Demands for scrutiny measures in wake of Northampton bus station problems

North Gate Bus Station
North Gate Bus Station

Calls for a scrutiny panel to be set up in the wake of the opening day fiasco of North Gate bus depot were made at last night’s full Northampton Borough Council meeting.

Leader of the authority Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm) was pushed on a number of issues surrounding the £7million station, which caused gridlock on the surrounding roads on Monday, March 3.

In one of many heated debates at the Guildhall chambers last night Councillor Gareth Eales (Lab, Spencer) asked Councillor Mackintosh whether he would agree to a scrutiny panel being set up to assess what went wrong with the planning and implementation of North Gate.

He said: “There is an opportunity here to welcome transparency.

“This was a major project and we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

In response Cllr Mackintosh said: “It’s not something we should rule out.

“We should see how things progress from here and assess how to move things forward.”

The leader was faced with a barrage of questions from other councillors through a large part of last night’s two-and-a-half hour meeting.

Councillor Lee Mason (Lab, Brookside) asked the leader: “Was technical advice listened to and did you realise it was inadequate in size?”

Councillor Mackintosh replied, saying: “A lot of the issues on the day were not to do with the planning of the building, but the way people were using the roads.”

Comments were made about the size of the toilets being too small, about the cost of policing the area and how the traffic situation will be once driving restrictions are lifted on Abington Street.

Members of the public also took the opportunity to quiz the leader on North Gate issues.

Ormonde Griffiths “as a proud member of the over 60 club” said the new facilities had placed “challenges” on older people and asked whether more could be done to stop people missing connecting buses now some of the services stop at Drapery and others in the depot itself.

He said: “People coming in from Milton Keynes and outlying areas who then need to catch an interchanging bus find they cannot make their connection.

Buses like the X7 go directly into the station – by the time they have made their way to Debenhams (Drapery) the next bus they need to catch has already gone.

“We are all past the age where we can challenge Usain Bolt!”

Councillor Mackintosh was keen to stress that services are currently running on schedule at the station.

“What happened last Monday was a problem for many people in the town and I’m sorry for those affected,” he said.

“All major projects of this type have teething problems.”