Concerns raised over pedestrianisation plans

Concerns raised over pedestrianisation plans

Concerns raised over pedestrianisation plans

Lasting impact feared after key corridors are closed to buses in Manchester and Aberdeen

 
Since May 30, from 6am to 6pm every day, Aberdeen’s Union Street, a key thoroughfare for buses, has been closed to all traffic between Market Street and Bridge Street

 
Concerns have been raised over pedestrianisation schemes that exclude buses from key corridors in Manchester and Aberdeen.

Governments across Great Britain are backing the rapid implementation of wider pavements and pop-up bike lanes to enable social distancing as lockdown restrictions are eased. They want people to walk or cycle, rather than drive or take public transport.

The capacity of bus services is severely restricted by the need to maintain social distancing. But many fear that actions taken today to encourage active travel may hinder the future recovery of bus services.

In Manchester, Bus Users is calling on passengers to respond to proposals to close Deansgate to motor vehicles as part of a two-phase plan to pedestrianise the area. Bus operator Transdev has already called for a rethink.

Phase one, which began on May 16, involves the temporary closure of a section of Deansgate, between Blackfriars Street and King Street West. The idea is to promote social distancing, walking and cycling as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Phase two, on which the council is currently consulting, involves the permanent closure of Deansgate to boost regeneration and economic growth.

Bus Users is concerned the ban on buses will make it difficult for people to access the city centre.

As buses are diverted to the surrounding area, people with mobility issues and the elderly in particular, will struggle to access employment, shops and social activities in the city centre

“As buses are diverted to the surrounding area, people with mobility issues and the elderly in particular, will struggle to access employment, shops and social activities in the city centre,” said awn Badminton-Capps, Director for Bus Users in England.

“Given the significant contribution bus passengers make to local economies, it’s difficult to understand how a bus ban will actually stimulate economic recovery. And while the plans may reduce traffic in Deansgate itself, congestion and pollution in the surrounding area will increase sharply as traffic is forced to divert.”

Bus Users is calling on passengers in the area to respond to the consultation to ensure their voices are heard.

Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, the city’s biggest bus operators have blasted the city council for progressing at short notice with their plans to close Union Street, a key thoroughfare for buses, and divert services down a street with no bus stops. Since May 30, from 6am to 6pm every day, Union Street has been closed to all traffic between Market Street and Bridge Street.

First Aberdeen and Stagecoach Bluebird say the move will see the city centre’s seven busiest bus stops omitted by the new diversion meaning “massive disruption and upheaval for key workers and passengers looking to make essential journeys”.

The bus operators have joined forces to urge the council to reconsider their proposals which “could have a lasting effect for both public transport and the city centre itself”. The closure conflicts with the city centre masterplan, which sets out to preserve the operations on buses along the full length of Union Street.

“First Aberdeen are proud to be providing lifeline service that allow people to make essential travel journeys including our key workers who are keeping us all going during these unprecedented times as we all fight the spread of the Coronavirus,” said Andrew Jarvis, managing director of First Bus in Scotland.

“The decision to close a key section Union Street that has been taken by the council is one that has been done despite the feedback given by bus operators that this diversion would miss out the seven busiest bus stops in the city centre and cause extended journey times and further potential for delay. Serious concerns put forward by the company remain unanswered and we would urge a delay to proceedings until they are fully addressed.

To make a decision that will make life even more difficult for people needing to use these services for essential travel during this difficult time is nothing short of putting the boot in

“To make a decision that will make life even more difficult for people needing to use these services for essential travel during this difficult time is nothing short of putting the boot in, especially when seats on our services are already limited due to social distancing measures, for our key workers who are on the frontline saving lives every day. I urge the council to reconsider their position and work with operators to provide the necessary safe spaces they seek in the city that will benefit everyone.”

Peter Knight, managing director of Stagecoach Bluebird, added: “This decision is a real blow for all bus users in Aberdeen. This will create huge issues for key workers and people who rely on bus services for essential trips as well as young people and socially excluded travellers who are already being badly impacted by COVID-19.

“Aberdeen City Council is implementing this measure at very short notice, without any consultation with the bus operators or our passengers, yet this will have a far reaching and immediate impact on people and public transport right across the city.

The wrong council decisions now will damage public transport and damage the future of our region, its economy and its communities

“We fully support the need for cleaner cities and our bus services play a crucial part in that. Buses are helping to keep our country healthier with the active travel involved in walking to and from the bus stop. In the long term, only public transport has the capacity to provide the connections to support recovery in the North-east. The wrong council decisions now will damage public transport and damage the future of our region, its economy and its communities.”

Greig Mackay, director for Bus Users Scotland, said: “Bus Users fully understand that Aberdeen City Council has to implement social distancing measures during the next phases of Scotland emerging from lockdown to keep people safe. Also, the proposal to restrict vehicle traffic coming into the city centre is a positive step, as a means to reducing congestion and improving air quality. However, we do have significant concerns surrounding the pedestrianised zones that are included as part of these measures, as these will have a detrimental effect on bus passengers, many of whom are key workers currently.

“The impact of this, may well be longer journey times and accessibility issues for passengers with reduced mobility, due to the diverted bus stops. Further consultation by the council which includes bus passengers as well other key stakeholders and the bus operators should be considered, in order to facilitate a more positive outcome for front line bus passengers of Aberdeen, who are travelling for essential reasons.”

 
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