AN EXPERIMENT to relax the Hillsborough bus and tram gates outside peak hours is set to be made permanent, despite objections from bus operators and transport managers about longer journey times.
Council highways officers say there has only been a “marginal” increase in journey times for public transport as a result of allowing cars through the gates between 11am and 3pm – and other reaction has been positive.
“Residents, businesses and visitors to Hillsborough are now used to this arrangement and generally seem happy with the change,” they say.
However, officers are to continue monitoring traffic flows after seeing a “significant” increase on Langsett Road, some vehicles switching from Penistone Road, which was designed to be the main through route. There are concerns that Bradfield Road and Holme Lane may become more congested.
Traffic lights are being adjusted to compensate but if delays build up generally for cars or public transport, the council will look again at the situation, including the possibility of reintroducing the restrictions between Langsett Road and Middlewood Road.
The council launched the 18-month experiment to relax the day-long bus and tram gates around Hillsborough Corner after motorists complained about having to make long diversions and traders said their businesses were suffering.
While much more traffic flows through the gates, numbers of empty shops in Hillsborough have fallen slightly since the changes, although this cannot be explained by a single factor, says the authority.
Councillors were considering the way ahead today (Thursday) under pressure from bus operators and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to think again. Bus firms point to delays for public transport and feel there is no solid evidence to indicate an improvement to the Hillsborough economy.
Highways officers respond: “It is acknowledged that the relaxation in operational hours of the bus and tram gate has had some impact, notably marginal increases in some public transport journey times. However, it is considered these are not severe enough to warrant its removal.
“Feedback from public transport users and visitors to Hillsborough shopping centre has been positive. The small increases in journey times go unnoticed by public transport passengers whilst the highways network has demonstrated sufficient space capacity to accommodate the additional traffic.”
There is the option to restore the operation of the bus and trams gates to between 7am and 7pm. “However, this is not supported by many residents and businesses, or by local councillors.”