Scottish Borders Council

Agenda item

Presentation - Permanent Traffic Lights at Neidpath Corner.

Paul Aitken, Project Engineer.


Paul Aitken, Project Engineer was in attendance at the meeting to give a presentation on the permanent traffic lights at Neidpath Corner.     He advised that owing to the existing topography there was no cost effective option to improve the road alignment of Neidpath Corner.   Therefore, practical options available were either to do nothing or to install permanent traffic lights.  The design team had reviewed potential traffic light locations taking into consideration stopping sight distance, forward visibility, road width etc.   Two possible locations for the westbound flow were considered and the option with the traffic lights close to where the temporary lights were located was considered to offer the safest layout.  A specialist consultant had been appointed to design the traffic control system and to review the most suitable locations.  The consultant also concluded that the most suitable location for the lights in terms of operation and safety was the option with the lights close to the temporary lights location.   An independent safety audit of the proposed layout would also be undertaken. A budget of £200,000 had been set aside by the Council for this project.   The advantages of the traffic lights would be:-  (a) controlled traffic flows through a difficult section of road; (b) reduced traffic conflicts; (c) reduced likelihood of accidents; (d) alleviate damage to the existing wall; and (e) reduce likelihood of unscheduled road closure on strategic route owing to traffic accidents.   The disadvantage would be possible minor delays to journey times.   Discussion on this item of business was deferred until after the presentation of the following item of business.



There had been circulated copies of a report by the Service Director Commercial Services advising on the position relating to the A72 in regard to sections highlighted for treatment, the position regarding traffic flow statistics and accident statistics, and the promotion of road improvements.   The Infrastructure Manager explained the Statutory Performance Indicator for the condition of the Scottish Local Authority road network was defined as “the percentage of the road network which should be considered for maintenance treatment”. The overall results from the SRMCS were presented using a colour convention as follows:- green – minor defects might be present, but the road was considered to be in an acceptable condition; amber – further investigation was required; and red – the road had deteriorated to a point where repairs were very likely to be required to preserve serviceability and to prolong its future.  In referring to the A72 by using a map the Infrastructure Manager  showed those sections of road identified as being in condition red, amber and green and it was noted that significant sections of red/amber existed between Blyth Bridge and Wester Happrew; Four Mile Bridge; Edston Quarry; Peebles High Street; Walkerburn; and Clovenfords.


The Network Manager then went on to explain that at times,  the narrow width and torturous nature of the A72 meant that essential maintenance could often only be done safely through a road closure.  The route had also been prone to emergency closures in the past as a result of landslips and/or traffic accidents.  As a valley route the alternative routing choices in these circumstances were few and either considerably longer or on less suitable roads.  For this reason a specific Action Plan was developed, in conjunction with the Police, to help deal with the issues associated with closures on the A72.  Accident levels, both nationally and at Scottish Borders levels had been decreasing and the Council was making good progress against the ambitious nationally set accident reduction rate targets.  Appendix C to the report illustrated the number of accidents occurring over the length of the A72 in the Scottish Borders.  These were broken down as either west or east of Peebles and further classified by the Police categorisation of the accident.  The numbers of accidents were also displayed graphically on a 3 year rolling average basis.   Appendix D to the report showed how the A72 compared to other A Class routes in the Scottish Borders in terms of accident numbers in recent years.  This illustrated that in terms of accident occurrence the A72 was not atypical to similar A Class type routes. 


Community Councillor Hughes expressed concern as to whether the proposal to install permanent traffic lights was the correct way forward and commented that this was another short term fix which would not resolve problems of damage to the walls etc.  He said it would be better to put in place a proper permanent fix which would mean widening the road.  He was concerned that there had been no discussion with communities affected and there had been no presentation of optional alternatives and costings.    He indicated that members of the community had been led to believe if something was being done it would only need one closure  and Officers had now indicated that some of the work would take place in October with further work following on from that  and so there was no guarantee that there would  not be other closures.  A notice had been received by the Community Council at the beginning of the week advising work was to start in October and plans were inadequate for the consequence of this.   If the road was closed and if the main roads were used as a diversion rather than minor roads it would be 28 miles from Stobo to Peebles and therefore this was a major disruption.   He explained he had recently suffered a heart attack and queried what would have happened if the emergency services had been diverted because of a road closure.   He was not convinced the installation of permanent traffic lights was the appropriate way forward.  Mr Gordon Crooks, Gold Star Taxis expressed similar concerns, and referred to closures at Dirt Pot Corner when traffic had to be diverted to the B7062  and advised that the road was still  in an atrocious condition owing to the diversions.   His taxi firm had a contract with a customer in Stobo 7 times each day and he advised of  the effect the proposals would have on his customers because of the increase in fares and journey times.    He asked that the proposals be renegotiated and work be carried out during the evenings when the roads were quiet.  Councillor Cockburn understood there would be problems in communities and said the closure highlighted how important the route was, there were no other proposals on the table, Council Officers were meeting the next day to discuss how best to deal with the closure.   Councillor Bhatia advised that owing to budgetary restrictions it would be irresponsible to carry out a consultation regarding widening of the road at Neidpath Corner.  She queried the positioning of the traffic lights, asked if anything could be done to protect the actual wall such as putting bollards in place to stop vehicles hitting the wall and causing more damage meaning the road would have to be closed and repairs made again.  She asked if the road could be open sometime during the day and referred to problems for taxis, school busses, and suggested that a convoy system could be in place and local people needed comfort in regard to provisions for the emergency services.   Community Councillor Tulloch considered that the cost of widening the road would be horrendous and that the traffic lights themselves would allow a degree of road widening.  He hoped the traffic lights would be controlled by sensor movement to avoid delays.   Councillor Garvie commented that because of  Scottish Government policy, Councils had not been allowed to increase Council Tax for 8 years.  As the road was formerly a trunk road he asked if there was not a case now for the Council to make strong representation to the Scottish Government to re-designate the road as a trunk road which would mean it would then be maintained and funded  by the Scottish Government not the local authority.  The Network Manager advised that unsuccessful attempts over the years had been made in relation to the de-trunking of other key routes in and adjacent to the Scottish Borders .  He advised he would be happy to make representation to the Scottish Government relating to  the A72, but was doubtful this would be successful. Councillor Garvie suggested that representation at Member and political level may have more chance of success.   Community Councillor Taylor commented that the A72 was not fit for purpose and expressed concern about the consequences of increased traffic over the Meldons.


The Infrastructure Manager confirmed a meeting would be held the following day to refine the proposals in terms of the involvement of the contractor and thereafter that the Road Asset Team would engage with the users of the road.  Work needed to be started as soon as possible before the winter.   A convoy system for vehicles might be accommodated but this would delay the completion of the work.  The Project Engineer then briefed Members on the operation of the permanent traffic lights explaining that the system was more intelligent than that of temporary traffic lights.   The system in place would assess queue lengths which would maximise the flow of traffic thereby minimising delays, sensors in the road would also pick up cyclists and slow moving traffic.   In the ensuing discussions Members were advised that bollards were not an option and that white lines would be put in place.   Community Councillor Hughes advised he was not saying that it was right to widen the road but that there had been no attempt to persuade him this was not a solution.  No discussions had taken place with the community directly affected and he was unhappy at the lack of consultation. Community Councillor Tulloch commented that the roads in the Borders were notoriously bad for cyclists and he was delighted to learn that the A72 at Blyth Bridge would be updated.   Councillor Bhatia suggested that a Sub-Committee be established to look at the A72 in more details and liaise with key stakeholders about the key issues. 




(a)     NOTED

                         (i)        the presentation on the permanent traffic lights on the A72 at Neidpath Corner; and

                         (ii)       the position with regards to the A72, in relation to its condition, treatments, traffic flows, accident rates and current identified road improvements.


(b)     AGREED that a Sub-Committee, comprising of Members and Community Councillors of the Tweeddale Area forum be established at the next meeting of the Forum to look at the A72 in more detail and liaise with key stakeholders about the key issues.




Scottish Borders Council

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