Counting cars for the council

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County council roadworks on the A268 at Rye Hill for two weeks later this month will affect the hospital and medical centre and could prevent patients, visitors, staff and others getting there and may lead to many missed or cancelled appointments – and has done so already during last week’s first phase of the road works beyond Peasmarsh.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) say there will always be access, but have already changed their plans once to ensure this. For patients, the choice may be between dangerous lanes or very lengthy diversions (insert link to splash). “Did anyone ever think to do a count of vehicles going in and out of the site” asked Town Councillor Pat Hughes in an email to ESCC. Answer came there none. The county council clearly had not and the hospital had not seen anyone from ESCC early this week – despite asking.

So Rye News did a count. I counted the vehicles in and I counted them out over a late morning period of 60 minutes on Tuesday. June 9. Rye’s Town Council decided the night before (Monday), with one dissenting voice, to protest to ESCC about the roadworks and lack of proper consultation. The count confirmed and exceeded Hughes’ estimate of the traffic. She visits the site frequently as part of Rye Community Transport’s dial-a-ride service.

The count showed that over the two week period the road is expected to be closed, the hospital could handle up to 1,000 appointments and the site overall, including the hospital, medical centre and sheltered housing, could have at the very least 4,000 visitors. However, this could be an understatement for two reasons: motorists may already be put off coming up Rye Hill, or along the A268 by diversion signs in Rye, or on the far side of the roadworks near Battle. Also hospital activity has been cut back because of building work.

Recent road signs in Rye by the railway bridge, and at one stage there were five, included a very large diversion sign with an arrow pointing towards the A259 and Romney Marsh. A smaller sign said “A268 closed. Peasmarsh access only permitted. Access for 4 miles only” and another just said “Road closed”. Two more said “Jempsons open as usual” and “Church, hospital and medical centre open as usual”. But they did not stop everyone.

However, whether or not these signs, or others on the far side of the roadworks, had any effect, 205 vehicles still travelled down Rye Hill in an hour without stopping at the hospital, including two buses and various vans and lorries, large and small. And a similar mixture of around 170 vehicles came up the hill and out of Rye. All those vehicles will be looking for alternative routes once Rye Hill is closed.

In addition, another 79 vehicles came up the hill and turned into the hospital site, or came out and turned right down the hill and back into Rye. These included a taxi and mini-buses run by Rye Community Transport and local charity ARRCC. The taxi went in and out twice, first to drop a patient off and then to collect him after treatment, and some car drivers may have done the same. But many were lone drivers. Hospital activity was low, though, as the builders were finishing up and furniture was being moved back in. In addition, 35 vehicles either turned into the site from villages outside Rye, or, on leaving, turned left to go back to those villages. These included a pharmacy van delivering medicines and taking samples away for analysis.

Assuming a seven hour day, that means around 800 traffic movements into or out of the site each day, with 553 to and from Rye, and 245 to and from surrounding villages. This translates into around 400 people a day visiting the site, with around 100 visiting the hospital and 300 the medical centre. And over a two week period, if that is how long Rye Hill is closed for, the hospital will have around 1,000 appointments, and the medical centre three times that number.

The hospital may need to alert all those patients (which takes time) as the diversions (even if access is possible) may involve long journeys and the possibility of missing or being late for appointments, or of simply not being able to get there. The hospital says patients missed appointments last week because of the first phase of the roadworks.

In the case of the medical centre, appointments to see GPs and other staff may be made on a shorter timescale, and patients may be closer in theory, but the practice will also need to keep patients informed about the roadworks’ progress and what diversions they may face. Apparently ESCC, who have been planning the roadworks since January, have made no effort to anticipate or think through these problems. The first most knew was two weeks ago when public information packs were issued a couple of days before work started.

Photo by Ray Prewer

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