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Waitrose build shows need for Swindon southern by-pass
The sudden closure of Foxham Way, the main road through the Wichelstowe housing development in South Swindon between Old Town and the M4 motorway, demonstrates the need for the road to remain open in the future - even though it is designated one day to become a bus only route.
The massive traffic jams that started on 2 December, causing huge congestion up Kingshill from the west, along Bath Road, Devizes Road, and up Croft Road from the south, illustrate how important the road has become in a relatively short time.
The rush hour tailbacks will continue until mid-January whilst essential work on the construction of new Waitrose supermarket, right next to Foxham, Way takes place - as pictured above and below by Richard Wintle of Calyx
The road connects Redpost Drive at Rushey Platt in the west and Croft Road. Hundreds of drivers now use the road every day to by-pass traffic heading for the town centre and Old Town in order to get to work in parts of Old Town, Wroughton, East Swindon and to one of the town's biggest employers, Nationwide on Pipers Way.
To get round the congestion drivers from the west of the town have also been taking a route across Junction 16 of the motorway and through Wroughton which has seen an increase in traffic because of the road closure.
Mill Lane which provides a route from Old Town down to Wichelstowe is also closed. However Foxham Way will reopen with a temporary set of traffic lights over the Christmas break during the two week builders shut down.
While not compulsory, it is common practice to display closure dates with road side signs. A spokesman for Swindon Council apologised for the lack of advance notice of the road closures. He said: “A new roundabout is being built at the junction of Mill Lane and Foxham Way as part of the work to deliver the new Waitrose supermarket, which has meant the road has had to be closed for safety reasons.
“The work will go on until the middle of January next year, although the road will re-open over the Christmas period with traffic controlled by temporary lights from 5pm on December 20. It will be closed again from 10am on 2 January.”
However, the question remains, will Swindon Council's Highways Department one day decide to close Redpost Drive, before or after a western link road is built? The signs are in place on the road, but are not yet enforced.
Current plans envisage a road from Wichelstowe going through a yet-to-be-built tunnel under the M4 and emerging at Hay Lane, opposite Blooms Garden Centre. All traffic going from or through Wichelstowe with destinations to the west or north would then have to travel via Junction 16. So, instead of a direct route using Redpost Drive, drivers would have to go west in order to return east into Wichelstowe, or exit Wichelstowe via Croft Road and through the already busy Old Town route to get to the centre of Swindon Centre or all points to the north.
Swindon highway planners have been consulting on changes to the main roads to be built through Wichelstowe. Originally two routes were planned, Foxham Way through the houses, and another faster route running parallel to the M4 to the tunnel. However, the planners want to delete the fast route and push back the time when the tunnel would be required to be built by.
Redpost Drive is not part of this consultation but its closure would have a major impact on the overall highways access picture.
Wroughton residents are campaigning for the release of the technical evidence supporting the proposed changes with little success so far.
Amanda Woodhead of the People of Wroughton Facebook page said: "I would hope that the council keeps Redpost Drive open until the western link road is built and beyond. However residents are being kept in the dark on road capacity and the requirement of the appropriate highway infrastructure for Wichelstowe.
"We also want to know details of the traffic flows throughout each phase of the Wichelstowe house building programme.
"It's really important for the council to get the Wichelstowe roads right because it will have a considerable impact on communities further afield in the long term. But we're unable to properly discuss their proposal because the council isn't providing the right information."