The leader of Northampton Borough Council has apologised for the bus chaos on Monday which brought the town centre to a standstill.
Traffic in Northampton town centre ground to a halt after a queue of buses formed along Greyfriars, Lady’s Lane, The Drapery and Bridge Street. Eventually the police were called in to control traffic, some roads were closed and a number of bus services were cancelled to alleviate the delays.
A “sudden increase” in traffic using College Street and Bradshaw Street was blamed, along with the phasing of pedestrian lights and bus driver training. Cars and other vehicles using The Drapery illegally were also a factor, according to the authorities.
Hundreds of comments were left on the Chronicle & Echo’s website from angry bus passengers with many saying they had predicted the problems and called for bus services to be returned to the Greyfriars bus station, which has now closed.
Since Monday’s chaos, the traffic has flowed smoothly, following a number of changes to traffic management in the area following an emergency meeting.
Borough council leader, Councillor David Mackintosh said he understood the criticism from people affected by the traffic jams on Monday but felt a lot of the comments had been politically motivated.
He said: “It is always difficult when a new building first comes in to use. I am sorry for the disruption that was caused on Monday but I make no apology for trying to improve Northampton.
“I think it is sad that a lot of people seemed to want this project to fail. Opposition politicians seemed to be licking their lips with glee to see it fail.
“I think that is very sad and I think we should all support Northampton rather than choose to score cheap political points.”
Councillor Mackintosh also defended himself against criticism that he was not there to face the flak on Monday.
He said: “I was in London for a meeting to try to get more investment in Northampton’s Enterprise Zone.”
Councillor David Mackintosh said he believed the local authority had adequate traffic plans for the roads around the North Gate station but had not taken into account the number of cars wrongly using The Drapery.
He said: “One of the major factors was people using The Drapery in the wrong way. It is only open to buses, taxis and delivery vans but other cars were using it.”
Councillor Mackintosh said Northamptonshire Police were now having a “higher profile presence” to enforce the road restrictions in The Drapery, Sheep Street and Bridge Street to prevent so many private cars from illegally using it.
Other changes that have been introduced to prevent a repeat of the congestion include new ‘give way’ signs installed on Bradshaw Street, which is allowing buses right of way when exiting the station forecourt.
A yellow box junction has also been painted at the junction between Sheep Street and Bradshaw Street to keep traffic flowing.
Every day this week a ‘silver command’ meeting involving Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council, Northamptonshire Police and the bus companies has been held at The Guildhall.
New road markings and signage were introduced by workmen overnight on Monday and Tuesday.
Councillor Mackintosh, thanked the agencies involved for working together to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
He said: “Traffic moved through the bus station well during the busiest times on Monday morning and the very difficult situation we faced happened very suddenly.
“I know that buses are vital to our town and it is absolutely critical we get it right, we are all committed to working together to make sure we do.”
The policing of the town centre as a result of the bus chaos is being done as part of officers’ “day-to-day” duties, the head of the Northampton Operational Command Unit has said.
Superintendent Mick Stamper said: “We had two members of our town centre Safer Community Team enforcing the no entry restriction at the bottom of the Drapery, as part of our day-to-day policing, on Wednesday.
“Those officers are not solely dedicated to enforcing that restriction and are available to respond to other incidents in the town centre should they need to.”
The new £7 million North Gate station was officially opened during a ceremony on Saturday.