The biggest transport shake-up in decades is an attempt to pedestrianise key parts of Newcastle city centre, councilors claim.
Dozens of roads and junctions could be redeveloped if multimillion-pound plans plans outlined in a new document approved by the city council cabinet ultimately go-ahead.
Council proposals include redesigning Barras Bridge and St Mary’s Place, a re-modelled route between Cowgate and the A191 at Haddricks Mill in the east of the city as well as a new junction at Scotswood Bridgehead for better access to the A1.
Seventeen other city centre roads are also proposed to be the focus of future traffic plans, while work on some projects could start in 2015 following public consultation.
However today the report, called Let’s Talk Transport - Re-Newcastle, will be at the centre of a emergency council meeting called in by Liberal Democrat opposition councillors who are unhappy that the city council’s cabinet had accepted the document’s proposal to forge ahead with a £1.4m feasibility study for the work.
Liberal Democrat councilor for North Heaton, Greg Stone, said: “The underlying thrust of this is pedestrianisation and what they are trying to achieve here without saying in so many words is to prevent as many vehicles as possible from using the city centre by diverting them to elsewhere. That may be legitimate in the long term but we need more detail.”
The council report claims that Newcastle’s roads struggle to cope with current levels of traffic and the last significant investment was 30 years ago.
They want to reduce the times it takes people to get to work and to make the city more attractive to potential investors and plan on funding the projects from an £18m pot of North East Local Growth Deal money.
While the council has said pedestrianisation at Barras Bridge is not being considered the report frequently references the benefits similar schemes have had.
The report notes that new technology means ‘new public areas’ could be created on sites ‘once blocked by regular traffic jams’ and the pedestrianisation of Northumberland Street had been a success.
Mr Stone, who will be speaking at today’s meeting, said: “I want to see a far more robust business plan. The council is talking about a multi-million programme and how viable is that at a time of budget constraints? There’s money to be found for a feasibility study with no clear price list of what will come after that.”
“The council are being very coy about what they have got in mind and this is a matter of great public interest.”
An improved east to west route between Osborne Road in Jesmond and Cowgate would cost £8m, with £4m already secured for work on Cowgate roundabout.
The second phase of this route linking up the A189 to A191 Haddricks Mill in South Gosforth to Osborne Road would cost £4.9m - which will come from the Government’s North East Local Growth Deal.
This route, called the Northern Access Corridor, was previously consulted on in 2009 by the city council.
Changes to the junction at Scotswood Bridgehead to prevent queueing traffic on Scotswood Road are also outlined in the report and would cost £3.7m, again to be paid for by growth deal money.
A pedestrian route linking Central Station to Stephenson quarter would also come from the fund and Network Rail, and forms part of the £10m Central Gateway Phase 2 project.
The public and business owners will also be asked their opinion on the following roads as part of a consultation: Percy Street, John Dobson Street, Camden Street, Northumberland Road Bridge, Northumberland Road, Claremont Road, Queen Victoria Road junction, Queen Victoria Road, Richardson Road, Pink Lane, Bath Lane, Westmorland Road, Marlborough Crescent, Scotswood Road, Collingwood Street, St Nicholas Street, Westgate Road and Grainer Street.
The report also proposes to queue traffic north of Claremont Road, allowing cars into the city centre only on the availability of car parking spaces
A meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be held at 2pm at the Civic Centre today.