YORK COUNCIL leader James Alexander has called for long term solutions to the city’s congestion problems after bringing an end to charges for crossing Lendal Bridge.
Trial restrictions which have seen private car drivers handed £60 penalties for crossing between 10.30am and 5pm will be lifted on Saturday.
The council will now set up a cross-party commission to come up with ideas for tackling York’s notorious traffic jams.
Coun Alexander said that the trial had improved bus reliability and air quality.
“It is, however, clear that the trial has been polarising and we need greater consensus amongst residents and businesses over measures required to tackle congestion in our city.” he said.
“It’s great to see that businesses across the city are supporting the decision to create a cross-party and independently chaired commission.
“We all share the same vision, to ensure York continues to prosper and we hope that by working together it will help to find long-term solutions.”
Last week, the council’s right to issue penalty notices was successfully challenged by a driver although the authority insists its legal advice is that the restrictions were valid and it will move to have the decision overturned.
A trial of the restrictions began in August and officially ended in February although they were kept in place until the council made a decision on whether to make them permanent.
Kate McMullen, head of tourism organisation Visit York, said: “It’s the right decision at this time, however, now this has been decided we must continue to work together in the city to plan for the future, tackling congestion issues and increasing the use of public transport.”
The council has faced criticism for the amount of money raised in fines although the authority has always said the main purpose of the restrictions was to cut traffic and the money will help improve local transport.
York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said: “This is a major victory for common sense and I’m looking forward to easier access through the city centre and less congestion in other areas of York as a result.
“It remains to be seen what will happen to the several million pounds worth of disputed fines. I’m aware that the Council is appealing the adjudicator’s judgement, but I fear this will only serve to prolong the severe embarrassment they’re already experiencing. I call on the Council to have the humility to repay the fines and bring about an end to this fiasco.”
Liberal Democrat leader Keith Aspden called for Coun Alexander and Dave Merrett, the cabinet member responsible, to “take responsibility and resign”.