Mr. John D. Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans she has to return the 431W sequencing of the traffic lights at the junction of Mill Street and Circular Road, Newtownards, County Down, to their original setting. 
§ Mr. Paul Murphy
Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Roads Service under its chief executive, Mr. W. J. McCoubrey. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from W. J. McCoubrey to Mr. John D. Taylor, dated 30 April 1999The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has asked me to respond to your recently tabled Parliamentary Question about the sequencing of the traffic signals at the junction of Mill Street and Circular Road in Newtownards.By way of background, I should explain that, in order to accommodate the laying of a watermain in July and August last year, a one-way traffic system was introduced on South Street. As a result, traffic was diverted along Circular Road and the traffic signals at the junction in question were altered to deal with this additional flow.On completion of these works, we carried out a detailed assessment of traffic flow at this junction. We concluded that the original traffic light phasing contained conflicting traffic movements which reduced the operational efficiency of the junction. In addition, there was evidence that drivers were using the Scrabo estate as a "rat run" to avoid the junction, particularly during morning peak times. By removing these conflicting movements, the new phasing has improved road safety, increased the junction's capacity and reduced the benefits of using Scrabo Estate as a "rat run". Whilst the length of the queues on some approaches to the junction may have increased during peak times, adjustments have been carried out to increase the number of vehicles passing through the junction.In the circumstances, Roads Service has no plans to revert to the old phasing. There may, however, be some isolated off-peak periods that could benefit from further timing alterations. We will continue, therefore, to monitor the junction and amend the timings as and when necessary.I hope this helps clarify the situation.