THE controversial trial closure of York’s Lendal Bridge to private traffic was a success despite it being axed, city leaders have said.

City of York Council yesterday published data, which it said showed the trial met most of its objectives.

But it acknowledged the public response had been overwhelmingly negative.

Ruth Stephenson, the council’s major transport projects manager, said the experiment could demonstrate success in a number of areas including reducing air pollution and improving bus punctuality, but said the negative responses outweighed the benefits.

She warned that the abandonment of the trial meant buses would likely become slower again and delays would worsen in the long term.

The bridge experiment banned private traffic from Lendal Bridge between 10.30am and 5pm daily, but the council abandoned the move earlier this month after a storm of controversy. About 50,000 fines were issued and many businesses said the trial had damaged trade and York’s reputation among tourists.

Ms Stephenson said in a written report, to be presented to council cabinet on May 6: “In transport terms the trial achieved many of the original objectives to improve the environment for pedestrians and cyclists and reduce public transport journey times.

“However there was considerable concern from residents and businesses about the implementation of the trial.”

She said parking, footfall and hotel occupancy data suggested people did not avoid the city centre, and said it was “difficult to rationalise the data” with business claims that footfall and trade had been hit.

She said this was “not reflected in the data” but said there may be other causes, unrelated to the bridge.

Coun David Levene, council cabinet member for transport, said yesterday: “While the evidence shows that parking, footfall, bus reliability and patronage all remained static or showed increases during the trial, the council has an obligation to listen and respond to concerns from residents and businesses.”

He said there remained a need to tackle congestion.

The council has already announced plans for an independently-chaired, cross-party “congestion commission” to help tackle the issue in the long-term.

>>> View the council report and data in item 6 of this agenda