Yesterday’s image of Groundhog Day turned out to be an appropriate one, as we delved deeper into life before the Into Town Bus service which we mentioned alongside the work on the Market Place.On 25th February 2008 – just a few months before the buses began to roll – Boston Borough Council received a petition from the now-defunct Boston Bypass Pressure Group against the proposal to run bus services through the pedestrianised area of Strait Bargate.
Never afraid to run away when the opportunity presented itself, the Boston Bypass Independent council of the day referred the petition to its Overview and Scrutiny Committee of 10th April – doubtless because by then it would be on the discussion table too late for anything to be done about it.
The BBPG began – as almost everyone does – by saying that it had no objection to an improved bus service.
But it went on to claim that no analysis had been done to identify routes which met the needs of the public, and gave maximum benefit.
The argument by the service operators Brylaine – that congestion on John Adams Way meant that they could not maintain a timely cross-town service without running buses through Strait Bargate – was dismissed as a “false premise.”
The group referred to a public consultation in 2006.
“No question relating to a route through the pedestrianised area of Strait Bargate was included … however participants were asked a generalised question as to their views on traffic in pedestrianised areas.
“Of all the 1,449 responses received, only 1.1% (16) were in favour of traffic in pedestrianised areas.”
The consultation document further stated that traffic in pedestrianised areas was the least popular of the 15 options presented.
“We would say that was an overwhelming NO to this proposal, and yet this was ignored and the suggestion to run buses through Wide Bargate was included in the Transport Strategy document later that year.
“To the best of our knowledge there has been no consultation on the specific issue of buses running through Strait Bargate.
“It is not acceptable that the LCC undertakes an expensive public consultation exercise and then completely ignores its findings, further compounding the affront by not consulting on the plan that has since emerged.”
BBPG undertook its own straw poll – and even though it was far less exhaustive than the so-called consultation – “over a period of only five hours we collected well over 1,000 signatures against the proposal to run buses through Strait Bargate ....
“The strength of feeling on this issue was overwhelming, with people queuing to sign the petition. There was a great deal of anger expressed … from a wide section of the community including wheelchair users, OAP’s and young people. It was particularly notable that it was the elderly and disabled who were amongst the most vociferous.
“Strait Bargate is a popular area for shoppers with young children, the wheelchair bound and the elderly, who all find the seating arrangements and traffic free zone conducive to their needs. It has an air of vibrancy not found in other areas of the town.
“Risk assessors we have consulted have grave misgivings about buses being permitted to run in this area and echo many of the concerns expressed by the public.”
BBPG’s report underlined the risk of injury accidents, “particularly to unsupervised young children, the disabled, the elderly and (illegal) cyclists,” and warned of problems with pollution.
“A diesel-fuelled large vehicle travelling at 5mph will emit a far higher amount of pollutants than a vehicle travelling at normal speed. These pollutants will remain trapped for longer in a restricted space.
“Young children who have immature lungs, the disabled and the elderly, (who rest on the seating provided) many of whom suffer from chronic chest conditions, will be exposed to a far higher risk because of their proximity to exhaust fumes.”
And there was the now proven issue of damage to the block paving in Strait Bargate.
“Traffic engineers advise us that if the present paving in Strait Bargate was laid to meet standards required for pedestrianised areas, there is likelihood that this will not be able to withstand the constant use of power steered vehicles and will start to break up.”
All of this evidence was, of course, ignored in its entirety by the Boston Bypass Independents, who, it is said, unilaterally permitted the use of Strait Bargate as a rat run.
Although at election time in 2011, all other parties and individuals seeking our vote condemned the move, once in power, the Conservative leadership used the excuse that Brylaine had a five-year contract to run the service as a reason not to intervene – even though the issue of the route is separate from that of who operates it.
Now, of course, given that Brylaine is opposed to changing what for them is an easy to run and profitable route and will doubtless be backed by Lincolnshire County Council, it seems impossible to expect anything other than that the Tories who supposedly run Boston Borough Council will bend the knee and allow the status quo to maintain.
When they do so – there is no “if” involved here – they will have committed a major betrayal of the public.
But between now and then, let us hope that there are enough people inside the Worst Street chamber to give them a hard time and forcibly expose their shabby behaviour.
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