The Story of the Quay Street Roundabout

The monstrosity that is the Quay Street Roundabout.

It is the disasterous combination of some overloaded roads, a cash-strapped council and a very tight space and a layout which requires drivers to concentrate (which drivers unfortunately aren't very good at). Considering all of this, it's actually a very good road layout.

I know, hate me. Or consider the facts:

A wider flyover (or one that covers both directions) would not make one jot of difference. The vast, vast majority of people at the Quay Street Roundabout are travelling between the M27/Delme and Gosport Road. For some reason people are obsessed with building a flyover towards the station, which would remove very little traffic from the roundabout and hurtle them towards the queue for the next roundabout.

Despite this, the one-way flyover is very clever. If you're driving from the M27 towards the station, without the flyover you'd have to go through the traffic lights at the Gosport Road exit. These lights only have enough space for two cars to queue (especially in 1985 when the flyover was built). So they would have to be constantly going green for the roundabout, which would mean that nobody on Gosport Road would get a chance to pull out.

By putting that westbound traffic on the flyover, even though there isn't much of it, the traffic lights on the roundabout can afford to give Gosport Road minutes of green time. Clever, huh?

As there is no such conflict heading east, there is absolutely no need for a flyover. The Western Way approach can hold thousands of cars if it needs to.

When the flyover was built it was described as a "Gosport improvement" - because that's what it was for!

It's all we can afford. Like most people, I would have preferred it if the roundabout was replaced by an all-singing, multi-level junciton (although people would still have complained about that).

But any plans to do that would taken months to make their way through government departments (or, more likely, be laughed out at the budgeting meeting) - and while you can point fingers at whichever department you like for that, it is hardly the fault of the man who was asked to design it on a shoestring budget.

The simple fact is Tesco were offering to provide the bare-minimum capacity increase they could get away with, but it was an offer to increase the capacity and the council would have been hounded for decades if they had turned it down.

It's not supposed to be there. Since before the roundabout took shape, there had been plans to build a new road which meant people going towards Gosport didn't have to go through Fareham. So the roundabout was never intended to carry anywhere near as many people as it is. Eastern Way had to be opened within a few years of it being built.

It has made people's lives easier. In any walk of life the car drivers are always the first to moan when something causes them inconvenience. I don't know why it is, it's just one of the facts of life.

What people seem to forget is that before the 2011 improvements, children trying to get from Bath Lane park to the town centre had to run accross four lanes of traffic and then climb a metal fence because there was no footpath along the side of the old foundry site. There was no other realistic route. Now it's a really easy crossing. Yet for some reason drivers prefer the previous set-up.

It has a higher capacity. Even if you are finding that your journey takes longer than it used to, the fact is that more cars are now heading up Gosport Road and turning right. More cars are heading along Western Way.

So if nothing else, the 2011 improvements have allowed the junction to handle more people without too much of an affect on journey times. That has to be a good thing, no?

I for one remember how until 2010 there was always a queue along Western Way to join the roundabout. It's funny what people forget when they get all nostalgic.

It's really easy to drive. It has signs, it has clearer markings than the old layout, it had a map which was publicised a year before it opened. You literally have to follow your lane and stop at the red lights. I really don't understand how people find it so "confusing".

Yes, you have to concentrate when you drive it. You're supposed to concentrate whenever you're driving.

I don't work for the council. I don't design roundabouts. I just hate ill-informed rants.

To prove the first two points, I thought I'd add some reasons why I do think the current roundabout layout is terrible:

Its dependent on electricity. I've got no problem with tools like traffic lights being used to help traffic, but until we live in a world where power cuts and damage are guaranteed not to happen we should not be designing junctions which can't function without technology.

If the traffic lights at Quay Street were to break, the junction wouldn't just flow a little slower: it would be unsafe to use. That's a problem.

We shouldn't be filling it in. We don't know what the future will hold, but we do know the Quay Street Roundabout will be busy. The car park and the Tesco site were the only boundaries of the junction which could easily be built on if the money and will to improve the roundabout was found. Tesco should not have been allowed to build on that land without leaving space in case it's needed for a road improvement.

It was designed for a computer. Approaching the roundabout from the east, there is a whole lane provided for people heading to the station. But anybody heading to the station would be using the massive flyover. It's only a little mistake, but it makes you wonder what other mistakes went unnoticed.

The likely cause was that in order to get it approved, the designers had to show the design working on the computer. And the computer insisted on making space for people who refuse to use the flyover. Again, it makes you wonder what other silly decisions were made to please the computer.

In summary, I think the roundabout is overloaded, but it's the best we are realistically going to get in such a bad situation.