WINCHESTER’s new transport chief is calling for a review of the city’s one-way traffic system.
Cllr Mike Southgate, city council portfolio holder for transport, is seeking talks with the county council over the 40-year-old network.
It was introduced in the early 1970s at around the time the High Street was pedestrianised.
Critics say the advance of technology means that traffic can now be regulated without such a cumbersome system.
Motorists drive hundreds of thousands of needless miles a year around the city centre, wasting time, petrol and adding to Winchester’s congestion and serious air pollution.
Cllr Southgate said: “I would like Hampshire to look at it again. It is long overdue to be reviewed.”
There have been calls, in particular, for North Walls to be made two-way since the 1990s, providing a second east to west route to augment Friarsgate and St George’s Street.
He warned that any major changes would be expensive and there were practical issues such as bigger cars and wider pavements than in the 1970s.
Cllr Southgate was speaking amid controversy over the dropping of the bus station as part of the Silver Hill redevelopment.
He said: “Silver Hill will prompt a rethink on the way buses are managed and also offers an opportunity to carry out a wider review of bus services in conjunction with cycling and pedestrian access. The county’s review of the one-way system is an important component of this process.
“I am therefore urging the county to complete its review of the one-way system as the starting point in conjunction with Silver Hill. This may yield a range of different travel opportunities involving interchange between the city and railway station, the hospital and so on. It may also bring improvements in air quality.”
Chris Gillham, of Winchester Friends of the Earth, said he would welcome a review but warned that it would not tackle the biggest traffic issues around Silver Hill.
He said: “Talking about changing traffic networks is not addressing the real problem, and the problem is too much traffic. Building Silver Hill will increase traffic into the centre and will increase our pollution.
“Messing around with which way it goes may achieve some small gains but it would not get at the heart of the problem.”
Cllr Southgate defended the proposed scrapping of the bus station. He is meeting the county and Stagecoach and Bluestar, to progress matters with them.
He said: “As part of Silver Hill, Winchester will benefit from a modern bus/travel interchange with high-quality shelters, real-time bus information, a ticket office and public toilets, all in a brightly-lit main thoroughfare with better security and refreshment facilities.
“The issue of the bus station has caused some concerns which are understandable, but we have to face the fact that no one is prepared to run or maintain a bus station.
“As such we have actively developed an alternative in the form of a bus interchange which I believe will provide all of the benefits of a modern bus station just in a different way. This will involve having bus stops in two locations (The Broadway and Friarsgate), but that would have been the case with the original scheme anyway due to the large numbers of bus services, coaches and community transport schemes which serve Winchester. Cross-city services may well be improved.
“We will work with the county and operators to make this work through very careful and high-quality design of walking routes, public information and associated facilities. We will also work with the operators to locate services together where we know that onward journeys involve changing from one bus service to another.
“And I say all of this not just as portfolio holder for transport but as a regular user of Bluestar 1.”