Sunday, 6 January 2019

A Way Through

Most of us have come to terms with – or not as the case may be – St Albans being a nightmare to drive in or through.  But for us on the eastern side there was, in the early days of motoring, an indirect benefit brought to us courtesy of the government's post-WW1 roads programme.  The St Albans Bypass, which was also in part a Fleetville Bypass, was a present to the district in the 1920s.  So, we might ponder where we might be today without it.  Would Hatfield Road instead be a dualled carriageway?  Possibly, or maybe not.

In 1965 the County Council's St Albans Transportation Study (SATS) was published, the result of detailed analysis of traffic movements, congestion and other factors, such as parking, which acted as influences on everyone's journeys by road at the time.

The City Council had spent the best part of thirty years developing the ring road, finally completed the project just as the SATS was published.  As we realised fairly quickly the early parts of the road were developed, not as a single infrastructure project, but in conjunction with housing developers; the result being that the ring road was just another residential road, and as direction signs moved traffic on to it and away from the city centre, there were many objections from residents' groups, mainly because of the heavy vehicles using it.  Eventually the signs disappeared, and so did the ring road name.

Two new traffic schemes were discussed in the SATS.  One will form the subject of the next post; the other became possible because British Rail offered for sale the branch railway land it owned, now Alban Way.

Looking towards the former Northwestern Hotel, Holywell Hill.
SATS therefore proposed – another – Fleetville Bypass using railway land between London Road and Colney Heath Lane, although the maps produced showed an extension to link with the then newly dualled carriageway at the former Northwestern Hotel, Holywell Hill (or is it St Stephen's Hill at that point?).  

The link with London Road is shown as a curved road which was "thoughtfully" constructed as the later Orient Way.  A roundabout was proposed at Ashley Road, although the difference in elevation would have required some infrastructure works at a location which had only just received a new bridge.  Presumably, the connection at Hatfield Road/Colney Heath Road would have similarly been in the form of a roundabout – how today's drivers would welcome a roundabout here.
This road leaves London Road and connects with Alban Way at the former
London Road Station.

The press made the assumption that the new road would be a dualled carriageway, presumably because that is what most bypasses were.  However, SATS states that the road would be a two lane single carriageway; just as well, as the railway land would not allow for a wider road.  While raising this option as a viable option, the report also recognised a serious concern that air quality and traffic noise would be brought close to people's homes over the majority of the new road's length, and that would count against that option in any decisions the county council would have to make.

Colney Heath Lane/Hatfield Road junction.  Considering the subject
matter, in these three photos there is barely a vehicle to be seen!

Since the railway route did not materialise – nor any other option put forward – we are left to speculate on the benefits it might have had.  What difference would it have actually made to Hatfield Road?  Would it have made any difference to driving (or riding on a bus for that matter) into and through the centre of the city?

So, from the point of view of the railway route, fifty-five years on and we are still using the same road network, and goodness knows how many road possibilities have been drawn on council maps since.  Meanwhile, the original bypass (North Orbital) has since been dualled – it was initially laid as a single carriageway – and still has the land for widening to three lanes each way.  Its actual capacity is limited by its

surface roundabouts, and still lacks the overbridge at the Smallford Lane/Colney Heath intersection.  But that's another story.

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