CRISIS talks will be held by transport chiefs to stop a repeat of the traffic chaos that brought Southampton to a standstill.
Cllr Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council, has arranged an emergency meeting between councillors, highways officers, and cruise ship operators after a major route to the docks ground to a halt again.
As reported by the Daily Echo, motorists were stuck in traffic for more than three hours in West Quay Road on Friday as thousands of passengers made their way to five docked cruise ships in Southampton, with tailbacks reported as far away as the M271.
Some abandoned taxis and were forced to drag heavy luggage to cruise terminals in pouring rain, while others were forced to urinate on the side of the road as the wait became unbearable.
The chaos was described as “embarrassing” and taxi drivers in the city warned people may never return to Southampton as a result.
The congestion was blamed on the five cruise ships in port, and ongoing roadworks in Platform Road.
Now Cllr Letts said it is time to take action to ensure it never happens again ahead of another busy week for the city’s cruise industry, with significant traffic expected to hit the same stretch of road tomorrow, Wednesday and Friday.
Cllr Letts, leader of the Southampton Labour group, said the emergency meeting will be held tomorrow, and expects an urgent report on what went wrong on Friday to be on his desk today.
He said: “I have called for an urgent meeting for all parties to have a full review of where we are and to answer what happened on Friday to ensure it will never happen again.
“It doesn’t do the reputation of the city any good for people to be held for several hours in traffic jams.
“The appropriate officers will get together and I have requested the attendance of cruise operators too.
“I have been told the current set of roadworks will end in early April, and at no point between now and April will we have five cruise ships in the city.
“We need some action.”
Cllr Jacqui Rayment, the cabinet member responsible for transport, reiterated her apology to those caught up in the standstill and said her “heart sank” when she heard of the chaos.
She said: “We have called for a meeting on Tuesday to get people round the table, including partners, Balfour Beatty and senior executives from the council to see where we are.
“I have apologised once and I am happy to apologise again.
“We need to constantly review that what we do is working. I am led to believe there were plans in place to deal with the increased volume of cruises.
“Having had a number of days in the lead up to Christmas where there were traffic issues, I am disappointed with what we had in place doesn’t appear to have helped the situation.
“It’s not acceptable for anyone. While I cannot pledge it won’t happen again, we said before Christmas there would be measures in place but that’s obviously failed and I need to find out why.”