Lack of parking for coaches is driving people away
BRISTOL City Council has been accused of driving visitors away from the city.
A coach firm owner says he and other drivers were told to move on by traffic wardens while waiting to pick up theatregoers outside the Bristol Hippodrome.
Ian Miller, owner of Chaffeurhire based in Chipping Sodbury, says he believes the council's attitude towards visitors was "disgraceful" - and says no-one from the authority or tourism group Destination Bristol has taken him up on an offer of showing them how coaches could be better accommodated.
Mr Miller was one of seven coach drivers who were waiting with the vehicles to pick up people who had watched a matinee performance of the Lion King last week.
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They were approached by two of the council's traffic officers who, Mr Miller claims, told him they had been sent to tell the coaches to move on as they were "clogging up" rush hour traffic.
Mr miller accepts that some of the coaches were parked at the back of a regular bus stop but says this was because cars were parked in the spaces allocated for coaches.
He also said there was no room for coaches outside both the Hippodrome and the Colston Hall.
Mr Miller believes the council is "driving people away" by making coaches unwelcome.
He said: "Where can a 40ft coach go in the city centre? It's not like we can go away and come back, the traffic situation is ridiculous.
"The council should be promoting the city as a tourist destination but people cannot even go and see a show and be picked up easily afterwards.
"I contacted the council and Destination Bristol to tell them about the problem – and even offered them a ride around the city to point out what could be improved for coaches – but they were not interested."
Mr Miller said the wardens told him an agreement was in place with coach companies that they should pick people up in Prince Street. He said he and the other coach drivers had not heard about this arrangement and that it would be too far for some of the elderly people he was picking up to walk anyway.
The city council has told The Post that additional parking facilities have been laid on for coaches and that it has to take action against vehicles that block rush hour traffic to avoid long tailbacks.
Council spokeswoman Kate Hartas said: "The Hippodrome is a historic theatre that was in the centre of the city long before motor traffic was even invented, so it is important that we protect its success. Additional parking facilities have been put in place for coaches dropping off and picking up for matinee performances at the Bristol Hippodrome.
"The theatre's management team and the city council's transport officers recognised the need for more temporary coach parking arrangements. In particular the pick-up element after matinee performances coincides with evening rush hour and can cause problems with coaches blocking traffic lanes in the central area."
She said three temporary areas had been earmarked in the centre that would not affect the traffic flow:
â Space for two coaches in the loading bays outside the Hippodrome on Saint Augustine's Parade
â Space for three coaches on Prince Street inbound lane
â Space for one coach on Colston Street.
"These are in addition to the established long stay coach parking facilities in the city," said Ms Hartas.
"A leaflet advertising the new arrangements distributed to coach companies across the city and region. The council has to take action against coaches that block rush hour traffic and impede the bus stops.
"This is to prevent them severely inconveniencing road users who are trying to get home from work. A very long tailback builds very, very quickly from that location."