What are the alternative routes to the A361 through Glastonbury? (February 2018)

freight routes in somerset orig

Roadworks are frequently needed in Chilkwell Street (particularly with the battering that the road surface gets these days!) but there is always another route to send the HGVs onto. Meanwhile trucks carrying aggregate from Whatley Quarry to Hinkley Point are using at least three different routes, so as not to overload any one of them. There are clearly viable freight routes other than along the A361 through Glastonbury.

The A303 route: The main one would be down the A37 as far as the A303 and then the A358 to the motorway and Taunton. This is already a designated freight route, so would require no changes except altering the A361 to a Local Freight Route (restricted to local deliveries etc). This would not only re-direct most of the HGVs, but would also mean that the A303 route would come up on car drivers’ satnavs when they want to get to the M5.
There would be a problem for some large trucks because of a low railway bridge at Lydford – and of course the freight hauliers don’t like the route because it’s longer than the A361, which is perhaps why any alternative suggestion is said to be ‘impossible’.

The A39 through Wells: Another possibility is to go via Wells. At the moment traffic coming down the A39 from the Bristol direction is directed from Rush Hill Wood (on the Wells side of Farrington Gurney) along the A37 to Shepton Mallet, where it joins the A361.

Local drivers ignore this sign because they know the quickest and the obvious way to Glastonbury is to continute along the A39 through Wells. Many people  expected the sign at Rush Hill to be removed when the Wells relief road was built more than 20 years ago, at the same time as the Glastonbury relief road. The two schemes together were considered to provide a viable route that would avoid both historic town centres. Nevertheless, the sign is still there.

The ridge route: For traffic from the Frome direction, the A371 to Wells and then the A39 skirting Glastonbury is another possibility, and one that is used when there are major roadworks on the A361. However, this takes the heavy traffic through Croscombe and several other villages.

The proposal for a ‘ridge route’ from Shepton Mallet to Dulcote, joining up with the dual carriageway section of the A371 on its way into Wells, was put forward when plans were made to extend Whatley Quarry during the 1990s. This never materialised and the traffic continued to come down the A361, though many people felt that this would have been a good solution even without the enormous proposed quarry extension.

Any route through or around Wells would require some road improvements, though mostly less (and less expensive) than is being suggested for Glastonbury. The real reasons for this being ‘impossible’ to implement appear to be political, with major landed vested interests around Wells.

Reynalds Way: One other suggestion has been to widen the ‘top road’ (Reynalds Way) along Street Hill and Walton Hill, which is a route much less populated than the A361 and A39. By the same token, It runs along the Polden Ridge next to many nature reserves, including Collard Hill which is home to the exceptionally rare Large Blue butterfly. The whole length of that hill, including the Polden Way footpath, is beautiful and much visited by walkers.

This route would mean traffic coming down the A37 and turning off onto an ‘improved’ B3153 – which would be shorter than going via the A303. It would also effectively bypass Walton and Pilton as well as Glastonbury, making it a cheaper option overall.

The problem with suggesting alternatives has been that the County Council always finds a reason why the particular route that’s suggested is ‘impossible’. However if they are in a position where they have to find an alternative themselves then they always can – so renewing the campaign to have the inappropriate freight route designation removed from the A361 through Glastonbury may be the only real solution.