Public transport is more green than the motor car but not if you live next door to Chester’s new bus interchange where more than 70 buses per hour drive past residents’ homes generating noise and exhaust fumes.
Now people living in George Street, Oulton Place and Gorse Stacks are invited to a public meeting at the Quaker Meeting House, Frodsham Street, this Thursday (July 27) at 7pm to discuss the problem.
Chester MP Chris Matheson will be attending with representatives from Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) invited to attend. Council leader and ward member Cllr Samantha Dixon won’t be there as the meeting clashes with a long-standing speaking engagement with business leaders in Northwich.
Widower Michael Willett, 83, who has lived at the Waterside View sheltered housing complex for 24 years, organised the meeting because he is fed up that the noise and dust of construction has now been replaced by something even worse.
“I’ve been fighting the bus interchange since 2014. We were told what was going to happen, that was the consultation,” said Mr Willett, whose eyes sting due to the exhaust fumes. “I have to keep the triple glazing closed so I have only got air coming from the corridor.”
Summarising the problems, Mr Willett, who uses a crutch to walk but also drives his own car, added: “Noise and fumes and traffic parking on the pavement – the amount of traffic that goes straight across the pavement! I don’t want a car coming down the pavement towards me.”
He said buses go on the pavement when drivers become impatient if they can’t get past. Taxis park on the pavement to drop people off.
Mr Willett carried out his own traffic count and found 75 buses went past his window in one hour between 11.30am and 12.30pm on Wednesday, July 5. Bus drivers have been told to switch off their engines while parked up and most seem to comply although he points out they ‘make a hell of a racket’ on starting up.
Neighbour Joe Kerr, 76, who has lived at Waterside View with his wife Muriel for 23 years, said: “It was a car park, which was no problem at all, but now we are subjected to tremendous noise and during the building work it was horrendous.”
He says buses operate from 6am until midnight each day.
Mr Kerr, a former policeman and soldier, said of the pollution: “You can smell it. Most have been told to switch their engines off when they are stationary but you get the odd one who disregards the advice.”
A bus user, Mr Kerr wishes more buses would use the other side of the bus station away from his housing complex. He also complains about vehicles mounting the pavement outside.
He added: “It was an ideal place for us being next to shopping. Everything was brilliant. That’s why we took it. We have thought about moving but at 76, do you really want to move at this stage in your life? Why should I pay the same council tax as someone from Vicars Cross when I've got this on my front door?”
The Chronicle has also been contacted by concerned tenants in Oulton Place who complain about their bedrooms being filled with exhaust fumes as they go to sleep at night.
Chester MP Chris Matheson has met with residents of Waterside Court.
He said: “I’m not an expert in traffic management or air pollution but the council pays people who are so we are waiting to hear what their solutions are. The status quo isn’t an option.”
The MP is also hoping to gain ex gratia payments in compensation such as a free Christmas meal for residents and a possible council tax reduction through the Valuation Office.
Lynne McKie, CWaC team leader, information, concessions and travelcard, planning and strategic transport, has written to Mr Willett explaining what is being done to address the situation including the possibility of introducing electric buses on the park and ride service.
In addition, four more NO2 monitors have been installed in George Street, Oulton Place, St Anne’s Place and the bus interchange.
Ms McKie added: “Results for 2016 and interim results for 2017 indicate that the monitoring sites on George Street and Gorse Stacks comply with the national standards whereas those adjacent to St Oswald’s Way do not.”
She continued: “The strategy will aim to improve local air quality via a wide range of measures including planning policy, parking strategy, taxi licensing, fleet management and encouraging the uptake of ultra low emission vehicles. Recently, a number of buses operating in the Chester area have been retrofitted with emission-reducing technology using funding from the Department for Transport.
"All buses operating on the council’s Park and Ride service comply with the latest ‘Euro VI’ emission standards but, in an effort to improve emissions further, we have submitted a bid to the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to transform the park and ride to a fully electric service.”
She said bus drivers were supposed to switch off their engines while stationary.
“We are also seeking to adopt powers across the borough to control idling vehicles on the road network. Drivers failing to switch off on request may be issued with a fixed penalty notice,” she added.