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Lendal Bridge To Re-Open From Saturday After Key Labour Vote

lendal bridge u-turn 070414

9:16pm 8th April 2014
(Updated 10:11pm 8th April 2014)

The Lendal Bridge trial will be abandoned and the bridge will re-open to cars at all times from Saturday.

York Council's ruling Labour group held a two and a half hour meeting this evening to discuss whether the trial should be continued. The results of the Lendal Bridge trial were presented to Labour councillors before they took a vote on the issue.

In an e-mail to the council's Chief Executive Kersten England, council leader James Alexander admitted the trial had been "polarising" and that there was a "need for greater consensus about how we tackle congestion in this city". He then went on to call for the restrictions to be lifted on Lendal Bridge from Saturday and that the decision is executed "as quickly as possible through the correct procedure".

James Alexander also called for an independent cross-party commission to look at the data to try to find recommendations to tackle congestion in York.

However, the e-mail to Kersten England does show that the results of the trial saw a "significant increase" in bus reliability and patronage and noted that air quality had improved and also that hotel booking and footfall were up.

The full e-mail sent to the council's chief executive, was also sent out on Twitter and we re-publish it below.

James Alexander e-mail to Kersten England

James Alexander has also released a statement saying:

"We have said from the outset the purpose of the Lendal Bridge trial is not to generate revenue, but to reduce traffic going over the bridge and through the city centre, as part of a long-term vision to create a more attractive and thriving city centre for us all - just as pedestrianisation of the city centre has."

"The principle of having a trial traffic restriction along Lendal Bridge was right and legal counsel has confirmed the implementation of the trial was fully legally compliant. Such a closure has been talked about since the 1970s and was called for by the Leader of the Conservative opposition before the last local elections. It was included in Liberal Democrat transport plans agreed by the council before they left office. Through the trial we have gathered valuable information about traffic flow and seen the benefits of significantly improved bus reliability and passenger numbers. Air quality has improved across the city and both footfall and hotel accommodation has recorded increases. It is however clear the trial has been polarising and we need greater consensus amongst residents and businesses over measures required to tackle congestion in our city."

"We have listened to business and the public alike and I am therefore announcing that after seeing results from the trial and these results being debated amongst my colleagues, I have asked the council's Chief Executive to lift the restriction from Saturday through the appropriate procedure."

"Doing nothing is not an option and tough decisions are required to tackle congestion. I have therefore asked for an independently chaired cross-party commission to be set up to take a long hard look at the data from this trial and to come up with more consensual suggestions as to how we tackle the great challenge of congestion in this city."

“A report will be taken to Cabinet’s meeting outlining these proposals. It is also important to stress the trial was contributed to by Government funds for these very type of experiments to improve the quality and use of buses. Any income generated through fines will be invested back into the city’s transport infrastructure in measures such as filling pot-holes and other improvements to the transport and traffic network.”

Cabinet Member for Transport Dave Merrett also issued a statement saying:

“The Lendal Bridge trial does not stand in isolation of the other measures we are taking to combat congestion through delivering new park and rides, facilitating improvements to bus services and pursuing an upgrade to the outer ring road."

"Transport schemes can often be complex and controversial. The decision to re-open the restriction in light of the public feedback shows why were right to undertake a trial rather than seeking to move straight to permanent implementation.”

Opposition councillors are continuing in their calls for both men to resign over the controversial restrictions. York's Lib Dem leader Keith Aspden said:

“Labour were left with no choice but to reopen Lendal Bridge after the ruling from the Government Adjudicator last week. Even so this is an embarrassing U-Turn from a Labour Cabinet which has insisted all along that the closure is lawful and the restrictions were working.

“It was a botched trial from the start which has made congestion worse and damaged local businesses. It is now time for the Cabinet Member and Leader to take responsibility and resign.

“We also need urgent answers over whether the council will continue to use taxpayers money to fund its legal battle and whether it plans to repay the 53,000 plus motorists who were fined unlawfully.”

York's Conservative leader Chris Steward has also called for resignations telling Minster FM:

"It's good news for York, it's a shame it's come so late. I think this should have happened months ago when we, the Conservative group, first called for it. It's good news the bridge will re-open but there are still many unanswered questions: Will Dave Merrett and James Alexander be resigning? Will they at the very least be apologising to the people of York? And then of course, what happens with the fines which have been issued to date? I think we've got to see them refunded."

"It's been appalling the way they've hung officers out to dry on this, their decision, their policy, somebody has to be accountable, we can't have this going to ground. It's been a total disaster for York, to stop it is good, it should have been stopped ages ago but they can't hide like they have done."


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