It was a day of traffic chaos. I spotted a tourist coach going past the Ludlow Assembly Rooms at 12:33pm. There was no way it was going to get out of the town centre. Brand Lane was closed – and will be for the next two days. I’d arrived back at Mill Street after a call from Tim Gill, Ludlow’s mayor, who had told me that an HGV was stuck in the town centre because of the Brand Lane closure.
This was a conundrum indeed. The official diversion route is down Dinham and over the Whitcliffe. There was a danger that the HGV would tip on the hairpin bend. But we soon learnt this huge truck was not even going to be able to negotiate Dinham to get to the bridge. The coach would probably have grounded out on the hairpin. It was a no go for both vehicles. It took us hours to get them out of town.
We have been arguing about these roadworks with Shropshire Council for weeks. A three-day closure of the only HGV exit from Ludlow town centre was always unacceptable. I cannot believe it takes three days and nights to install electricity and water connections to a single house. Tim Gill and I have warned about the disruption and the town council made an eleventh hour request for a rethink last week. This request was ignored.
First thing this morning, we found the signage was inadequate and trucks were using the Linney. Officers agreed to provide extra signage.
Then the truck got stuck. It shouldn’t have been in the town centre but on every other day would have been able to exit via Brand Lane. However, this driver was well and truly out of options with Brand Lane closed.
Our Ludlow Safer Neighbourhood Team were called – the police to you and me. They were excellent. With the failure of Shropshire Council to provide solutions or arrive on site, we agreed on two strategies.
We took the bus – full of overseas tourists who had spent money in our town – down Dinham. I had told the driver that if he could get down Dinham, he could negotiate the Linney. Just a few minutes later, I was beginning to doubt my judgement. But we got there, slowly, carefully, with only one reversal. I take my hat off to the driver, who looked so relieved when he saw the Corve Street junction. There was a spontaneous round of applause. I guess the passengers had thought they might have been trapped in a rainy Ludlow forever.
The HGV was more difficult. I had walked down Dinham with the driver and the coach driver earlier. While the coach driver was nervously happy, the HGV driver shook his head and said, “No. No, I’ll take that wall out.”
The only way to get the HGV out was to close the town centre for a while. West Mercia Police blocked all traffic from entering King Street at the Bull Ring junction and at Broad Street. Two police cars and three officers ensured that the truck could drive the wrong way through our town.
This was a great job on the part of our Ludlow policing team but frankly a stupid waste of their resources.
Shropshire Council has agreed to provide a sign at the Bull Ring junction banning HGVs and coaches from the town centre. That will perhaps prevent a repeat of today’s chaos. But it will stop tourist buses dropping people off who spend money in our town. It could also block deliveries to our businesses.
This was not the only calamity of the day. Four passengers missed the daily 745 service to Clun and Bishop’s Castle, not knowing that Minsterley buses aren’t calling in the town centre. A passenger was wandering around looking for the Builth Wells bus – a service that takes people into mid-Wales once a week. It didn’t call at its appointed stop. The 490 Hereford bus passed within metres of passengers waiting at the usual bus stop – but not the bus stop that service was using today. I redirected several people who were waiting for the town buses outside the Ludlow Assembly Rooms. The 701 and 722 are departing from the Compasses at present.
To add to the general chaos of the day, a construction vehicle for the Pepper Lane housing development was parked in Old Street for most of the day and a truck got tuck under the railway bridge on Sheet Road for around 15 minutes.
This whole episode – and we still have two days of closure to go – has been badly handled by Shropshire Council. The council maintained email silence throughout last week as we tried to resolve the details of diversions.
Today, you can’t get through to the Shropshire Council call centre without hearing a message about roadworks in Shrewsbury. Dozens of press releases have been issued about those but not a single word about the roadworks in Ludlow. That says it all.