Yesterday the Express & Star broke the news that as many as 80 new red routes could be initiated on West Midlands roads by 2015, despite the furious objection of many traders who fear these ‘no-stopping zones’ could devastate their business.
Some 260miles of red routes would cost taxpayers more than £28m, adding to the seven already in place around the conurbation, namely three in Birmingham, two in Sandwell and two in Walsall.
Councillors like Sandwell’s Bob Badham are keen to promote the benefits of free-flowing traffic and point to London as an example of this plan in action, but we shouldn’t forget the prominent and much publicised failure of the red route closer to home.
Wolverhampton’s trial on Stafford Road was subject to a campaign by local businessmen and subsequently torn out after just 18months, with the very man who commissioned the project, Councillor Milkinder Jaspal, holding his hands up and admitting that the £2.4m scheme was a waste of money:
“I had my doubts from day one to be honest, but went ahead with it as an experiment for 12months. I believed double yellow lines would do the same job, and I suppose that’s been proved”.
Hardly a great advert for something that will cost us all £28m to buy…
What is more, it’s not just traders these routes affect, it’s ordinary residential homeowners too, and though there’s only seven of these 80 red routes in place so far, the ‘Anti-Red Route Residents’ action groups has already been founded. They claim that these roads represent a huge inconvenience as many houses don’t have drives and therefore families have no room to accommodate visitors or deliveries. Only time will tell how this might affect house prices too.
Some businesses are less vehement, but simply claim that all the faff and expense surrounding this scheme is unjustified as, in actual fact, red routes have made very little difference. The manager of Timpsons on Walsall Road claims that people stop anyway (and therefore the easing of congestion is limited) and there are just more wardens now handing out tickets. A nice little revenue raiser in the long term perhaps, but hardly acceptable.
But some businesses are genuinely fearful, especially in the current economic climate. The very traders that councils and quangos are desperately trying to provide ‘help’ for in the form of a plethora of questionable schemes, fairs and advice sessions, could potentially be forced to closed by this other bright idea which threatens to cancel their other schemes out for those it affects.
Jenny Mann is the MD of Manns Carpets which has been based on the A545 Wolverhampton Road for over 30 years:
“This could devastate us. We pay rates, we employ people and bring revenue into the town. I put in objections at the time with other businesses on the road but it was still passed. Things are tough enough as it is, and this could force me out of business, meaning redundancies”.
These comments just go to show that this is very real for some people and the potential consequences of a web of red routes are something that should worry us all. There’s a big picture to this, and it isn’t just about road traffic and congestion, it’s about jobs and businesses and families and the recession. We’ve every reason to oppose the implementation of these routes – we’ve seen one fail miserably at a cost of millions of pounds, so before playing with the livelihoods of people in the West Midlands, our elected councillors should be questioning whether this plan is 100% full proof, and if the answer reveals the slightest doubt, it should be shelved for the good of us all.