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Who is to blame for traffic chaos in Southampton city centre?
RED-FACED transport chiefs are today holding top-level talks after traffic ground to a halt in Southampton city centre for the second time in two weeks.
A quadruple whammy of major roadworks, thick fog, two cruise ships in port and thousands of Christmas shoppers pouring into the city conspired to cause chaos – just 15 days after horrendous jams caused even worse misery.
One taxi firm boss reported a half-mile journey taking more than an hour – with some of his drivers giving up and going home for the day – while cruise passengers waited nearly an hour to get out of the port.
Last night business owners and opposition politicians branded it a “humiliation” for the city in the run-up to the festive season and demanded that city council chiefs rethink two sets of roadworks in Platform Road and Itchen Bridge.
Today council transport executive Cllr Jacqui Rayment will meet the council’s transport officers and the authority’s roadworks contractor Balfour Beatty.
Cllr Rayment, who was herself stuck in the jams, refused to comment about whether the works would be rescheduled ahead of Christmas to ease the misery.
But last night she said: “There were some problems at Dock Gate 4 today and I have called for a special meeting tomorrow to see if there’s anything more we can do.
“I want to be reassured we are doing everything we can.”
The works include creating a cycle-friendly junction near Central Bridge and work to convert Platform Road and Town Quay into a dual carriageway.
The delays mainly affected the Dock Gate 4 area, with Platform Road, Terminus Terrace, Canute Road, Itchen Bridge and West Quay Road affected as the Queen Mary and Queen Victoria cruise liners docked in the city.
West Quay Cars boss Lee Haynes, whose drivers were beset with delays, said: “It makes Southampton look stupid.
We’ve got people coming into the city for cruise ships who have spent a fortune on their holiday and they are faced with this.
“The council hasn’t learned its lesson from last time.”
Balfour Beatty tried to ease the flow by changing the light sequencing controls in Saltmarsh Road and begging port owners Associated British Ports (ABP) to speed vehicle checks in the docks.
But traffic lights in Terminus Terrace also broke down for nearly two hours, meaning stop and go boards were used.
Tory opposition leader Cllr Royston Smith branded it a “humiliation”, saying it would put off Christmas shoppers, and added: “This has happened just days after previous problems.
“The council hasn’t learned from it and it’s damaging to business and the city’s reputation.
“They need to take responsibility.”
But in an earlier statement issued by the city council’s press office, Cllr Rayment apologised to motorists but stressed that the works were essential in improving the city’s infrastructure and docks expansion.
She added: “There will be occasions when there is simply more traffic on the roads than usual.
“Christmas is the busiest time of year for most cities around the country and Southampton is no exception.”
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