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Traffic misery in Oban town centre – will it get worse? What can be done?

A congested George Street in. Oban. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson
A congested George Street in. Oban. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Ask anyone – what’s the most irritating thing about being in Oban? While the idyllic west coast town is well-loved, its traffic tailbacks are not.

It’s fair to say that traffic congestion is a common problem in many towns.

Bonnie Oban Bay and seafront from Pulpit Hill. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

But Oban, with its “gateway to the isles” status, is one of the busiest ferry ports in the UK. It also has a growing population, a diverse economy and is extremely popular with tourists.

The issue has caught the attention of Argyll and Bute Council. A transport assessment of the area between Oban and the booming village of Dunbeg is underway.

Plans for more parking restrictions

Proposals for more on-street parking restrictions in the town centre are also currently being drawn up.

During the peak summer months, the population grows from 8,500 to 25,000.

With historic buildings, a one-way system and narrow streets, the ingredients are there to ensure that congestion can be a year-round problem.

600 new homes are being built at Dunbeg just outside of town. It is hoped that a new roundabout off the A85 near the Halfway House petrol station will help ease congestion.

Oban is a place where people want to live and work. But getting to work on time can be difficult.

Taxi drivers say that if people in the large housing estate of Soroba want to get into the town centre for 9am, they need to leave soon after 8am. For a one-mile journey.

Soroba Road is also the main route to Rockfield Primary School Campus, Oban High School, Lorn and Islands Hospital, Oban Community Fire Station and Argyll College.

All routes lead to Soroba Road

It also leads to Lochavullin Industrial Estate, where Tesco Superstore, M&S, Homebase, Aldi, Lidl and Pets at Home are based. Plus several offices and industrial premises.

As if to highlight the problem, hundreds of people were late for school and work on Monday after traffic lights on Soroba Road failed.

The lights at the Tesco junction went down over the weekend and a temporary set were put in their place.

An ambulance pulls into Miller Road at the Soroba Road traffic lights, which are also at the junction for Tesco and the Lochavullin Industrial Estate. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

This temporary set was not as efficient as the regular lights and slowed morning rush hour traffic to a standstill.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the council said: “As a result of a power failure to the existing light heads, we installed temporary traffic lights as a safety measure. Engineers fixed the issue yesterday and we have removed the temporary traffic lights. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

The town continues to grow

Housing is being developed to cope with the growing population. A total of 600 new homes provided by Link Housing will eventually fill the Oban to Dunbeg corridor.

Phase three is due to be completed by spring, bringing the total number of affordable new homes to 375. And another 225 will follow in future years.

What will hundreds of new houses mean for Oban’s traffic issue?

And what can be done about it?

The new housing at Dunbeg. Image: Link Housing

A spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council said: “We want to encourage people to live, work and visit this beautiful area and we are committed to economic growth that benefits everyone.”

She added: “Dunbeg is a mixed-use development with new homes, employment sites, UHI and the intention to have retail/commercial facilities within close proximity to cater for local needs and ease some pressure on the town centre.”

Transport Assessment for Dunbeg development

And the homes that have been built “have already made a positive difference to the lives of lots of local people, many of whom had previously been living in unsuitable, often overcrowded, accommodation.”

So far only houses have gone in at Dunbeg. To support planning applications for further development, the Transport Assessment is being carried out.

The development to follow includes more homes and a roundabout or junction at the Halfway House Filling Station. Shops, a pub and a bigger school are also planned.

From a roundabout to a park and ride: Oban residents tell us what they think could fix traffic problem

A roundabout or a junction?

So, this assessment is designed to identify what mitigation measures are required.

The council spokeswoman added: “We are also carrying out a parking review across the whole of Argyll and Bute.

“An on-street Traffic Regulation Order has been proposed for Oban which, if successful, will introduce further on-street restrictions on a number of streets around the town. This will be presented to the area committee within the next few months.”

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