Critics question cost of York traffic inquiry

Lendal Bridge
Lendal Bridge
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OPPOSITION councillors have criticised the launching of a commission led by a leading transport expert to find ways of tackling York’s chronic traffic jams.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on York Council questioned the cost of the commission and the timing less than three months from city elections.

The commission follows last year’s trial of fining private cars using Lendal Bridge during the day in an attempt to reduce city centre gridlock.

The trial was abandoned amid legal challenges and led to the refunding of thousands of pounds to motorists.

Led by Terry Hill, former chairman of global infrastructure consultants Arup, the commission is supposed to have representation from across the parties on the council.

But the two major opposition groups expressed significant reservations about the proposal yesterday.

Conservative group leader Coun Chris Steward said: “We remain concerned about the cost of the congestion commission and the huge jump in cost between a conventional scrutiny review and the near £150,000 cost of the commission.

“We are also concerned about taking on such a venture just before the election when member make up and priorities could easily change.

“Currently therefore we do not support the proposals, however if the council is to go ahead with it we would still look to work positively, even if it isn’t the scheme we would have chosen.”

The Liberal Demcrats were also sceptical about the commission’s value.

Lib Dem group leader Keith Aspden said: “The Liberal Democrat Group support the principle of a cross-party approach to tackling congestion.

“However, residents will be concerned that Labour’s proposals involve spending £130,000 and mostly on £400 a day external consultants from London.

“We are not convinced that this represents value for money and think residents would prefer to see this money spent on implementing practical transport improvements.”

The trial daytime closure of Lendal Bridge to private vehicles and the subsequent handling of the refunding of fines to motorists by the Labour administration has become one of the biggest political issues in York ahead of elections in May when every council seat will be contested.

Coun David Levene, the council’s cabinet member for transport, said: “It’s time for all of us to come together, with help from the our local communities and independent, world-class experts like Terry Hill and get to grips with congestion in our city.

“Doing nothing is not an option. Through the Commission we’ll be learning from best practice across the country and Europe to engage with residents and businesses in the city.”

The proposals for a commission are due to be approved by the cabinet next week and report its findings in October.