“BUSINESS as usual” – that’s the upbeat message that Chester will give to visitors despite the closure of Hoole Bridge next month.
A positive unifying campaign is under way to counter the impact of repair work carried out by Network Rail on Hoole Bridge in February.
The bridge, which carries more than 20,000 vehicles a day, due to be closed for up to 12 weeks from February 11.
Chester MP Christine Russell called for spirited co-operation between the public and private sector and gave an optimistic appraisal of the bridge closure.
She said: “We needn’t be prophets of doom on the closure of Hoole Bridge, don’t forget that during the closure of the Grosvenor Bridge, people found alternative routes and ways of getting into Chester and it soon settled down.”
The adopted ‘Smile’ campaign has short-term targets of sustaining footfall during a challenging period.
Retailers from independent traders on Chester’s Rows to national chains have been working together.
A war chest of £20,000 has been raised as a fighting fund to ensure visitors are enticed into the city.
Projects in the pipeline are:
More staff training to enhance Chester’s reputation as customer-friendly,
Working with rail operators to provide the right the number of trains at the right time,
Ensuring Park & Ride operates over the right time period,
Making sure alternative road routes are well signed,
Street entertainment to attract visitors,
Media blitz to let customers know that Chester is open for business.
The Chronicle will give regular coverage on the campaign.
The Chamber of Commerce believes Chester’s private and public sectors will rise to the challenges ahead.
Acting chief executive Terry Mellor explained: “It will force a lot of people to sit round the table together and get around this.
“I think the message has to be that its business as usual.”
He also urged people living and working in the city to do their bit and buy locally.
David Pickering, chairman of Chester City Management, explained: “I think we can all work to the good of Chester, have some fun and create interest in the city. ”
Chester MP, Christine Russell, believes this challenge gives the city’s private and public sector a chance to concentrate on improving Chester’s ‘Welcome’ to visitors.
She said: “We know that next year there will 13 Virgin trains travelling directly to Chester from London and that will encourage more visitors and we can focus on the opportunities that come with that.”
Marks and Spencer in Chester is spearheading a retail awareness initiative to improve Chester’s retail ‘offer’ to visitors and enhance customer experience.
A new retail chain has this week announced a move into the city centre.
Alizari will open in Chester city centre at the end of February.
The ladies clothing and accessories store will be located at the Bridge Street entrance to the Mall Chester Shopping Centre.
The county council will co-ordinate traffic coming into Chester with diversion notices.
Traffic on the M53 and M56 should divert onto the A5117 at junction 10 on the M53 near Cheshire Oaks and use the A5117, A5032 and the A41 Liverpool Road.
Traffic approaching Chester along the A55 should leave at Sainsbury’s roundabout and use the A5115 Christleton Road and the A51 Boughton.
Through traffic from the M53 and A56 for the Sealand Road side of the city should turn right off the A56 onto the A41 and head for the A5116 Liverpool Road while traffic for the city centre should turn left for the Vicars Cross lights and use the A51 Tarvin Road and Boughton.
Local traffic in the area should use Brook Lane, Liverpool Road and St Oswald’s Way.