The owner of a Northampton bus company has said the long-term solution to regular town-wide traffic jams is to rebuild the new bus station.
Derek Taylor, of Meridian Bus, said that on Saturday his drivers were stuck in jams that caused a 100-metre journey from the bottom of The Drapery to the North Gate terminus to take more than an hour.
Asked what he thought the solution was, he said: “I can’t see one to be honest, because if just one issue arises the traffic system collapses.
“There’s a different reason each time.
“The only thing you could possibly do would be to knock it all down and start again. I’m not sure that’s a viable option, so I suppose we’ll just have to get used to these huge jams every now and then.”
His view on a new site has been backed by opposition Liberal Democrat leader Brendan Glynane (Delapre), who said there was little point in the borough council enticing shoppers into the town with free car parking if drivers sometimes struggled to get out again.
He said: “I think there’s a tension between the borough and county council because the borough is offering free parking to boost business, while the county council wants people to use public transport more.
“The latter now has to manage these crises. In the meantime people get a lasting bad impression of the town centre.
“I think you may well see North Gate station as a short-lived project. I know other sites were looked at before the current site was chosen, including the car park opposite the old Greyfriars bus station.
“The current site is too small and in the wrong place, but it was easy for the borough council to push through before next year’s General Election.”
Tony Clarke, former Northampton South MP and a Green Party spokesman, said: “What nobody has really mentioned yet is the effect Abington Street being re-opened to traffic will have on the jams.
“Vehicles will exit through Greyfriars, which leads directly to guess where?
He added: “I think the council leader is in denial about how often the traffic problems will crop up and that approach will not win him any election votes.
“If the administration admits it got it wrong and sits down with a cross-party group,something can still be done.
“Personally I think the land known as rat island, to the east of Greyfriars bus station, would be suitable for a split site. It’s not perfect but it may dig us out of this mess.”
Despite initial reports on Saturday that traffic lights in Bradshaw Street malfunctioned, that is now thought not to be the case.
It is understood that investigations have blamed a combination of road closures due to the 9th/12th Lancers parade, ongoing roadworks in Victoria Promenade and heavy rain showers,which pushed lots of drivers into using their cars at once.
Councillor Les Marriott, leader of the Labour Group at the Guildhall, said: “North Gate Bus Station can work most of the time, but when something trivial happens – like a big town centre event or severe weather – it can’t seem to cope with additional traffic pressures.
“A longer-term solution has to be found to stop traffic chaos and ensure a greater degree of pedestrian safety.”