Travel "chaos" fears over road closure

A PUBLIC transport group has warned of travel chaos in a town if plans to shut a key bus route for up to three years are given the go-ahead.And last night a leading local politician called for a full rethink of a major urban regeneration project in the light of the potential problems.

By Roddy Ashworth

A PUBLIC transport group has warned of travel chaos in a town if plans to shut a key bus route for up to three years are given the go-ahead.

And last night a leading local politician called for a full rethink of a major urban regeneration project in the light of the potential problems.

Peter Kay, secretary of Colchester Bus Users' Support Group (C-BUS), said plans to close Osborne Street to traffic while the proposed Vineyard Gate development was built would severely disrupt the lives of shoppers, workers and visitors.

Closing Osborne Street would, he said, mean buses could not travel through to St John's Street, where the main bus stops for people heading west out of town are situated.

“These are the principle stops for west-bound traffic,” he said. “They are the equivalent to the stops in the High Street for east bound traffic.

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“It will not only impose major inconvenience to the passengers, but it will mean buses may not be able to stop between Queen Street and the Essex County Hospital on Lexden Road.

“The council seem to make these decisions without thinking about bus users at all.”

The plan to close Osborne Street to traffic is contained in a consultants' briefing document on the redevelopment of the St Botolph's Quarter, which was put before Colchester Borough Council's Cabinet last month.

The consultants have been asked to come up with plans for a temporary bus station while a £16.5 million arts centre is built nearby, blocking access to the current facility.

The briefing reads: “The construction of the regional visual arts building will block the entrance of east hill into the existing bus station but it may be possible to use part of the old bus station in this scheme.

“Although still available at this time it is likely that Osborne Street will close to all traffic during the construction of the Vineyard Gate retail development, approx 2007-09.

“An alternative to the existing bus route will need to be considered.”

Yesterday Tim Young, leader of the Labour Group at the town hall, said: “I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Kay for bringing this to our attention.

“It is just another example of the council not thinking through the consequences of this development.

“In the light of this, we shall be asking questions of the chief executive, because it sounds as if it will cause chaos in the town centre for a lengthy period of time.”

However, Robert Davidson, Colchester Borough Council cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, said expert external consultants had been hired to provide solutions to the problems outlined in the briefing.

He added: “This is exactly why we identified the potential problems - so the professional consultants can find solutions to these problems before we move forward.

“We want to be able to reassure both the bus users and the general public that there is a viable alternative.

“We have always recognised that there will be a period of disruption while this major regeneration is taking place, but it is in everybody's interests that public transport services are maintained and efficient.

“That is exactly why we have gone for professional advice as to how to do it for the best benefit of the town.”

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