will be able to give the Government an "authentic" picture of the city's congestion and driver habits.

The council refused to put forward Jon Fraser, the highways manager, up for an interview yesterday but a spokesman said: "We apologise for any inconvenience caused due to the traffic surveys in and around Worcester.

"We'd like thank everyone who has taken part, and the residents for their continued patience, it's very much appreciated.

"The surveys were also suspended for a period on one route to ease traffic flow into the city.

"The surveys are being conducted on one in five cars and need to be carried out throughout the day, during peak hours, as this is the only way that a true and accurate picture of traffic movement throughout the city can be gathered.

"The findings are vital in helping provide data that will be included and used in future improvement fund bids, such as the Carrington Bridge."

The council also said there was a car break-down in the Powick area yesterday some time before 9am, which added to the delays.

During the operations West Mercia Police agreed to offer support in pulling drivers over safely.

John Hewer, who works at business management firm SAP Solutioning, and was caught up in it, said: "I pointed out to the police at the survey site that the journey was the worst I'd ever experienced and the traffic jams were appalling.

"The journey was as bad as during the floods when the river crossings at Upton and Worcester city were closed.

"Overall it took me over an hour to reach junction seven of the M5 from Powick, a four-mile journey that should take 10 minutes and at worst in rush hour takes 35 minutes."


Why were they doing the survey then?

THE survey, otherwise known as a traffic census, was being done to provide a body of data on how Worcester's key traffic routes are being used.

The questions were deliberately put together to collate precise details on where the road users live and where they were heading to.

Every year councils can make bids for Government funding to undertake big infrastructure projects, as well as bodies like the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The council insists that bids including comprehensive data on local congestion and driver behaviour stand a far better chance of succeeding with Whitehall, especially when public finances are tight and many attempts to secure cash are turned down.

In particular, work is currently taking place to firm up the estimated £70 million cost of dualling the A4440 Carrington Bridge and the hope is that by doing yesterday's work, it will provide enough evidence that the investment is needed.

Many angry drivers contacted your Worcester News to ask why it was being done at rush hour.

The council say it was deliberately done that way, to target motorists at the busiest times possible.

Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways, said: "If you're going to bid for money, you need to have a comprehensive case ready on why it is needed.

"It's the only way you can do it - and if you do it properly it must take in all the major routes around the city.

"We apologise for anyone caught up in the delays, but if are going to be successful in getting improvements to the roads we've got to get that information."

During the work yesterday, as well as the four verbal questions to drivers, details on each vehicle type were collected and how many people were in it.

The council took guidance from the Department for Transport in how to conduct the survey, which was reviewed by the police before it was agreed the project could go ahead.

It was unable to confirm how many drivers were pulled over, but said on key routes like the A449 Malvern Road it was aiming for around 15 per cent of all the through-traffic per hour.

Police were pulling drivers over during the project, but once stopped people had the right to refuse to answer any questions.

The council says on previous occasions it has used other, less reliable methods of collecting data like manual counts of cars, and by tapping into bluetooth.

The reason why the blueooth question appeared yesterday was because the council can pick up traffic movement information from cars using it.


What they said on this website yesterday

ST JOHN'S based campaigner Lisa Ventura tweeted: "Gridlock in Worcester today, another monumental mess-up by our esteemed highways department."

Melanie Dale Lower, another Worcester based commuter, tweeted: "Traffic in Worcester is a joke, why would they carry out a survey during morning rush hour? As if people aren't irate enough as it is."

A fellow tweeter called Stebola wrote: "The council think it's a good idea to hold a traffic survey on the most congested roads in the city at the busiest time of day. Amazing."

A posted called 'RandomOne' left a message on our website saying: "Utterly cretinous decision made yet again by the council.

"As if the well-known traffic problems around Worcester's Southern Link Road are not bad enough, they go and pull a stunt like this causing massive delays at rush hour.

"I haven't seen traffic jams this bad since the floods earlier this year, and that was because most of the bridges on the Severn were closed.

"Is it some kind of cruel social experiment? Or even a sick joke?

"Or maybe it's just a not-so-gentle reminder from 'The Powers That Be' that us peasants are at the mercy of our town planners.

"I was lucky enough to divert past most of the jams, but my heart went out to the poor folks going in the opposite direction facing mile upon mile of stationary traffic to answer a survey.

"I hope that those people surveyed gave honest and frank answers to the questions."

'Joe The Tug' left a post saying: "Actually gave up this morning. Traffic was backed up all the way to the Halfway house on the Malvern Road.

"They could have carried out this survey online and saved a lot of grief."

A poster called 'GH40' wrote: "My other half works for highways department at County Hall, I have just told her I want a divorce!"

A posted called 'Dave Farmer' wrote: "I couldn't make it into work on time for an important meeting that may have cost me and my company a contract worth £250,000 or more this year.

"I could have walked the three miles to work quicker."