Unpopular bus lane to be scrapped

EXCLUSIVEBy Roddy AshworthA PLEDGE to scrap one of Colchester's most controversial attempts at traffic management – a town centre bus lane – is to implemented within weeks.


By Roddy Ashworth

A PLEDGE to scrap one of Colchester's most controversial attempts at traffic management – a town centre bus lane – is to implemented within weeks.

The removal of the bus lane on North Hill, condemned by the Conservatives as an act of supreme folly when it was introduced in 1998, will be ordered at the end of next month.

The unpopular bus lane – which bars traffic from parking on the hill during working hours – has been widely criticised by businesses, who claimed it had caused a marked downturn in their passing trade.

Now Colchester Borough Council transport supremo Christopher Arnold plans to order the axing of the controversial scheme.

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Mr Arnold denied the move was aimed purely at bolstering Conservative support in the run-up to May's council elections, but admitted he wanted it "out of the way" during the last weeks before the vote.

"It is not an electoral ploy, but I don't want a consultation period running through an election campaign," said Mr Arnold.

The green paint of the North Hill bus lane is likely to be removed in the autumn as part of routine maintenance work.

At the same time, parking along the opposite side of the road will be reinstated to allow shoppers and commercial operators access to businesses on the hill.

"We are going to do this as road maintenance because the road is falling apart anyway. The surface needs grinding down for repairs," said Mr Arnold.

"Work will also be done to the kerbs on the western side so that students coming out of Colchester Sixth Form College can see both up and down the road.

"There will be disabled parking spaces outside the two doctors' surgeries and also some building out around the entrance to Balkerne Passage to improve visibility."

Mr Arnold said he believed the bus lane should never have been laid down once councillors had known they were going to proceed with the Middleborough road alterations.

"It was a leftover from an idea to stop traffic turning right into High Street from Head Street. It was thought that would cause hold-ups on North Hill because all traffic would be accessing the High Street from there, so the bus lane was proposed. It was half a road scheme," he added.

Mr Arnold said although the plan to remove the bus lane would be subject to a brief public consultation, he did not expect much opposition to the idea.

"Perhaps surprisingly, the bus companies do not object. They don't think it's providing much in the way of bus priority," he added.

Business people on North Hill said they were delighted to learn the controversial bus lane was to be scrapped.

Giles Vincent, owner of Greenacres commercial and residential letting management, said: "We have only been here since November, but we know people who have moved to other areas of town because of the bus lane.

"We will definitely be pleased to see it go. Business that needs passing trade won't get it with the bus lane there. I would be really shocked if anyone with a frontage on North Hill said anything else."

Meanwhile, the Conservatives on Colchester Borough Council hope to exploit splits within the two other major parties when voters go to the ballot box in May.

The Labour presence on the council – which was decimated in last year's poll – has not been helped by a high-profile internal feud between councillors.

Last week three members of the Liberal Democrat group quit their party, launching a strong condemnation on the town's Liberal Democrat MP, Bob Russell.

In a letter to the trio, Mr Russell warned the Conservatives would benefit from their resignations and admitted local Tories were "beginning to get their act together".

The resignations meant Conservative borough councillors now outnumber every other group at the Town Hall and their group leader John Jowers will consult members today on whether he should press to take over the leadership of the council from Liberal Democrat Colin Sykes.


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