Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Drastic loss of traffic from A68 hitting Jedburgh economy


The deliberate downgrading of the A68 road south of Jedburgh by successive UK Governments over the last decade is having a devastating impact on traffic volumes using one of the country's most scenic highways, according to research by Not Just Sheep & Rugby.

Official figures suggest the average daily flow of cars passing through Jedburgh slumped by a massive 35% between 2004 and 2014 while total traffic numbers fell by 28.7% in the same period.

There can be no doubt that a decrease of 1461 cars per day using the section of A68 through the royal burgh must be having a dramatic impact on local businesses with an accompanying negative hit on tourism. The figures mean that potentially over 534,000 fewer vehicles a year are arriving in Jedburgh than was the case in 2004.

This disturbing downward spiral comes in the wake of the move in 2004 to remove trunk road status from the A68 south of the England-Scotland Border at Carter Bar. The baffling decision was taken by the London-based Department of Transport even though the Scottish Government continued to regard the road as a key cross-border route and preserved its trunk road ranking. That remains the crazy and illogical position to this day.

Then the A68 was hit by a second legislative hammer blow in 2011 when the same English government department decided the route was "unsuitable for inclusion" on a list of so-called Strategic National Corridors (SNC) linking northern England and Scotland. This time the A1 was selected for preferential treatment, and drivers were advised to use it rather than the A68.

Now the full effects of those moves are being felt. The UK Traffic Data tables record a huge drop in the average daily number of cars travelling past the Jedburgh census point from 4162 in 2004 to just 2701 in 2014. The count for all forms of motor vehicles is down from 5103 to 3635.

Meanwhile, in the same ten-year period the A1 counter at Berwick-on-Tweed showed a 65% increase in the average daily number of cars passing through, up from 5258 in 2004 to 8775 in 2014. Total traffic at this census point shot up by 57% from 7506 to 11,805.

And the nearest trunk route to the A68 - the A7 from Longtown to Edinburgh - also recorded a healthy increase in traffic at its Hawick counting point.

Here the daily average for cars went up from 5857 in 2004 to 6657 in 2014 (+13.6%) while total traffic showed a 22.6% increase from 7102 to 8713.

Despite its stunning scenery and the panoramic views across the south of Scotland from the Border crossing at Carter Bar, the A68 does not merit inclusion on VisitScotland's list of 12 national tourist routes.

However, the A7 through Langholm, Hawick, Selkirk and Galashiels is promoted as the Borders Historic Route "for the most picturesque journey". That, of course, is a matter of opinion.

The slow death of the A68, perpetrated by civil servants in faraway London, is undoubtedly a key factor in the decline of average weekly retail footfall in Jedburgh. The numbers have fallen from 2920 in 2007 to 2460 in 2015...the lowest level of potential shoppers ever recorded, and down by 15.7% over eight years.

The treatment meted out to the A68 by Government in recent times and the lack of promotion and support by various agencies can best be summed up as a disgrace. Perhaps the time has come to form a Friends of the A68 in a bid to reverse the fortunes of this spectacular cross-border highway. If nothing is done then the impact on Jedburgh, hotels, shops and craft businesses will be extremely far reaching.

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