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Clockwise Chester

Go Clockwise from 16 November

How to get around Chester during major drain works starting from 16 November 2020.

A new rain and surface water drainage tunnel is being installed in Chester city centre.

The work will regrettably result in some disruption to traffic, but will enable the transformation of the city centre for the benefit of residents and visitors for decades to come.

This is a major infrastructure project that will take approximately one year to complete and will have a substantial impact on traffic using the inner ring road.

During the main construction period, from 16 November 2020 for approximately 12 months, St. Martin's Way and Nicholas Street will be closed to southbound traffic from the Fountains Roundabout.

The most efficient and practical solution will be to make the inner ring road primarily two-lane clockwise one-way route for all traffic.

Map and directions

There will be a one-way only route northbound up Nicholas Street and St. Martin's Way, and west from The Bars past the Amphitheatre, along Vicar's Lane, Little St. John Street and Pepper Street.

However, St. Oswald's Way will remain in two-way operation as normal.

We recommend that through traffic uses the A55 to bypass the city centre to/from North Wales and Wrexham, or via M56 and Queensferry to/from the Wirral and Neston direction.

Get Clockwise

Please plan your journey and bear with us while the work is carried out - you may need to allow more time, or consider alternative routes or why not use this as an opportunity to travel more sustainably or use public transport? Some routes and stops will be changing during the work, check with your bus operator for details.

Rather than driving into the city centre, please use the Park and Ride services, which not only saves on parking, it also reduces the number of cars entering the city.

The millennium cycleway and canal offer traffic-free routes into the city centre for walking or cycling.

Chester will still be open for business

We are doing all we can to keep traffic flowing and minimise any inconvenience.

We believe any short-term disruption will be worth it in the long run and will enable major new and improved city centre facilities such as a new market, a new cinema, parking and public square as part of the first phase of the Northgate development, along with further developments to replace the Forum Shopping Centre.

These will build on the success of Storyhouse and boost Chester's position as a leading retail, business and tourism destination.

All city centre car parks will remain open during the drainage works but access to the Market car park will be from the northbound direction only via St. Martin's Way.

For homes and businesses within or near the inner ring road, separate access-only arrangements will be provided.

Your questions answered

The new rain/surface water drain tunnel will be a significant investment in the city centre's future and is a necessary requirement ahead of forthcoming major regeneration and vastly improved city centre facilities.

Yes, the new drain will result in significant future proof environmental protections and benefits; the Council is working with Welsh Water and the Environment Agency to ensure that the drain meets water industry and environmental standards. The benefits will include:

  • Reducing instances of flooding and drain bursts in the city centre
  • Diverting rainwater away from the sewer network which will reduce the volume of water requiring sewage treatment and in turn, reduce the energy used as a result
  • Maximising the capacity of the existing household and commercial sewer network
  • Providing a more efficient and sustainable rainwater drainage network for Chester
  • Reducing the number of untreated sewage discharges into the river due to heavy rainfall when the current network is already at capacity.

It will run from Princess Street south along St. Martin's Way, Nicholas Street, Grosvenor Road and Castle Drive, and will end with a new outfall into the River Dee.

The drain will be almost 1km in length, 1.2m in diameter and require access shafts 5.5m wide and 7m deep. Over 85 per cent of the new drain will be installed via tunnelling rather than an open trench to minimise disruption above ground, but will require nine access shafts along the route for the tunnelling equipment to operate between.

The route of the drain and locations of each tunnel shaft have been carefully planned to avoid existing underground utility pipes, cables and sewers as well as buried structures and archaeological sites. The new drain also needs to connect up with the existing sewer network as the cost of major alterations would be prohibitive, and allow for the optimal flow of water in the new drain.

The tunnel shafts cannot operate safely in the central reservations due to the size of the shafts (over 5m in diameter), deliveries to each shaft, collection of the excavations plus site access for the workers.

Furthermore, one lane in each direction would be more easily be blocked by hold-ups and provide reduced traffic flow than two lanes in one direction; emergency vehicle access would also be hindered with one lane for the length of this section of the inner ring road. One-way also enables us to reallocate traffic signal timings from unused junction approaches to maximise green time and thus increase the flow of traffic.

The tunnel shaft locations cannot be moved so it would be impractical to make traffic lane adjustments, plus the logistics of moving large numbers of cones and signs would also make this impractical and dangerous for staff working in live traffic more often, it would also lead to confusion for as to what was in operation and when.

However once shafts are completed; phased reopening of traffic lanes may be possible subject to safety criteria and traffic modelling.

Various options to manage the drain construction were considered, and in finalising the Clockwise scheme we consulted with local Councillors, a wide range of local resident groups, traders, emergency services and bus operators. This also included a presentation to the Chester District Advisory Panel, which was held in public in Blacon in February 2020. Their feedback helped shape the plans that were finalised and approved by Councillors in March 2020.

The new drain will require 9 access shafts with each one requiring site hoardings, archaeology investigations, digging, tunnelling work to its adjacent shafts and reinstatement followed by relaying the tarmac for the carriageway to be used again and, where needed, central reservations to be installed.

Over the summer we have been carrying out site investigations to clarify the geology that the tunnel will need to pass through, check the locations of other utilities buried underground and record the archaeology. We have also removed the central reservations in order to provide space for the main works to begin and digging of the tunnel shafts.

Although work commenced on the Northgate scheme in July 2020, extensive prior site investigations were needed to finalise the drain tunnel route, check existing underground services and geology, as well as enabling works along St. Martins Way and Nicholas Street to remove the central reservations and lighting columns ahead of the main tunnel works. Some of this was done during lockdown but it was not possible to do all the tunnel works in this time.

Standard working hours will be necessary due to the proximity of the drain works to city centre residential areas and hotels along the tunnel route; however, we are exploring ways to minimise the works duration and complete as soon and as safe to do so.

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