Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Lendal Bridge Saga - How not to close a bridge.

York City Council decided that it wanted to close Lendal Bridge to cars:

The traffic restriction trial aims to reduce daytime traffic across Lendal Bridge as part of a wider long-term vision to address city centre congestion and improve the reliability of public transport.

During the trial, Lendal Bridge will be open between 10.30am - 5pm to pedestrians, cyclists, buses, taxis, and emergency vehicles only.

The trial will test how the transport network operates and new road signs will warn drivers of the changes as they approach the bridge. Automatic number plate recognition cameras will enforce the new traffic measures.

And this is fine - there's a pretty strong case for reducing traffic in city centres and especially centres with narrow streets and plenty of pedestrians such as York. However, the City Council has demonstrated throughout this trial and since just how you shouldn't go about closing a bridge to cars.  It wasn't just the Facebook page with over 3000 'likes' nor the slightly arrogant attitude of York's Labour leadership or even the extremes to which the Council sought to enforce the ban. It was that, despite all this effort the Council completely cocked up the closure:

At a Traffic Penalty Tribunal it was concluded that the scheme, which was put in place last year, to stop drivers crossing the bridge during the day, and another one on Coppergate are not valid as the road cannot be described as a 'bus lane'.

The council has made at least £1.3 million from fines on Lendal Bridge alone.

That's a lot of fines that the Council may well have to pay back. Not to mention court costs, administration charges and officer time diverted from things that actually matter to local residents. Sadly this sort of outcome is all to typical of local authority initiatives especially 'radical' transport and traffic schemes.

In reality the York scheme was timid - they closed one bridge just to see what would happen to traffic. And this resulted in confusion made worse by inadequate (and possibly illegal) signage. What should sadden us is that the officers and councillors responsible will not examine their decision-making approaches, project management or even stand on the bridge and say "we got this one wrong didn't we".

But all we get is an anonymous statement saying:

“City of York Council is seeking independent legal advice in relation to the adjudicator’s decision on this specific appeal.

“The restrictions remain in place on Lendal Bridge and Coppergate and we would advise drivers to continue to adhere to these.”

Will local government ever learn? I'm not picking on York here (although this is premier league in the cock-up stakes), every Council makes these sorts of mistake and every council prefers to obfuscate rather than admit error.


1 comment:

Dr Evil said...

I used to live in York. Closing Lendal bridge to cars during the day is utterly mad. After all, the Great Ouse flows through York and curiously enough you need to go across the bridge to cross the river. What were the muppets on York council thinking?