Call for action on 'rat run' concerns over Downhill Lane near A19 - residents' petition demands traffic calming and footpath

People living near what they say is a problem road have called for urgent action, including installing traffic calming measures and a footpath.

Sunday, 1st May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 8:14 am

Downhill Lane in West Boldon reopened in January 2022 after a two-year closure to allow for major works to create a new roundabout and road layout for the A19’s Downhill junction near the Nissan plant.

But since reopening, concerned residents say the number of vehicles using Downhill Lane has increased week by week.

A group has come together and set up a petition calling for action.

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George Dodsworth and John Deighan of Downhill Lane Safety Group.

George Dodsworth, chairperson of the Downhill Lane Safety Group, said: “Since Downhill Lane re-opened the ‘rat-run’ of speeding cars, HGVs, quad bikes, buses and also the volume of rubbish, has increased considerably.

"The speeding traffic now makes it a very unsafe environment for all road users. We are aware the council undertook a traffic survey to ensure that speeds are compliant with police guidance and they claim they were.

“We strongly dispute the claim that traffic speeds are at an acceptable level, as residents living close to the road, we know only too well that the majority of vehicles speed excessively, making the road extremely unsafe for pedestrians, who are forced to walk on the road due to the lack of a footpath.

"Meanwhile, drivers are met by speeding traffic on the wrong side of the road at Lawn Drive when approaching the bend.”

The group is urging the council to take action by introducing traffic calming measures and constructing a public footpath.

In response, a spokesperson for South Tyneside Council said road safety is the authority’s ‘absolute priority’ and officers will continue to monitor traffic and vehicle speeds on Downhill Lane.

“Temporary traffic calming measures were proposed by the council in 2020 to counter the use of Downhill Lane as a ‘rat run’ during the major National Highways scheme at Testos/A19/ Downhill Lane,” the council said in a statement.

"However, National Highways requested that the road was closed completely, rendering the proposed measures unnecessary. These measures were only ever proposed as a temporary solution for the duration of that scheme.

“Traffic surveys conducted six weeks after the reopening of Downhill Lane earlier this year show that there has been a considerable reduction in the number of vehicles using the road, from a daily average of 3,913 vehicles in 2019 to 1197.

"Traffic speeds are also below levels at which police would consider routine enforcement. The regional road traffic accident data unit also reports no injury collisions along this stretch of road within the last five years.

“There is therefore no evidence which would point to traffic calming measures being necessary.

"However, in response to residents’ concerns, we are considering extending the existing 30mph limit 50m in a westerly direction reinforced with road markings, with the aim of slowing traffic on the approach to properties. Officers are currently drafting the proposals and will undertake a consultation once completed.”

The council said it will continue to liaise with local residents and added any petitions submitted will be considered and responded to in accordance with the authority’s petitions scheme.