The enforced closure of King Street seven days a week has brought a stronger focus on traffic management in the town centre. Measures have been put in place to ease some of the short term impacts from displaced traffic, which has been made worse by the continued overnight closure of the A49. I hope we can agree the date for King Street reopening in the next few days.
But what do we do in the long term? The Buttercross and Bodenhams are bashed up with depressing regularity. The damage to the Buttercross in this incident has been significant. We need to protect our historic buildings. Our town centre would not be the same without them.
There are only a few options. None are perfect. But one idea gaining ground is to reverse the traffic flow in the town centre.
There will be no change to traffic management in the town centre in the short term. But we need to think about the long term.
Perhaps we should ban all traffic from the town centre during the middle of the day. I don’t think that is a runner as our town has no service roads. We could have a weight or length limit on vehicles. That’s attractive but weight limits are usually qualified by “except for access”. That means that construction vehicles, brewery drays and removal vans will still be allowed into the centre. Pretty much business as usual.
Perhaps we should ban large and heavy vehicles during the middle of the day. That’s also attractive. But it doesn’t protect Bodenhams (Grade II* listed) and the Buttercross (Grade I) from a battering during other hours.
I’ve been talking through an idea with bus and HGV drivers. It is simple. We reverse traffic flow in the town centre. Vehicles enter through Brand Lane and Bell Lane. They would turn right on to Mill Street. Then down High Street and King Street to exit the town centre.
This is a big scheme. The Mill Street bus stop will need to be moved from the Ludlow Assembly Rooms to the opposite side of the road. The diagonal on-street parking spaces will need to be changed. New signage will be needed. We will need bollards outside Barclays. New traffic lights at the east end of King Street.
But reversing traffic flow will mean that large vehicles will get a better approach to the Buttercross Bodenhams chicane. There will be less likelihood of damage to two of our town’s most precious historic assets.
If this idea, and it is no more than an idea at present, gains traction, we will need grant funding. It is already clear that we must bid for sustainable transport funding to upgrade the Eco Park park and ride. The town centre reconfiguration could be part of that bid. We could even include an electric shuttle bus between the Eco Park and the town centre.
We tend to patch up and make do on transport in our town. We need a complete rethink about how get in and out of Ludlow. The time to begin that rethink is now.