A probe into traffic chaos in Gateshead town centre has been launched after Gateshead Council admitted that congestion this weekend was ”on a scale not seen previously”.
Two days ago a post on Gateshead Council’s Facebook page warned that traffic congestion in the town centre was causing “significant delays to journey times”.
Drivers reported mayhem in the area, with Sam Shanks, from Heworth, saying her shopping was ruined after being stuck in Tesco car park for two hours on Friday.
She said: “We tried to leave at 1:30 to pick up our daughter from school at 2.30 and we were right at the back corner so didn’t realise it was bumper to bumper on the way out. We were stuck in the car park with everyone else for two hours.
“We were already committed and in the queue so couldn’t park up and abandon the car. Luckily for us my mother in law was able to get our daughter so that was one thing we didn’t have to worry about. All the shopping was defrosted.
“Getting out of Tesco the traffic coming along Nelson Road to join up by Wilkinson was bumper to bumper moving inch by inch.”
She described “the smell of burning clutch and the faces of road rage for a solid two and half hours” until she got out of the jam just after the civic centre.
“The amount of exhaust fumes in the car park was unreal, it was making you sick even with the windows rolled up. That can’t be healthy. And with the rest of the traffic outside to boot I’m sure the CO2 omissions were off the scale.”
Tik Toker Milly Ferguson said: “It took about 45 minutes to an hour to get from Tesco to Wilko and road rage was at an all time high.”
A Gateshead Council boss said that congestion seen on Friday and Saturday was “significantly worse than usual”, and that it is investigating it as “a matter of urgency”.
Chris Proud blamed the council’s decision to close Askew Road to private motorcars for the problems.
Alterations made in July last year included a bus lane only introduced on Askew Road on the approach to the Tyne Bridge and the installation of a parallel cycle lane
Mr Proud said: “Askew Road has been a nightmare for years at peak times. Now, due to the bus lane forcing drivers to turn up towards the Civic Centre or cut past Tesco carpark, its chaos. Cars sitting idling can’t be good for the environment.”
Last month the council confirmed that the changes, which also include, Hills Street being closed to through traffic and Nelson Street/Lambton Street becoming access only to and from the Trinity Square shopping centre, will stay in place for at least another two years.
Gateshead Council also created new cycle routes in the Oakwellgate area and on the approaches to the Tyne Bridge.
Hundreds of drivers commented on the post to speak out about the gridlocked conditions.
In the thread, which at the time of writing had reached 980 comments, residents warned that traffic problems would kill the town centre.
Sheena Ramsey, chief executive at Gateshead Council, admitted traffic problems in Gateshead Town Centre were “on a scale not seen previously”.
She said: “We want to apologise for the anxiety and inconvenience caused by the traffic and congestion experienced by local residents and visitors this weekend.
“The traffic problems around Gateshead town centre at the end of last week were on a scale not seen previously and we are investigating the causes as a matter of urgency.
“While there can be localised problems with vehicles leaving the Trinity Square shopping centre car park at busy periods, the congestion seen on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th was significantly worse than usual, and the Council is seeking to identify why this happened and minimise the risk of it happening again.”
Ms Ramsay said that significant congestion was also seen in Newcastle.
She added: “This weekend has also seen significant congestion and delays in Newcastle, and it seems crowds attending major cultural and sporting events in the area have contributed to that congestion.
“Gateshead is committed to tackling the climate emergency and resolving problems with air quality and has made significant changes to the town centre road network to help address those issues.
“We will look again at how we manage the town centre network and signage, to try to keep traffic moving and avoid delays as far as possible.
“Any action that is taken will need to sit within the wider context of the Council’s responsibilities. We need to shift the balance away from the private car and towards alternative forms of transport.”