Sorting Out Singletons: What are the options?

(Title Image: Brackla Hub/Facebook)

This is an issue brought up by a number of people over the last couple of weeks – particularly during the recent by-elections to Brackla Community Council – so I thought it was worth a closer examination.

Anyone who’s been through the Coychurch Road-Heol Simonston junction (aka. “Singletons” after the nearby limo hire company) knows it’s a pain in the arse.

The junction itself is right next to a narrow railway bridge, there’s nothing there for anyone walking towards/from Coychurch – my technique when going that way (particularly when it’s dark) is to run as close to the railway wall as possible and hope for the best. Plus, there’ve been a number of accidents there as demonstrated in the title image.

The problems aren’t limited to the junction, as the whole stretch of Heol Simonston between Waterton and Coity isn’t fit to carry the amount of traffic generated by new housing developments at Parc Derwen, while more traffic heads to the junction from developments on the edges of Brackla (like Erw Hir/Longacres).

Despite rumoured commitments by developers to sort the issue out, as you might expect absolutely nothing has happened and it’ll probably take someone getting killed there (an inevitability in my opinion) for action to be taken.

What are the possible options?

Prevent obstruction of the junction

This would improve traffic flow by changing how vehicles use the junction – depending on the direction of travel – to prevent queues developing and to prevent movements which result in vehicles crossing the path of oncoming traffic.

The main advantage is that it would be cheap. BCBC would have to go through a traffic order process and put up new signs, but it would be a fraction of the cost of a full remodelling of the junction.

The problem with this is that although it would ease problems at the Singletons junction, it would simply move it elsewhere – such as the Crematorium roundabout – and result in more traffic being directed through Brackla via Brackla Way, subsequently past two schools and a few playgrounds.

It would be a reckless stopgap, in my opinion.

A wider bridge, active travel improvements and road straightening

Removing the kink in the road between the Crematorium roundabout and the bridge would improve vision and give drivers more time to prepare for the junction. The bridge could also be improved – either as a complete replacement or by building a separate subway for cyclists and pedestrians under the railway.

Combine this with proper crossings near Coychurch – at the moment you have to cross at the Waterton roundabout – and it would effectively complete the Pencoed-Bridgend active travel route.

The advantages are it would avoid the need for traffic lights and increase capacity on the road without over-engineering the solution. The bridge might need replacing at some point in the future anyway so it would kill several birds with one stone.

The disadvantage is a new bridge and new alignment won’t come cheap and a new bridge would cause massive disruption during construction – both to drivers, pedestrians/cyclists and rail users as it would probably mean closing the south Wales mainline, which would require Network Rail and UK Government buy-in and you can forget that.

A roundabout

As far as I know, this has long been BCBC’s preferred option – but I can’t confirm that it’s just hearsay.

It’s fairly obvious what this would entail. The roundabouts in and out of Brackla work perfectly fine and you would assume this would be no exception. It would, therefore, be more free-flowing and prevent traffic build up, while there’s plenty of room for a fairly large roundabout to be built.

The disadvantage is that if it’s not coupled with improvements to the bridge, the bridge will remain a problem because of reduced visibility. Again, construction would cause heavy disruption. A mini-roundabout would be a cheaper option, but I doubt it would be able to cope with the levels of traffic.

A light controlled junction

Bridgend has a traffic light fetish, so more traffic lights wouldn’t be that big a deal. A light controlled junction should be relatively easy to construct and it would also provide safer crossing points between Coychurch and Brackla/Bridgend for pedestrians and cyclists.

The drawback is that it wouldn’t be as free-flowing as a roundabout and during peak travel times you could easily see queues developing as far back as the Crematorium roundabout and the Waterton roundabout. It’s not ideal.

Why none of this will happen

A decent-sized roundabout by itself would probably cost ~£2million based on figures quoted for similar projects in England. The most expensive potential traffic-related option – bridge widening and road straightening etc. – would likely be around £6-8million.

Bridgend Council has a pretty good idea of how their capital budget (for new/one-off projects) is going to be spent for the next 10 years or so and there’ll be very little room for multi-million-pound road improvements.

The real enemy in all this (other than drivers) are the Parc Derwen, Gerddi Castell and Erw Hir developers. They’ve run away laughing to the bank because planning consultants know every trick in the book to prevent their clients spending a single penny clearing up the mess their own developments cause.

In an ideal world, the likes of Redrow, Persimmon, Barton Willmore etc. will be handed a multi-million-pound bill, but planning obligations often start and end within the immediate area of development.

There are other possible avenues – like Welsh Government and Cardiff City Region funding – but this is primarily a road safety and road capacity issue rather than an economic development issue, so they’re unlikely to be willing to fund any hard improvements there either.

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