COUNCIL officials have warned City of York Council not to spend any of the £700,000 it earned from the Lendal Bridge trial until the legal wrangle over the trial is over.
The warning comes in the council’s official final evaluation of the trial, which was presented to the council’s cabinet meeting last night.
More than 48,000 fines were issued during the six month trial, the evaluation report said, netting the council more than £1 million in income.
Once the capital costs of setting up the scheme - including buying traffic cameras and warning signs - as well as management and advertising costs are removed the council is still left with around £700,000, but council officials recommended that money should not be spent until legal challenges are over and the council is certain it will not need to refund all the fine cash.
Of those fines, around 80 per cent were given to people from outside the YO postcode area, the report said, and the papers acknowledge that visitors to the city who would be unfamiliar with York’s streets were be more severely hit by the fines.
Cllr Dave Merrett, who as the then cabinet member for transport oversaw much of the Lendal Bridge trial’s evaluation, told the cabinet that the problem of congestion in York was not going to go away and needed to be addressed urgently.
“We have got to persuade one on five, or one in four, journeys that are currently made by car to be made by public transport,”he added.
The report also recommended an independently led, cross party commission be set up to tackle growing congestion problems in York in the coming years.
It says: “Traffic congestion is recognised as a significant impediment to the economic prosperity of the city. However a consensus on measure to resolve the issues are much less easy to agree.”
Cllr Merrett accused critics of the trail of suffering from “collective amnesia” saying local transport plans put forward by previous council administrations in both 2006 and 2011 had included similar plans to introduce bus priority lanes to the city centre.
But speaking at the meeting, Green councillor Andy D’Agorne urged the cabinet not to let the traffic commission “sideline” the issue of traffic congestion and the resulting air pollution.
He said evidence showed the bridge’s closure had clear benefits, but problems with its implementation had been exploited for political gain, and called on the council to follow the example of towns like Huddersfield, where free shuttle bus helps residents get around the centre without relying on their cars.
He added: “Councillors of all parties must now move on to seriously evaluate all options to cut traffic and create a pedestrian and cycle friendly city centre environment, served by frequent clean and reliable public transport.”
Conservative councillors also criticised the scheme’s implementation, saying if the trial had been carried out properly it could have been a success but instead the city was left with no tangible metrics to show what the aims had been, or measure whether they had been achieved.
The Cabinet accepted all four of evaluation report’s recommendations, included council leader Cllr James Alexander’s decision to set up a cross party congestion commission, the recommendation not to spend the £700,000 net receipts from the trial, and a move to defer a council motion prepared by Liberal Democrat councillor Ann Reid which dubbed the plan “botched” and called for an apology to be deferred back to a full council meeting in July.