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Red route

Commuters in Wolverhampton will notice a difference this morning - the Red Route which bans parking along the busy A449 will no longer be in force. Kevin Chapman assesses the impact on the city and the wider West Midlands - and makes a grim a prediction.

While Wolverhampton opposition councillors have appeared to be following the saga of "Bournegate" with interest the coalition controlling the authority has pushed through one of the controversial changes pledged in the Conservative election manifesto last May.

The council has removed the “Red Route” along the A449 Stafford Road, which runs through the north of the city.

Wolverhampton Tory leader Councillor Neville Patten claimed that businesses and residents had complained about the Red Route, introduced in 2007, citing problems with parking – despite a consultation exercise being held prior to the red lines being painted to resolve any issues.

Regular Stirrer readers will remember that concerns about Patten's plans were expressed by West Midlands PTA Chair Councillor Gary Clarke (Con, Streetly) of Walsall MBC, although he admitted the PTA was powerless to do anything to force Wolverhampton to accept the Red Route, introduced as part of a West Midlands plan to reduce congestion. (see link here).

The PTA had also contributed funds to the scheme in the hope of giving bus passengers faster journeys through less snarl ups – money Wolverhampton bus passengers are unlikely to see the full benefit of. Whether Wolverhampton City Council will re-pay the money contributed by the PTA so it can spend it elsewhere in the West Midlands remains to be seen.

The Red Route was removed with effect from midnight on Friday. Whilst the redesigned junctions will remain it is expected work to repaint the red lines yellow will begin in the next few weeks; work which will have to be paid for by council tax payers in Wolverhampton. And the unilateral decision of Councillor Patten will also cost the West Midlands metropolitan councils dear – the Red Route scheme is one all of the authorities have jointly worked on to try and sort out traffic jams.

Future West Midlands transport projects are almost certain to be pared back or blocked by the Department for Transport – meaning all our councils could lose millions of pounds in funding.

Meanwhile there is always the possibility that those opposing Red Routes elsewhere – such as the traders on the A34 Stratford Road in Birmingham, could attempt to re-invigorate their campaigns citing the Wolverhampton decision (although on the A34 the orders enforcing the Red Route are now permanent and revocation would be difficult).

I predict that within weeks regular commuters on the A449 will once again become frustrated by hold ups, delays, and lax parking enforcement at previous hot-spots. Should one of Wolverhamptons key arteries grind to a halt and residents and travellers call for action – what will Granpa Patten do then?

Kevin Chapman is the Chair of the West Midlands Campaign for Better Transport


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