New bus station causes town centre traffic chaos, say Northampton shop owners

A bus passenger sits in Monday's traffic jam in The Drapery outside the North Gate Bus Station. Photo by Julian Marino.
A bus passenger sits in Monday's traffic jam in The Drapery outside the North Gate Bus Station. Photo by Julian Marino.

Gridlocked traffic caused by unorganised buses is driving trade away from Northampton, say shop owners.

They say The Drapery, in Northampton Town Centre, is clogged with buses and queueing pedestrians on a daily basis because of design faults in the new North Gate Bus Station.

The congested streets by the bus shelters in The Drapery.

The congested streets by the bus shelters in The Drapery.

The complaints come after the town was brought to a standstill on Monday (March 6) during roadworks.

Earlier today (March 10), Nortampton Borough Council announced a string of measures including traffic enforcement cameras to stop cars using The Drapery as a cross-town shortcut.

However, there is a swell of opinion still that the bus station is simply in the wrong place.

Carol Faulkner, owner of the Northampton Health Store, in The Drapery, said: "The bus station is just too small. When rush hour comes and when the kids come out of school, the Drapery is just chaos because the buses can't fit.

Carol Faulkner, owner of the Northampton Health Shop, in The Drapery, sees traffic chaos outside her shop several times a week.

Carol Faulkner, owner of the Northampton Health Shop, in The Drapery, sees traffic chaos outside her shop several times a week.

"There are bus stops on both sides of the street. A bus comes to its stop halfway down The Drapery, and then other buses can't move around it. Then they start backing up around the Bradshaw Street. The fumes and noise are awful."

The North Gate Bus Station, in Silver Street, opened in 2014 following the closure of the former Greyfriars Bus Station, which was subsequently demolished in 2015.

The North Gate Bus Station has 14 departure bays, with eight extra bays lining The Drapery.

A bus driver, who asked not to be named, said: "There were 30 or more bays in the old Greyfriars station, with four exits. They blew that up, and now we're down to 14 bays, with two exits, and eight spillover bays in the streets. It's pathetic.

Buses brought to a standstill in The Drapery on Monday. Photo by John Evans.

Buses brought to a standstill in The Drapery on Monday. Photo by John Evans.

"I''m trying to drive down the Drapery and it's so busy, especially during the school rush. Then teenagers on their bikes like pulling wheelies in front of the bus as I'm pulling out, with big grins on their faces.

"The council won't do a thing about this, not until someone gets hurt."

On Monday (March 6), Northampton town centre was gridlocked with traffic after buses were rerouted due to roadworks.

Traffic backed up around the North Gate Bus Station, Sheep Street and the Drapery.

The North Gate Bus Station, in Silver Street.

The North Gate Bus Station, in Silver Street.

Miss Faulkner said: "The congestion caused by the new bus station is awful as it exits right down this street. The council extended all the bus shelters on The Drapery to accommodate the buses because there's no room in the new station.

"There's congestion on the pavement too, with pedestrians queueing up and down all along the street.

"People come into the shop to use their phones because it's quieter. Cigarette smoke blows into through the front door. People lean against the windows and we even get verbally abused sometimes.

"On Monday, this whole street was just gridlocked with buses and traffic because of some roadworks. It just proves if there's even a little snag in the traffic, the whole town comes to a stop.

"People come to the town to shop. For every traffic jam they get suck in, that's one more reason not to come back here to Northampton. It's driving away business."

Jason Avallone, a printing specialist at Snappy Snaps photo printing, also in The Drapery, said: "It can be chaos. It's because the station is too small. And the buses run in a loop around the town, so if something goes wrong then it all comes to a stop. Then, what can you do?"

A bus traffic jam in November 2016 outside the North Gate Bus Station.

A bus traffic jam in November 2016 outside the North Gate Bus Station.

A petition started by the Northampton Liberal Democrats calling for a consultation on coach and bus facilities in the town has been posted in shops in The Drapery for customers to sign.

Chair of the Northampton Liberal Democrats Brian Hoare said: "They demolished Greyfriars with no clear plan for what to do with it and built a dysfunctional bus station in the town centre. "It's just too small and it's clogging up the town centre.

"With the signatures from our petition, we will put forward a motion at a full council meeting on March 13, saying we want a new bus station to be built on the now-empty Greyfriars site and to have the North Gate Bus Station become a coach station for Northampton."

Plans to build a cinema on the Greyfriars site are currently under review by Northampton Borough Council.