Last week, I was caught up in traffic like thousands of commuters trying to exit Bury St Edmunds at the end of the working day.
On hearing about the serious five-vehicle incident on the A14 near Rougham my initial thoughts were with all those involved and their families. However, my attention soon turned selfishly to the widespread traffic chaos which ensued.
With the eastbound carriageway of the A14 closed and long tailbacks as a result, other roads in and around Bury soon backed up too. And I was affected along with everyone else struggling to get home.
Working on the West Suffolk Hospital site, my first challenge was escaping its gridlocked staff car parks. After 15 minutes (a new record) I was finally off-site, but with Hardwick Lane at a standstill in both directions I opted to hang a left towards Horsecroft Road. I intended to head to my Moreton Hall destination via Horringer, Westley and the Fornhams. Alas, it was not to be. The road to Horringer was gridlocked, so instead I opted to drive away from the traffic into previously uncharted territory. A few misread signposts and wrong turns later and I found myself in Lawshall, before heading towards Great Whelnetham and back to Bury.
All-in the journey took 55 minutes, but after leaving the hospital site I did not sit in traffic once. Instead, the convoluted route took me round the (very pretty) houses, pottering past fields, churches, pubs and schools I’d heard of but never seen in real life before. And it was a lovely sunny evening to boot.
That evening Facebook was awash with comments from others affected by the traffic. I read about one commuter’s two-hour journey from the hospital to Great Barton, while a friend was caught in a jam after 7pm. Suddenly, my long drive home did not seem bad at all.
But – and this has all been said by many before – how can taking one road out of commission grind the entire town to a halt? One set of roadworks, one serious road traffic accident or the closure of Angel Hill for the Christmas Fair causes a knock-on effect which spreads to every entry or exit point to Bury.
And with thousands more homes set to be built in the coming years, I do wonder if the planners have some sort of magic solution to a situation that will only get worse. Or are they hoping teleportation will become a reality in the near future?