Rebuilding major Leeds roundabout without disruption during lockdown is 'wishful thinking'

Drivers will face months of disruption when one of Leeds’ busiest junctions is rebuilt but Leeds City Council says it was not feasible to carry out the work when the roads were quieter during lockdown.

The Armley Gyratory in Leeds

The council says the £40m redevelopment of Armley Gyratory, which is due to begin next year and be completed in early 2023, will improve the traffic flow heading in and out of the city, reduce congestion and cut emissions.

There are plans for new pedestrian and cycle routes, traffic light-controlled junctions that can manage queues more effectively, new footbridges running over the A643 and A58, and a more effective drainage system.

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The local authority is also looking to upgrade the roundabout before it permanently closes a cut-though road in Leeds city centre, so it can expand City Square to create a larger public space outside Leeds station.

However, the council accepts that months of lane closures and roadworks on the arterial route, which was used by an estimated 100,000 vehicles a day before the Covid-19 pandemic, could have a major impact on the city’s road network.

Originally, the council planned to submit a planning application in 2019 and begin construction the following year, but it then carried out a detailed cost-review of the project, which found that £15m could be saved.

After the review and two public consultations, it is now looking to submit a planning application this summer so construction can start next year.

Mark Philpott, Highways Officer, said the council will work with contractors, Highways England and other agencies to draw up a traffic management plan and “keep the disruption to a minimum”.

The council decided not to bring forward the project and carry out the work during one of the lockdowns, when there were fewer cars on the road, as it was carrying out the cost review and drawing up a business case to secure the necessary funding.

“Unfortunately, you can't get on site on a dime on a project like this, with the amount of development work and approvals that are needed,” said Mr Philpott.

He also said the council did not know how long each lockdown would last, it had to take into account several other ongoing construction projects in the city centre, including the £31m reconstruction of Regent Street flyover, and the Armley Gyratory actually remained busy throughout the lockdowns.

“The traffic flow at Armley Gyratory during lockdown has still been very high," he said.

“Yes, the traffic flows have clearly been down across the network as a whole, but it has still been a busy location.

"I think it's perhaps wishful thinking to think that if we'd done all the work during lockdown that there wouldn't have been any disruption.”

He added: "Armley Gyratory is notorious within Leeds for being a congestion hotspot and it's been a focus of concern for lots of people."