LOCHABER Highland councillors are seeing red over a set of “smart” traffic lights which it is claimed cause rather than ease congestion in Fort William.
And they have accused national transport agency Transport Scotland of being in a state of denial about problems at the Inverlochy junction on the A82.
Despite being reprogrammed in a £40,000 upgrade project last year, the signals frequently cause tailbacks at peak times. The biggest complaint is that the lights automatically stop the main flow of traffic on the A82 even when only one car is waiting to exit from Inverlochy.
During a recent day of gridlock, Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Thomas MacLennan used a stopwatch to see how the lights respond to traffic approaching the junction from Inverlochy.
He said: “Not surprisingly, I discovered that the lights changed within 20 seconds of a car pulling up and seemingly taking no account of the volume of traffic on the A82. It wasn’t until police arrived on the scene, switched off the lights and directed traffic, that congestion all the way through the town eased.
“This has been a problem for a few years now and despite last year’s ‘upgrade’ it is still a major issue.
“I contacted Transport Scotland about this prior to the big weekend of mountain biking, RockNess and the torch procession to ask if they would be doing anything to ensure traffic flowed. The response was: ‘but there’s no problem with these lights’.
“The Inverlochy lights were put in to get Inverlochy moving, it’s about time they were made to get Fort William moving too.”
Cllr MacLennan’s Fort William and Ardnamurchan ward colleagues, Andrew Baxter and Brian Murphy, are also demanding action.
Cllr Baxter said: “The experts at Transport Scotland deny there are any problems, claiming that their smart traffic system controls the flow of vehicles perfectly well.
“That is easy for a team of bureaucrats to say from a distance, but Lochaber people know that the reality is different.
“Of course this reassurance, that motorists zip through the town with barely a pause, comes from a quango that shut off the town with their ring of road works earlier in the year.”
Cllr Baxter added: “In the past, some councillors seemed to keep quiet publicly so as not to upset Transport Scotland.
“After the elections, things are a bit different, with newly elected councillors determined to give our area the strong voice it needs.
“That’s why I am delighted that all the Lochaber councillors have agreed to bang on Traffic Scotland‘s door and say ignore your computer readouts, as local motorists we know these lights are not working properly.”
Cllr Murphy said: “They were supposed to be the all-singing, all-dancing answer to the previous congestion problems but they really aren’t making things any better.
“The issue is that they automatically stop the main flow of traffic in both directions on the A82 even if there is only one car waiting to exit Inverlochy. It should allow for a build-up of three or four cars.
“This is an issue that’s been ongoing for quite some time but Transport Scotland insist there is no problem. They are in a state of denial.”
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “We have previously investigated this area and the signals were renewed and reprogrammed last year.
“This system detects changes in traffic flows and alters timings to reduce overall delays.
“If particular problems are identified we will seek to identify a speedy resolution.”