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

Councillor Luna Martin in Oban. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson
Councillor Luna Martin in Oban. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Traffic congestion is becoming a major issue in Oban town centre.

We’re taking a closer look at the problem. We study what causes tailbacks. And consider the potential for things to get worse.

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

We report on action planned by Argyll and Bute Council to deal with it.

And reveal the investigations underway to get traffic flowing.

Oban residents have plenty to say on the subject.

But it’s not all negative. Members of the community have come up with various solutions.

And you can watch me drive through town (with a little filming help from a friend) to tackle the pinch points.

‘A bit of a nightmare’

So, what do people think?

Russell Dods, West Coast Motors bus company area manager, has plenty of experience driving in Oban.

He said: “For a while kids were putting chewing gum on the button for the traffic lights at Argyll Square. They were going on and off all the time.

“It was a bit of a nightmare.

Russell Dods, area manager for West Coast Motors, has a few ideas about keeping traffic out of the town centre.

“At the end of town with the Corran Halls, there is a lot of traffic flowing at around 2pm. It can take 15 minutes to get from the Corran Halls to the station.”

But Mr Dods is optimistic. He said: “Folk whinge here a lot. If they go down to the city and get stuck on the M8 waiting for an hour to go half a mile, they will realise that a wee delay here is not really that much.

Soroba Road bottleneck

“However, if something happens in the town it can choke things up.”

The Soroba Road traffic lights at Tesco junction often create a bottleneck, he said.

Describing the issue, the bus manager said: “The main problem area is the traffic lights at the high school. That’s always the pinch point.

Soroba Road traffic lights at the Tesco junction are a pinch point. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

“A solution there would be to put a slip road or some kind of roundabout in. But there must be somewhere for the kids to cross safely.”

He added: “The main solution is to keep cars out of town when the Dunbeg development is done. They are building 600 new houses there. They should put a park and ride out at the Halfway House when they put the new roundabout in.

Calls for a park and ride at the Halfway House filling station, close to where a new roundabout is proposed on the A85. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

“The town is not big enough, but you don’t want to knock down old buildings to make the roads wider.

Time for a park and ride

“A park and ride at the new Dunbeg development is the only opportunity to do something. They would be stupid to miss this opportunity.”

One retired taxi driver, who preferred not to be named, said of his former colleagues, “If they get a fare to Soroba, the school or the hospital they are losing half their day because of the traffic.”

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

Watch me navigate Oban town centre

Marri Malloy is a Soroba resident and member of the community council. She agrees it is a problem area. Mrs Malloy said: “It’s an absolute nightmare. I sometimes can’t get on to Soroba Road when the school is coming out and at breakfast, dinner and teatime. When I take my grandson home to Dunbeg it is packed from Soroba to the town.”

Marri Malloy of Oban Community Council says Soroba is particularly bad for traffic congestion.

And certain times of the day are a “shambles”, says James Strachan, owner of Lorn Taxis, based on Soroba Road.

Mr Strachan operates seven cars. He is located near the notorious junction. He said: “There is definitely a problem, especially at peak times. School times, and from 3-6pm is a shambles. Between 8-10am is very congested. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the way the town was built all those years ago.

Soroba Road ‘shambles’

“A lot of traffic has to go right through town to get to school and to Tesco. This is part of the problem. Soroba Road is just a shambles. You have got cars going up to the industrial estate, the school and the hospital. It’s an absolute nightmare.

James Strachan of Lorn Taxis in Oban says the traffic lights junction at Soroba Road heading to Tesco is a “Shambles”.

He added: “It is especially bad if an ambulance or fire engine tries to get through Oban. I’ve seen ambulances stuck. Nobody can go anywhere because they have got these stupid crossing points in the middle of the road.

“In the summer I’ve seen ambulances, police cars and fire engines basically stuck. They can’t move. The crossing points have plastic bollards on them. If the bollards weren’t there the traffic could pull in. And the fire engine or ambulance could run up the centre.

A crossing point at Lorn Medical Centre on Soroba Road.

“There are two crossing points outside the surgery. Fair enough but there is also a zebra crossing close by.

“I’m quite sure there have been people waiting a long time for ambulances.”

A zebra crossing at Soroba Road, just yards away from the crossing point at the medical centre.

Another suggestion is proposed by Mr Strachan, who has run the taxi firm for several years.

He said: “Give us one of those out-of-town retail parks out towards Dunbeg.

“Look at the traffic lights for Tesco at Soroba Road. The amount of traffic going on that road is incredible. Aldis, M&S, Argos, Homebase, Pets at Home. It is a very busy junction.

Call for outside-of-town retail park

“The high school, Rockfield school, the fire station, ambulance station, are all at this end of town. If anything happens the other side it causes mayhem. When the town was first built it wasn’t envisaged it would be so busy with traffic.

“We need supermarkets. But the retail park built at Lochavullin really should have been built out of town.

“If you are taking a taxi from Soroba to catch a train or a bus at 9am, you have to leave shortly after 8am or you won’t make it.”

‘More needs to be done to tackle congestion’

He concluded: “The congestion is at this end of town (Soroba Road). But it can spread up the whole town. All it takes is a lorry turning right at Argyll Square going for the ferry to get stuck and that’s it. The town is shut.”

Oban-based Councillor Luna Martin, the council’s first Scottish Green party member, says more needs to be done to tackle congestion.

Councillor Martin said: “If we wish to increase the population of young people in Oban and keep our beautiful town growing and thriving, we must address the traffic congestion.

Concern for children walking to school

“The excess emissions caused by traffic congestion in town will only harm the environment and people who live here. It’s a growing concern for children who walk to school. We need a greener and more efficient solution.”

Frank Roberts, newly elected chairman of Oban Community Council, said: “There are several issues contributing to traffic congestion. But the main issue exacerbating congestion is bad parking.

Bad parking is not enforced

“People know that parking regulations are not enforced in the town. Whenever I drive down George Street from the Corran Halls end there are never less than 14 or 15 cars on the single yellow line on the right.

Frank Roberts, chairman of Oban Community Council, says traffic regulations aren’t enforced.

“There are people parking on the left side legitimately. It is full of cars. And because both sides are full, when a motorist tries to reverse park into a space on the left it can take quite some time, causing a backup.”

Moving along the street, he said: “The right turn at traffic lights into Station Square stops all traffic behind it. That also causes traffic to build up.

“I think the layout of the road could be improved there. We do get vehicles, mostly vans, parking on double yellow lines regularly on Station Square.”

Town centre fire was ‘chaos’

“There seems to be nothing being done about it. The traffic regulations are not enforced.”

A recent emergency situation highlighted the problem. He said: “A few months ago there was a fire at John Street (off George Street) and that was chaos. There were two ambulances. Police had to come the wrong way up the one-way system to get to the scene.

“There is no doubt traffic volumes are increasing. It needs to be looked at and it needs to be looked at in great detail.”

‘We can cope,’ say blue light services

Does the traffic congestion in Oban cause you problems? We asked three emergency services.

A spokeswoman for the ambulance service said: “While Oban, like other areas in Scotland, can suffer some congestion in busier times, we haven’t had reports of any significant delays that would be detrimental to patient care.”

And the fire service said: “There have not been any reports from crews to suggest that traffic congestion in Oban town centre is affecting our ability to respond to emergency calls. We have experienced emergency response drivers who are trained to be able to safely respond during any traffic conditions.”

It is a question for the local council, said police.

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