St Albans School bus traffic battle is on

Romeland bus trial in St Albans

Romeland bus trial in St Albans - Credit: Photo supplied

A RESIDENTS group is fighting to put the brake on attempts to drastically alter the traffic flow in the historic heart of St Albans, which they fear will damage ancient buildings.

Following years of complaints about traffic generated by St Albans School, including the influx of double-decker buses, a raft of changes has been proposed to minimise disruption to neighbouring residents and improve pupil safety.

Controversial changes include effectively turning Romeland gardens into a traffic island by allowing buses to manoeuvre completely around the graveyard.

Also, coaches transporting pupils to St Albans School would exit via George Street onto the already congested High Street junction.

Eight parking bays outside cottages nearest St Albans Abbey and two on Romeland Hill would be removed to allow Romeland gardens – currently one-way - to become a two-way road and clear the way for buses to turn right up George Street.

Other radical proposals suggested by St Albans district council’s car parking working party include allowing coaches to circle around Romeland gardens, which would remain unaltered, to stop outside the school.

Currently buses are dropping off and collecting 530 pupils on Romeland Hill and continuing down Fishpool Street, much to the annoyance of local homeowners.

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Students are bussed from 17 villages and towns, including Rickmansworth, Hitchin and Enfield.

But suggested changes have been scoffed at by the Abbey Precincts Residents Association, which claims traffic woes will be shifted elsewhere, and not solved.

John Hedges, a member of the recently formed group, said adverse impacts of the scheme include branches being “lopped back” on Romeland gardens to allow double-decker buses past, and increased danger to pedestrians on narrow pavements from turning coaches.

He said allowing buses to exit via George Street would add to congestion on its junction with the High Street.

Robert Pankhurst, of College Street, said: “The root of the problem is the school has been allowed to expand in a way that is not compatible with its position in a congested and historic conservation area.”

He added: “The use of George Street into a two-way route for buses would cause increased distress to the ancient buildings there, some of which date from the 15th Century. The tiny picturesque tree-lined area of Romeland would suffer disfigurement from the constant circulation of such heavy vehicles.

“The only solution that does not involve making things worse for some parts of the area is to ban such heavy vehicles. The status quo, with exit for school buses down Fishpool Street, would be improved if buses half the size were used instead.”

Both men criticised a recent one-day trial of the scheme as double-decker buses were excluded and a police officer diverted non-resident traffic away from Romeland.

However chairman of the car parking working party, Cllr Beric Read, said changes were needed as buses stopping on Romeland Hill were often double parked and blocking traffic.

“Lots of people who live locally have complained because they are blocking the road. It’s dangerous, particularly as kids are walking down the road.”

Cllr Read said that alternative parking spaces would replace those lost, and any suggested changes were still under consultation.