Two key streets in York will be severely disrupted for five weeks after serious electrical faults were discovered.
Roadworks will close Bootham and Gillygate for long periods as the problem is rectified.
It’s after City of York Council inspections discovered significant faults in the traffic light cables – which pose a potential risk of electrocution to the public.
The council says the risk is remote – and that safety devices would trip and protect people. But they are acting quickly to push forward repair works, originally planned to take place next year.
The cables are at imminent risk of permanently failing and are beyond repair, the inspections found.
A City of York Council spokesperson said: “The council would like to reassure everyone that basic electrical safety features are still in place and operating correctly.
“Should an electrical fault occur these protective devices will trip/blow and protect people at the junction.”
The council was looking to renew the traffic cables at the junction next year as part of its traffic signal asset renewal programme.
But this work has now been brought forward – it will start on 19 September.
What is the risk?
The council considered turning the junction off immediately and installing temporary signals until construction can start in September.
This would “completely mitigate the risk of electrocution” – but “the use of temporary signals does not come without impacts of their own,” the council says.
The council says:
- The basic electrical safety features are still in place and operating correctly
- Should an electrical fault occur it is expected that these protective devices will trip/blow and protect people at the junction
- The maintenance contractor has not condemned the junction or recommended that it be turned off immediately
- Temporary traffic signals would result in reduced capacity at a junction and in turn cause significantly increased congestion
- Motorists and pedestrians are more likely to take risks when passing through a junction using temporary signals.
At a media briefing today (Thursday), Neil Ferris, the council’s corporate director of place, compared the risk to that in a domestic house.
Every house “has a risk of electrocution because there’s electricity in there. What we’ve got here is a report from our electrical contractors that says is there’s an increased risk at this particular junction, because the electrical wiring etc is not in a great condition.
“So we what we’re advising you is to get on and replace that wiring at your earliest possibility. But what we’re not saying is that it poses an immediate threat, because you’ve still got that fuse box in place.”
What would he say to a mother concerned about letting her child press the button to stop traffic at the junction?
“My message to your to your mother and child is that the installation is safe. It’s protected by the failsafe mechanisms.
“But clearly what might happen in the period ahead of the works is that junction could fail.”
How has the council let the problem deteriorate to the point when a risk of electrocution is even possible?
“We don’t have sufficient funding to keep our whole network up to a condition that is always as good as we would like it,” Mr Ferris said.
“So we have to work on a risk based approach and also on the ability to to undertake works relative to their complexity.”
The council “weren’t expecting the condition report to come back with this with this recommendation” for the complex Bootham – Gillygate junction.
He added: “There’s a number of assets out there in the city that are life expired. We monitor those continually.
“Where we are aware of an elevated risk, then obviously we act upon that.”
“Motorists are expected to experience significant delays while the works are underway,” says the council. It will be managing the network to reduce delays “but drivers are asked to plan their journey carefully and leave plenty of time”.
The work will begin on Sunday, 19 September and last for five weeks. These restrictions will be in place:
- Closure of Gillygate at the junction with Bootham / St Leonard’s Place 24/7 from Sunday 19 September to Saturday 2 October to all motor vehicles
- Night-time closure of Bootham at the junction with Gillygate / St Leonard’s Place from 7pm til 11pm on Monday 4 October to Thursday 7 October to all motor vehicles
- Suspension of the taxi rank on St Leonard’s Place near Bootham Bar
- Reduction of St Leonard’s Place outbound to a single lane.
Signed diversion routes will be put in place and more information will be provided nearer the time. Access will be retained for businesses and residents. The council says it will work with residents and businesses to help reduce any inconvenience.
There will be no change to the current arrangements for accessing Bootham Bar leading to High Petergate will be required as part of these works.
Extensive footway works will mean that pedestrians will either be diverted into fenced off temporary walkways running along sections of carriageway or diverted round the junction.
There will be significant impact to the bus services which use these routes with diversions and amended timetables in place. Check york.gov.uk/bootham for updates.
Cyclists are advised to take extra care when travelling through the road works as carriageway space will be impacted by the safety barriers required during the site works.
Both Gillygate and Bootham will remain open to cyclists during their periods of closure subject to suitable traffic management provisions being installed.
The works will include
- the full renewal of the traffic signal equipment
- installation of signal cable and ducting networks
- and minor changes to the pedestrian crossings of Bootham and Gillygate including the widening of pedestrian waiting areas and the relaying of tactile paving.
The replacement of the damaged pedestrian guard railing round the junction and repairs and relaying of the footway in the area directly round the junction will also be carried out.
Bigger changes planned for the junction have now been put on hold.
Letters are going out to 650 homes and businesses to advise them of what’s happening.
Labour Group Leader, Cllr Pete Kilbane said:
“This is the consequence of the leading Green Executive Member for Transport’s dithering over making a decision on this junction, resulting in that decision being taken out of his hands and put into the hands of council officers who disagree with the Greens’ greater focus on cycling and walking around this junction.
“System failure risks were known about when last reported on back in May but weren’t urgent then, so this appears to be more about side-lining Green Leader Coun. D’Agorne and the Lib Dems getting their way on prioritising car-based journeys through the city centre instead of active travel”.