Chamber calls for haulage and holiday traffic diversion

Written by Pete Davison.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce has called for unnecessary haulage and holiday traffic to be diverted away from the town during the summer months.

The A346, which goes north to south through the town provides a direct link between the south coast ports and the Midlands and North.

However, a series of roadworks are scheduled for May and June, with the works in the latter months taking place at weekends.

Last summer's gas main works brought the centre of town to a stand-still, and commuters reported tailbacks of up to two hours to reach the centre while shops reported a massive drop in trade.

Now the Chamber of Commerce has called for traffic to be diverted via the M4 and A34 Newbury bypass, pointing out that neither holiday-makers nor lorry drivers will want to be stuck in roadworks traffic, and that freeing up the roads will make travel easier for residents and local businesses.

In a letter to councillor Dick Tonge, portfolio holder for transport and highways at Wiltshire Council, the Chamber wrote: “As you are no doubt aware, roadworks on and around the A346 Salisbury Road have, in previous years, caused absolute havoc, with tailbacks of up to two hours being reported by motorists.

“This chaos is exacerbated by unnecessary freight and holiday traffic using the A346 to travel between the south coast and the M4 at Swindon.

“On behalf of the businesses of Marlborough, and the workers who commute into and out of town on a daily basis, we would request that signs be erected north and south of the A346 advising commercial and leisure drivers of the roadworks, and recommending they use the A34 Newbury bypass as an alternative route.”

The A346 is a popular route with hauliers, who can shave three miles from their 64-mile journey from Southampton Docks to Junction 15 of the M4 at Swindon by following the country roads through Tidworth and the Collingbournes, over the narrow double bridges at Burbage Wharf, through the centre of Marlborough and through Ogbourne St Andrew and Chiseldon.

According to the AA, the average drive time from the docks at Southampton to Junction 15 of the M4 via the is A338 / A346, a total of 61 miles, takes around an hour and a half.

The alternative route – via the A34 Newbury bypass and the M4, which was designated the main route in the early 1990s – is 64 miles but is about 15 minutes quicker.

According to Wiltshire Council figures, an average of 7,000 vehicles use the A338 / A346 corridor every day, rising to 16,000 between Swindon and Marlborough.

The corridor has a higher than average accident rate, with 205 accidents in five years, resulting in 343 casualties, including 8 fatalities and 75 serious injuries.

A working party headed by Wiltshire councillors has been looking at de-priming the A346, which would allow the imposition of weight limits on the road, prevent hauliers not delivering locally from using the route, and force satellite navigation and online mapping companies to remove the A338 / A346 as the default route.  

Read our original story about the May / June roadworks here