'Frequent gridlock is killing us,’ Sawbridgeworth businesses say
Shop owners and firms say that frequent roadworks are giving Sawbridgeworth a reputation for gridlock which is bad for business.
In the past year, traffic lights have been installed at several spots along the A1184 Harlow / London / Cambridge Road, often causing tailbacks through the town and beyond. Queues earlier this month reached Spellbrook on one side and Redricks Lane on the other.
"It's an absolute nightmare," said Josephine Cruse, whose Pick N Nosh sandwich bar looks out onto the West Road and Station double roundabout that is often a congestion hotspot. "When there are roadworks we don't get any business. It's stressful because we've still got bills to pay."
In her 16 years of business, Josephine says she's never seen it so bad. Some weeks, takings are down by half. She says she's worried about the permanent traffic lights that are mooted as part of the two planned housing developments on West Road.
"When you put lights in Sawbo, everything comes to a standstill. It's bad enough now – just think what it'll be like when there's all those extra houses."
The Tuck Shop owner and town councillor Don Patel agrees. Average weekly footfall is down around 1,000 in his Bell Street general store compared to four years ago, in large part due to roadworks.
"What happens is that people find alternative routes," he said. "Once you change your route you get used to the new route and you don't go back to the old one."
Down the road, Barbara Bristow, whose Barbara B clothing shop has been going for 25 years, hails the loyalty of her customers. "They tell me the traffic makes things difficult, but they want to come anyway."
Relative newcomers Nick and Nicola Crooks said that roadworks just before Christmas marred what should have been their busiest time. Antiques dealers from London's East End, they opened the 4,000 sq ft Antiques & Chic warehouse on London Road a year-and-a-half ago. Visitors for their second Christmas in town were down 90% and even their online businesses has been affected.
"We've had couriers refuse to pick up parcels because of the traffic," said Nicola. "And who can blame them? Who would want to sit in traffic for two hours when they could be making money."
Earlier this month, traffic lights appeared overnight after electricity distribution network operator UK Power Networks received a request from Herts County Council to repair a street light with underground cabling.
Erdal Durmus, owner of Rumbles Fish Bar on London Road, said takings dropped by 50 per cent.
"It's killing us," he said. "People ring and say they'll be there in 10 minutes so we start cooking. It takes them 45 minutes to an hour to get here."