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Meltdown on the roads as visitors bring Brighton to a standstill
Thousands of visitors brought city streets to a standstill as the scorching start to the school holidays continued yesterday.
Tourism and transport chiefs say traffic queues in Brighton and Hove’s overwhelmed road system could put people off returning and damage the local economy in the long-term.
But council leaders said their policies of encouraging sustainable transport are working.
By about 6pm, Brighton and Hove Bus Company said 98 services were being affected by delays.
Managing director Roger French said: “It is sheer weight of traffic. The road network is unable to handle it.
“For a couple of days now, since the schools have been off and this good weather started, we have had long delays.
Councillor Ian DaveyIt is great the city is so popular. The really good news is more and more people are choosing to come here by bus and train
“Every road user is suffering very heavy congestion throughout the city.”
Temperatures in Brighton reached just under 25C yesterday (July 25).
Inland at Crawley they topped 30c.
Today (July 26), Brighton is predicted to peak at 27c and Crawley at 28c.
But tourist industry insiders fear that while people may be attracted to the city once, long traffic queues will put them off returning.
Claire Ottewell, chairwoman of the Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance, called for an “urgent review” and said transport planners, including those who schedule roadworks, should put tourism first.
She said: “What days like this prove is that people still want to visit Brighton by car and that has to be respected.
“We are a visitor economy.
“I get feedback from members all the time, saying people don’t want to come back. It begs the question, why haven’t we got better systems in place to cope with higher visitor numbers?”
In mid-afternoon, City Cabs drivers were also reporting problems getting around.
Andy Cheesman, managing director of City Cabs, said: “This is a tourist town. When the sun comes out, people are spending money. We are making it hard for people to come into the town.”
He said taxis were held up from mid-afternoon, as tourists and workers tried to go home at the same time.
Councillor Jason Kitcat , leader of the city’s ruling Green group, admitted: “I think it has long been recognised that we have a big transport challenge and we are certainly not there yet in terms of finding a lasting, workable solution.”
He said fewer people are coming to the city by car than by other means.
The Greens’ policies to ease congestion include using parking fees to discourage people from parking in the city centre and encourage them into multi-storey car parks instead.
Councillor Ian Davey , chairman of the council’s transport committee, said: “This city has always struggled to cope with the number of visitors coming by car.
“It is great the city is so popular. The really good news is more and more people are choosing to come here by bus and train.
“We want to smooth the route into the city for people making sustainable transport choices. Obviously, it is a question of finding the right balance.”