Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The Copley Valley Relief Road

Sowerby Bridge geese

This week, the Copley Valley Relief Road opened. It’s designed to allow access to new land for industrial units and housing, and to improve access to existing industrial land. It also serves as a bypass of sorts for the town of Sowerby Bridge, where I live.

The road has been built in two phases over the past few years. The first part was the most difficult, requiring new bridges over the Calder and Hebble Navigation and River Calder. This ended at a dead-end stump; phase two has seen this stump connected to the rest of the road network at the other end to create a through route.

Mearclough Road and Holmes Road, in Sowerby Bridge, are home to a number of industrial units and a household waste recycling site, but the access has been poor until now. A low and narrow railway bridge has prevented access from the west (more on this later), and from the east, access was via Canal Road, which is on a steep gradient, with sharp bends and is largely single-track. Lorries and HGVs were having to use this road despite it being very much unsuitable. The new relief road provides a much more suitable route for such vehicles.

Canal Road, Mearclough Road and Holmes Road together have also formed something of an unofficial bypass for Sowerby Bridge – at least for traffic approaching from the south east heading south west. The opening of the relief road as an alternative to Canal Road will make this a more attractive route, which would be quite welcome. The main street through Sowerby Bridge, Wharf Street, is very busy, especially if the nearby M62 is shut, as it’s a signed diversionary route.

Unfortunately, the new road may also create problems. Here’s a map from OpenStreetMap:

Map of Holmes Road in Sowerby Bridge

Remember that narrow railway bridge that I mentioned earlier? It sits next to a 90° bend and a crossroads. It’s a low bridge, preventing access by HGVs, but also so narrow that it’s single track – vehicles can only pass in one direction at any one time. There are no traffic signals and, thanks to the bend, it’s almost impossible to see if vehicles are travelling in the opposite direction to you.

The bridge is old, and presumably was built with the railway in the 1830s. Presumably it could be replaced with a wider structure that has better height clearance, but that would be a major job involving a temporary closure of the railway line.

Right now, it’s early days and traffic on the new relief road is light. But I’m concerned that insufficient thought has gone into this bridge and the subsequent crossroads. If traffic picks up, and more vehicles start using it, the potential for head-on collisions under the bridge could increase. Traffic lights would be a good short-term measure, even if they would slow traffic down, but I’m not aware of any such plans. I just hope that it doesn’t take a serious accident to happen before something is done.

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