Traffic chaos mars car-free experiment

EFFORTS to cut traffic problems in the centre of an Essex town are being hindered by a "second-rate" bus service, it has been claimed.Colchester's first car-free day yesterday saw Culver Street East and St Nicholas Street closed to traffic as organisers attempted to show what life could be like with less private vehicles on the roads.

EFFORTS to cut traffic problems in the centre of an Essex town are being hindered by a "second-rate" bus service, it has been claimed.

Colchester's first car-free day yesterday saw Culver Street East and St Nicholas Street closed to traffic as organisers attempted to show what life could be like with less private vehicles on the roads.

But yesterday morning the roads in and around the town were as busy as ever, with drivers apparently unaware of the attempts to reduce congestion and pollution.

The event – called In Town Without My Car – was backed by Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS Trust and its chief executive, Peter Murphy, symbolically caught a bus from Colchester General to the centre of town.


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But yesterday environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth said bus users in the town did not feel as though they mattered.

Essex co-ordinator Paula Whitney said: "The fact is we are fighting to keep our bus station and we are being offered a second rate alternative.

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"The bus lane was removed from North Hill and the council is not giving the support it should. Instead of making improvements, it is taking things away.

"How can you expect people to stand in the rain or in places where there is nowhere to sit or not enough places to sit? The bus stops need to be upgraded.

"The trouble is that people who do not use the buses do not know what is missing."

She added that weekly bus tickets were good value and made unlimited bus travel a viable alternative but said people were unaware of them.

Colchester mayor John Bouckley, who attended the event by bus from West Mersea, said it would not be possible for him to travel by the same means to all his engagements.

"I came in by bus and it was a first class service – the bus was there and waiting. It was absolutely clean and on time, although when it left the island there were only six people on it," he said.

"My job as major of Colchester can have irregular hours and the buses do not cater for that.

"Buses have got be absolutely reliable as there is a 10 minute walk to the bus stop, when you get there if you have to wait 20 minutes or half an hour then it is no good."

Pam Nelson, the volunteer traffic co-ordinator for Colchester's environmental group en-formsaid: "It has gone really well. We have not done anything like properly fund advertising and promotion to make a difference in terms of the number of people on the roads.

"I am not surprised it has not made a difference to the number of people driving in. But this was all about registering with people that there can be an alternative.

"These things take years to get off the ground as it takes a long time for people to change their routine – but we have been talking to all the stall holders and the general feeling is how can we do this and what sort of time scale are we looking at?"

Chris Rawlinson, Colchester's town centre manager, said: "This is the first time we have done it. It is just to make people think rather than automatically jumping in the car."

Transport cabinet member for Colchester Borough Council, Richard Gower, said last night: "The council does care about bus users and have been working with the county council to provide enhanced information systems for passengers.

"The bus station is not being down graded, it is part of the St Botolph's regeneration which will give us a better and more suitable station."

He added that more people were using the buses and said it was a viable alternative to the car.

Yesterday's event was supported by en-form, the Colchester Town Partnership, the NHS and the Colchester 20-20 partnership.

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