Big U-turn over Prom zebra crossing

Blackpool taxi drivers (from left) Les Hamer, Steve Buckley and Bill Lewtas.
Blackpool taxi drivers (from left) Les Hamer, Steve Buckley and Bill Lewtas.
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A rogue zebra crossing lambasted for causing crippling queues on the Prom is to be axed after a shock U-turn by transport chiefs.

Frustrated motorists have long complained the crossing to the north of the junction with New Bonny Street is the cause of heavy congestion on the revamped Prom.

Today the crossing is closed and work will begin on Monday March 4 to scrap it for good.

Taxi driver Steve Buckley said: “Common sense has prevailed.

“Hopefully this will get traffic moving again.”

Drivers have complained about congestion ever since the Promenade was reduced from four lanes by the then-Conservative-led council to two to create a new shared space carriageway for motorists and pedestrians, which opened in June 2011.

A 20mph speed limit was introduced but highways bosses said the removal of three sets of traffic lights meant traffic would not travel any slower because it would not stop and start as much. However long queues have regularly formed in both directions ever since.

The zebra crossing to be removed is currently one of three crossings on the stretch of carriageway between New Bonny Street and North Pier.

A fourth will be installed outside the Tower, so there would still be three crossings on the 700-yard section.

But the crossing being removed is blamed for causing most jams as traffic cannot get through the junction, even when the traffic lights are on green, because drivers must give way to pedestrians at the zebra.

Mr Buckley said: “We felt this crossing was too close to the lights which is why traffic was backing up. By the time you had waited for pedestrians to cross, you were facing a red light and so only four or five vehicles could get through at a time.”

Paul Bottle, a driver for C Cabs, added: “It’s a step in the right direction and will help ease congestion. But I’d still like the council to look at the whole thing again because it is so dangerous for people because there are no kerbs and they can’t make out where the road is and what is the pavement.”

Philip Higgs, managing director of ClassicBus Northwest which operates summer services along the Promenade, said it had been a long but worthwhile battle to reduce congestion.

He added: “I appreciate the council’s willingness to take drastic action to improve matters before Easter is very positive.”

Bill Lewtas, of Blackpool Licensed Taxi Association, said he was happy meetings with the now Labour-controlled council had proved fruitful.

He added: “The traffic sometimes moves grindingly slowly and we wanted to suggest some improvements.”

The council has also reinstated two lanes of traffic on New Bonny Street to ease congestion.

Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member with responsibility for highways, said: “We are hoping these two measures will ease congestion in that area.

“We have a good dialogue with the taxi drivers and we have accepted drivers may have a very good argument and we are going to make these changes and see how it goes for the next few months. If there is a positive result, it will have been a job worth doing.”

A controlled pedestrian crossing will be integrated into the existing traffic lights at the junction of the New Bonny Street and the Promenade.

The work is due to take two weeks to complete.

It is not yet known how much it will cost, but the cash will come from the council’s existing highways budget.

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