‘End this failed experiment’ say councillors in closed bridge row

YORK’S Lendal Bridge should be reopened to traffic as its closure for the last six months has failed to ease congestion or improve air quality, it was claimed yesterday.

Liberal Democrats are calling on the Labour-run council to “stop dithering” and reopen the bridge to cars, lorries and motorbikes.

The six-month trial closure of the bridge ended on February 26, but remains in place while data is evaluated.

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The Lib Dems have submitted a motion to full council on March 27 calling for the bridge restrictions to be lifted.

Since the closure started in August over 45,000 motorists have been fined for crossing the bridge and the trial has been attacked by businesses, residents and tourist groups.

The latest figures show that traffic levels on Foss Islands Road and Water End at Clifton Bridge have increased while the trial has failed to improve overall bus times or air quality, according to Lib Dems.

Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Simon Hughes, on a visit to York at the weekend met with the city’s Lib Dem Group leader Councillor Keith Aspden and backed the calls to reopen Lendal Bridge.

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Coun Aspden said the closure had failed to achieve its aims.

“It is time for Labour to stop dithering and end the trial closure of Lendal Bridge. They said it would be a six month trial and they should stick to that.

“It is clear that the closure has failed to achieve its aims of improving overall bus times and council officers have admitted that it is having little impact on air quality as congestion is just moving elsewhere in the city.

“Our motion calls on Labour to immediately lift the restrictions and fully publish the raw data on the trial. They should then listen to residents and local businesses and address the legitimate concerns that have been raised over the last six months before bringing forward their long-term plans for the city-centre network.”

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Mr Hughes, the former Liberal Democrat president, said: “York Labour council needs to listen to the concerns raised by local residents and businesses about the closure of Lendal Bridge. I have heard about the problems the closure has caused and I fully support the local Liberal Democrat call to reopen the bridge.”

Last night council leader James Alexander a decision would be taken after six months of data on traffic flow, bus reliability and public feedback had been analysed.

He added: “I’m surprised Simon Hughes is saying this just after having a very productive meeting with him where he said he supported what we are doing on jobs and economic growth in the city. He made no reference to any concern about he bridge. I hope Simon Hughes MP has not been dragged into this issue inadvertently.”

A council spokesman said: “The evidence will be collated following the end of the six month period and reported to Cabinet in the spring (aiming for April 2014). Following this, councillors will decide whether to end the restriction, make the restriction permanent (10.30am to 5pm only) or continue with the trial to gather and evaluate more data.”