Alton Towers Excessive Traffic
Traffic is the main issue. Inadequate planning control has allowed Alton Towers to expand exponentially over decades with no control on the traffic problems it generates. A proposal to build a relief road from Denstone has been shelved for no apparent reason. The suggestion that opening the railway line to Alton Towers will solve the traffic problem is not credible.
Injury collision “hot routes” are prominant on the approach roads.
High risk factors
- Narrow country lanes.
- High vehicle flow rates.
- Drivers unfamiliar with the area.
- High proportion of young inexperienced drivers travelling at inappropriate speed.
- Multiple vehicle occupancy.
- Passengers often young, excited and eager to arrive, increasing driver distraction risk.
Analysis of data obtained from Staffordshire County Council shows that in the rural areas of the Churnet Valley there is a greater density of injury collisions in the south than in the north with injury collision “hot routes” identified on the approach routes to Alton Towers as follows:-
- Between The Star Crossroads at Cotton and Alton Towers main entrance.
- On the Cheadle to Alton road.
- On the road from Cheadle through Oakamoor to Star Crossroads at Cotton.
- Between Alton Village and Alton Towers main entrance.
- Over High Shutt on the Cheadle to Oakamoor road.
Road Safety Concerns
Staffordshire County Council, with co-operation from the proprietors of Alton Towers and the local community, has a responsibility to improve the safety situation and reduce the number of injury collisions on the approach routes to Alton Towers. If such a large scale attraction were to be built today, planning controls would probably locate the venture close to a major motorway intersection providing easy access for vehicular traffic, where high volumes of traffic could be accommodated at low risk. However, the reality is that Alton Towers is located many miles from motorways and relies upon inadequate narrow country lanes to cope with abnormal volumes of traffic. The venue attracts people from all across the country. Many drivers have travelled considerable distances at high speed on motorways to then find themselves channelled onto unfamiliar congested narrow country lanes. The passengers are often young, excited and eager to arrive at their destination, generating situations where drivers are vulnerable to distractions.
The dynamics of the nature of the journey; multiple vehicle occupancy; narrow country lanes; unfamiliarity of drivers with the area and high traffic flow rates, develop a potentially dangerous cocktail of circumstances resulting in a higher than normal risk of injury collisions. Taking into account these facts, it is not surprising that the approach routes to Alton Towers show up as injury collision “hot routes”.
It is recommended that the identified risk factors warrant particular consideration by SCC, in conjunction with appropriate stakeholders, with the aim of developing early casualty reduction initiatives under the headings of engineering, education and enforcement. Any proposals to attract more tourists to the venue are cautioned against, unless major infrastructure improvements are introduced to accommodate increased vehicle numbers. Otherwise there is an obvious risk of further increasing the collision and more importantly the casualty rate.
Traffic is the main issue for the public. Inadequate planning control has allowed Alton Towers to expand exponentially over decades with no control on the traffic problems it generates. A proposal to build a relief road from Denstone has been shelved for no apparent reason. The suggestion that opening the railway line to Alton Towers will solve the traffic problem is not credible.
Vehicle flow on the approach routes to Alton Towers shows:-
- A marked seasonal increase during the summer period (April to October) that coincides with a summer increase in injury collisions.
- The summer hourly peak traffic flow was 50 times greater than the peak on the quietest winter day.
- On the busiest summer day on the Cotton side of the main entrance, in the half of the carriageway flowing towards the main entrance, during the busiest hour, a vehicle would have passed you once every 3.5 seconds compared with a vehicle every 3.2 minutes during the busiest hour on the quietest winter day.
An efficient car parking system?
The high flow rates on busy days near the entrance in the summer are indicative of an efficient vehicle car parking management system within Alton Towers that has developed over many years, admitting the maximum number of vehicles in the shortest possible time. However, anecdotal evidence from local residents suggests that despite its efficiency, the parking system within Alton Towers is often overwhelmed, resulting in traffic backing up from the car parks, out through the main entrance and onto the public road in both directions. Some residents say that the queue can extend all the way through the village of Alton and out on the Denstone road, and in the other direction out to The Star crossroads at Cotton. The residents suggest that queuing traffic causes serious inconvenience to through traffic, impeding not only local residents, but also emergency service vehicles responding to incidents. Residents also differentiate between thrill seeking visitors attracted to Alton Towers and the more conventional tourists attracted to the Churnet Valley for its natural beauty and industrial heritage. They assert that traffic volumes generated by the two visitor groups are not complimentary and that conventional tourists, like residents, are inconvenienced by traffic delays emanating from the Alton Towers tail backs. Some argue that conventional tourists are deterred from coming to the Churnet Valley because of the stories they have heard of Alton Towers traffic problems, and that the problem is inhibiting the growth of conventional tourism in the wider valley.
Interviews with some local residents suggested that at times Alton Towers staff are deployed directing traffic in Alton village, a mile or more away from the main entrance, on the public highway. If such deployments do take place it is difficult to see where the lawful authority comes from for such private interventions on a public highway.
From an objective analysis viewpoint, other than photographs of queuing traffic, no direct evidence of times and dates when such traffic hold ups have been experienced was available at the time of conducting the analysis, and so it is difficult to comment on allegations of highway obstruction at present. However, in the future, if SCC were to gather speed data at busy times it would be possible to identify any periods of exceptionally slow moving traffic, thereby establishing facts to either support or refute the allegations on the highway obstruction queuing issue.
Consequently, it is suggested that SCC may wish to consider gathering speed data in the peak summer periods not only at the current monitoring points but also at more widespread locations on the approach routes. Such data would provide facts to prove or disprove the view of residents that queuing traffic into Alton Towers obstructs the public highway. Should SCC not have the resources to gather speed data, an option open to residents would be to carry out field observations to time the progression of the tail end of any queue as it extends along the highway, by simply walking with the tail end and noting the time at regular measured reference points. Either evidence gathering procedure would help inform the debate about the impact of Alton Towers on the free flow of traffic.
Alternative Access Route
It is understood that in the past proposals have been considered for a new access road into Alton Towers from the Denstone direction, and, whilst satisfactory options have been developed, little progress has been made owing to funding issues. Such an infrastructure improvement clearly has the potential to alleviate pressure on the existing main access. In the absence of such a relief road it is difficult to see how further increases in visitor numbers can be safely justified as the vehicle flow rates at peak times into the existing entrance appear to be approaching saturation point. Indeed, if the numerous allegations by local residents of tailbacks are substantiated, then saturation point has already been reached.
In the absence of an alternative access route being constructed it is difficult to see how further increases in visitor numbers can be accommodated at Alton Towers as the vehicle flow rates at peak times into the existing entrance appear to be reaching if not at saturation point.
- In response to assertions by local residents of obstruction of the public highway it is suggested that SCC may wish to consider gathering speed data in the peak summer periods at the current monitoring points and at more widespread locations on the approach routes to shed evidential light on the traffic congestion issue.
- Plans for a Denstone to Alton relief road should be re-visited in the interests of public safety.
- Casualty reduction initiatives need to be developed and implemented promptly to combat the current high risk situation on the approach routes to Alton Towers.
- In the interests of public safety no attempts should be made to attract more visitors to the venue until such time as the high risk situation has been resolved.