Business leaders believe it is only a matter of time before a pedestrian is seriously hurt after two crashes on the roads outside North Gate bus station in the space of a week.
Sheep Street and the Drapery were cordoned off for more than an hour on Saturday, when two buses, a van and a taxi were involved in a collision. Although nobody was seriously injured in the incident, the driver of the Bounds taxi had to be cut out of the light blue Toyota Prius, which was badly damaged.
The incident came little more than a week after several passengers were treated by paramedics when a car and a number 16 Stagecoach bus collided in Sheep Street. The driver of the car was taken to hospital.
Raymond Everall, who runs a hairdressers in the area around the bus station, called for a 5 mph speed limit to be introduced on the surrounding roads before the station was built and this week he reiterated that plea.
“Bus drivers are often beeping at people because they are in the way,” he said.
“Aren’t we building up to a pedestrian incident round here?”
Mr Everall, who has run firms in the town for 40 years, said he chaired a scrutiny review into ways of increasing footfall on the Market Square last year, prior to the bus station opening. The document, which involved consultations with a number of businesses in the area, proposed that a 5 mph limit be introduced, however the measure was not adopted.
The county council said the minimum limit it could impose on a highway was 20 mph. But Mr Everall believes curbing speed in any way would improve safety. He also pressed the borough council to install permanent barriers in Sheep Street as an extra measure in keeping the public safe.
He said: “The trouble is people are still using the former zebra crossing in the same way, even though there is a pelican crossing there now. They are not waiting for the lights. People are often in the road when they shouldn’t be. But the 5 mph speed limit would calm everything down and give drivers more time to react.”
Retired Abington resident Norman Sharp, who campaigned vociferously against the design of the bus station site before it opened, said accidents were “always going to happen” with the capacity of Bradshaw Street and Sheep Street at stretching point.
He claims to have counted 80 buses leaving the station in the space of an hour and believes the drivers are operating “under duress” as a result of often having to queue on entering and exiting the site. The Bradshaw Street exit is further strained by those exiting the Radisson-owned Park Inn Hotel and delivery lorries to nearby shops.
“That’s two accidents in a week,” Mr Sharp said. “It’s lucky no one has been seriously hurt. The safety problem you have is that there are too many buses operating in too small an area.”
Craig Fitzhugh, managing director of Excel Insurance, opposite the pedestrian entrance to the bus station in Bradshaw Street, said more needs to be done to ensure pedestrians use the pelican crossings to cross the road as he hears a bus horn sound ‘20 times a day’. “Someone’s going to get hurt,” he said: “I’ve been here since 2000 and it’s absolute chaos compared to when I first moved here.”