YORK’S transport chief has been accused of evading “difficult” questions on the controversial Lendal Bridge traffic restrictions.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ann Reid asked several questions seeking precise answers, but such information was not provided in Coun Merrett’s answers. There was not time in the meeting for verbal answers, but he provided a written response afterwards.
Labour said he had addressed all questions but the exchange sparked criticism from former council leader Steve Galloway, who said Coun Merrett failed to answer six questions on the bridge trial and traffic restrictions in Coppergate.
He said requiring cabinet members to respond to councillors at full council meetings had been one of the authority’s “checks and balances”, and the time between questions being submitted and answers being provided allowed time for research. He said Labour circulated answers several days after meetings, removing the chance for follow-up questions. “This lack of scrutiny provides cabinet members with an opportunity to avoid answering difficult questions,” he said.
A Labour spokesman said: “Steve Galloway had no issue with the current system for council questions when he was council leader, yet does since losing an election and his position on the council. Coun Merrett has responded to all questions put to him and explained he will respond in further detail where relevant data is not yet currently available.”
More than 34,500 penalty charge notices were issued for breaching the bridge restrictions between August 27 and December 2, the latest figures available. The council has said the ban on private traffic between 10.30am and 5pm will speed up bus journeys and cut pollution, but critics say it has increased congestion elsewhere and is harming city-centre businesses and York’s image due to the number of visitors being fined.
Those questions and the replies from Coun Merrett
The questions: On the Lendal Bridge/Coppergate restrictions, could the cabinet member confirm the following figures:
•The number of appeals lodged each week since the beginning of August against penalty charge notices issued for contraventions of traffic restrictions on Coppergate and Lendal Bridge.
•The number of appeals which have been successful each week.
•The total revenue the council has received so far from penalty charges following the introduction of the new restrictions.
•The weekly changes to journey times (all modes of transport) on each arterial road and on each section of the inner ring road since the introduction of the new traffic restrictions.
•The number of accidents reported on roads in the city-centre, comparing the last three months with the equivalent period in 2012.
•The latest air quality monitoring reports for key sites in and close to the city-centre.
Coun Merrett’s response:
Data is being “harvested” for vehicle travel times across the city and far more detailed information will be published in the new year.
Travel time data for radial arterial routes for Park&Ride has already been published, and this clearly demonstrates that the restriction has not led to the “dire effect on traffic” nor the gridlock anticipated by some.
Traffic flow data for these radial routes reinforces this. Buses using the bridge are showing significant reductions in travel times – with average times from Clarence Street to Rougier Street reducing by four to five minutes and two to three minutes in the reverse direction.
Improvements in vehicle flow have been observed at the station frontage, Lendal Arch Gyratory, Museum Street, St Leonard’s Place, Bootham, Gillygate, Clarence Street and Lord Mayor’s Walk. Water End has seen an increase in traffic volume (as was predicted) although Clifton Green is generally coping well with the additional traffic, albeit with some late afternoon pressures at the junction. Signal adjustment has been undertaken and the situation continues to be monitored.
Skeldergate Bridge, Walmgate Bar and Foss Islands Road have seen increases in traffic (as was predicted) and some increase in the level of delay. The traffic control centre continues to actively manage the traffic to help minimise the impact.
There is a lag of three to four months between an accident being reported to the police and it being available for analysis on our accident database. People have 28 days to report injury accidents and the data then requires inputting and validating by the police and the council. Data for September, October and November 2013 will become available in the new year.
• Council officials have revealed the legal guidance that they say influenced their signs for the Lendal Bridge restrictions.
City of York Council has faced widespread criticism over its signs notifying people of the restrictions, but has repeatedly said its signs complied with legal guidance from the Department for Transport.
The authority says that guidance was from the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (TSRGD 2002), and subsequent amendments and said the detailed layout was in accordance with Chapter 7 of the DfT's Traffic Signs Manual.
York Lib Dem leader Keith Aspden said: “As we have been saying to the Labour cabinet since the first day of the Lendal Bridge trial, the signage is not clear enough. Unfortunately it appears that residents and visitors are not being listened to.”
He said the issue was not the legality of the signs, but whether motorists would see and understand them.