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Corporation Street bus gate branded ‘absolute farce’ and ‘should be reversed’

Posted on - 6th June, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Roads, Transport, University campus
The very manual version of the bus gate during Friday 31 May Pic: Blog Preston

A call for the ‘ill-thought-out’ Corporation Street bus lane to be scrapped has been made.

County councillor Yousuf Motala, who represents the Preston City Division on the county council, has written to the cabinet member for highways and transport urging him to re-think. His call for a re-think has been supported by businesses in Heatley Street who say they are being affected by the new bus gate.

But Lancashire County Council says these are ‘teething issues’ and they are confident ‘things will settle back down’.

It follows the cameras on the bus lane being turned on during Tuesday 21 May and in the following two weeks gridlock being created in the road – with buses, meant to be aided by the bus lane – having to be diverted via different routes.

Read more: Corporation Street bus gate, map and all you need to know

Independent county councillor Motala, who says he has been a vocal critic of bus lanes in the city centre, has accused the Conservative-run administration of ‘profiteering’ and urged them to ‘stop listening to urban designers’.

Cllr Motala said, in a letter seen by Blog Preston sent to county councillor Ruper Swarbrick who is responsible for the bus gate-gate, said: “Having read the latest news on Blog Preston regarding the Corporation bus gate and buses having to divert their services to avoid congestion.

“I feel that all these ill-thought-out schemes are only serving to create havoc for everyone, plus commuters who used to come into Preston City centre saying that they will no longer do so, which will have a severe impact on the local economy, haven’t businesses suffered enough through the Covid pandemic, just to keep the university happy and to raise finance through targeting drivers.

“I feel that the senior management team including cabinet need to start thinking about reversing some of these ridiculous schemes, which have only been created to bring in additional finance through fines to fill council coffers due to years of Tory governments cuts to public sector finances.

“I also strongly feel that Prestonian’s deserve better and an authority that is willing to listen to them, not just pay lip service to community engagement with a top-down approach.

“I therefore urge you to stop listening to urban designers, planning officers who don’t always know what’s best and make your decisions based on locally identified needs and effective consultation with local people.

“I sincerely hope that you are willing to listen and stop providing a standard response from an officer perspective, but one from your own hopefully principled views taking Prestonian’s into consideration when making decisions, which I very much doubt based on experience.”

Read more: Almost 6,000 fewer bus lanes fines handed out in Preston in last 12 months

During Friday 31 May the county council deployed plastic barriers, ‘no through route’ signs and traffic marshals to try and educate motorists about the bus gate. A ‘grace period’ is currently in place where any motorists driving in the bus-only area receive a warning letter.

The bus gate – which runs from Heatley Street to Marsh Lane – will eventually be enforced with penalty charge notices and is to operate 24-hours-a-day. This is despite no bus services which use the route operating 24-7 and Preston Bus moving to scrap a number of evening services which use the route.

Traffic light signals appear to have had their priorities changed between Corporation Street and Ringway – which motorists are claiming is leading to traffic building up in Corporation Street as very few cars are able to be let through to turn into Ring Way.

Businesses feeling the pain

Nearby businesses have been left frustrated and ‘ignored’ by the county council – with Gaisborough Flooring in Heatley Street saying their business has already been affected along with funeral directors Clifford Ward.

Vicky Brown, right, and colleague from Gainsborough Flooring are deeply unhappy about the bus gate Pic: Blog Preston
Vicky Brown, right, and colleague from Gainsborough Flooring are deeply unhappy about the bus gate Pic: Blog Preston

Managing director of Gainsborough Flooring, Vicky Brown, told Blog Preston: “Lancashire Council are turning customers away from Gainsborough Flooring, implying they cannot access Corporation St off Ringway, when they actually can!

“The sign saying “CORPORATION ST BUS GATE– NO THROUGH ROUTE”, which is completely untrue, has resulted in a huge reduction of customers coming to our showroom last week.

“When we’ve asked LCC for some financial support to assist with a mailshot to our customers North of Preston, they have refused, yet they can afford to pay four members of staff daily to stand at Bus Gate redirecting people in the wrong direction as none of them actually know where to send people!!

“It is an absolute farce and devastating for our business. We’ve supported the city for over 60 years and we’re absolutely appalled at how we are being treated.

“Most people we have spoken to have told us it is just another reason not to bother coming into Preston City Centre, and it’s difficult not to agree with them.”

Read more: Lancashire County Council blasted over suggestions of short-term ‘blobbing’ pothole repair method

What Lancashire County Council have to say

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council defended the introduction of the bus gate.

They told Blog Preston: “Corporation Street can be a traffic hotspot and our aim with the bus gate is to reduce the number of vehicles coming through this area, when there are other suitable alternative routes for them.

“By reducing congestion on Corporation Street, we can increase the reliability for public transport and encourage more people to think about travelling by bus.

“Teething issues for new schemes like this are normal and we are confident things will settle down once people to get used to the changes.

“Until then, we are taking a number of additional measures to help drivers in this area.

“Digital signs have been put up around Corporation Street and on some of the key approach roads before people reach Corporation Street itself. These complement the permanent signage currently in place in this area and more signs are being considered.

“Traffic marshalls have been deployed to bus gate to advise drivers and help traffic flow.

“We took this decision due to a large number of drivers still using the bus gate as a through route when they shouldn’t, which was causing issues on the road network in this area.

“Adjustments have also been made to the traffic signals in this area to improve traffic flow.

“Enforcement has started and fines will be coming soon to deter drivers from using this section when they shouldn’t.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and are listening to feedback from the public and our business community.

“In order to reduce congestion in this area and to avoid being fined in future, it’s really important that drivers familiarise themselves with the changes as quickly as possible.”

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