There are calls for a 'total review' of the redesign of Liverpool city centre roads after chaotic scenes over the festive period.
The run up to Christmas saw scenes of gridlock on roads around the city centre, with huge queues of traffic in key areas and drivers waiting hours to get in and out of car parks. Police were forced to intervene to try and help direct traffic around The Strand, Scotland Road, Islington, Hunter Street and Brownlow Hill as well as other areas.
Some frustrated motorists even called for a "revolution" after being stuck in Mount Pleasant car parks for several hours. While it is worth pointing out that rail strikes before Christmas will have added to the problems, Liverpool Council is said to be aware of the issues on the roads in the city centre.
Liverpool's opposition leader believes that a controversial redesign of key roads around the city centre has contributed to the problems of traffic flow. The council's City Centre Connectivity Scheme has seen major revamps of The Strand and the area around Lime Street as well as other connecting routes.
In a letter to the council's interim head of roads and traffic Karen Agbabiaka, Cllr Richard Kemp said: "You may be aware that there have been major problems in Liverpool City Centre in the run up to and during Christmas. Many people have had huge difficulty getting out of car parks which has had the knock-on effect of people not being able to get into them. Reports have come in of waits of up to two hours to get out of car parks in Victoria Street, Lime Street and Mount Pleasant.
"It is obvious that there are no more cars coming into Liverpool than there were pre-covid and that the snarl up is closely located around the Lime Street area." He referenced media reports that were "full of comments about ‘never again’ with people clearly not wanting to venture into our shops", adding: "This will damage our ritual offer in future years."
Cllr Kemp added: "This is not just a Christmas effect. There are clearly issues in the area to the top of Lime Street Station where traffic has been forced onto roads to get to the Old and New tunnels some of which would clearly have gone through Lime Street with few delays."
"When I got a taxi from Lime Street in early December it cost me £4.20 just to get out of the station." He went on to suggest that new cycle lanes in the Lime Street area are "hardly used" and that one of the junctions created is dangerous for those on bikes.
In his letter, the senior councillor said he believes the council's wider connectivity scheme has been a "major mistake" that has "failed to either remove traffic or speed it through." He added: "It has the increased the amount of time people spend in city centre traffic queues with idling engines. It has not increased either bus use or more cycling. In other words, it appears to have failed in its primary objectives and made matters worse."
Cllr Kemp urged the council to now have a "complete review" of what has been done in terms of the redesign of the city centre and the impact this has had. He added; "A failure to act will mean that the use of facilities in the centre will decrease."
The city councillor posted his comments on social media, with some in agreement and others contesting elements of his statement. Gary Kilroy said: "It's far from obvious that there are no more cars coming into Liverpool city centre post covid, in fact ONS data suggests otherwise with traffic at weekends around 10% higher than pre covid. The weekend in question was also a national rail strike."
Cycling campaigner Paul was not impressed, adding: "Here we go again! Short sighted, no alternative suggestions apart from give in to drivers."
The Liverpool Wanderer account had an explanation for some of the issues in the area, stating: "One of the big issues is a lack of enforcement of the restrictions that were implemented, and I'd absolutely argue they didn't go far enough anyway. Cars are banned from heading east on St John's Lane & left onto Lime St but nobody cares due to no enforcement. This delays buses."
Responding to Cllr Kemp's comments, a Liverpool City Council spokesperson said: “There was traffic congestion around Lime Street before Christmas which coincided with national rail strikes and the busy shopping period and our staff worked to proactively manage the situation as best they could.
"The aim of the Lime Street scheme is to improve accessibility for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, and improve road safety and air quality levels in the city centre. We want to encourage and promote more sustainable modes of transport other than private cars.
"The experimental scheme is currently subject to a public consultation and we will be formally considering feedback when this ends in April 2023, and amendments will be made if required. We are constantly reviewing the first phase of the Liverpool City Centre Connectivity scheme and will be undertaking a lessons learned exercise once it is complete, so we can build any learning into future transport programmes.”