Tyne & Wear

Newcastle's Blackett Street closure plans face opposition

Blackett Street, Newcastle
Image caption Blackett Street had been a major bus route and stopping place

A bus company is fighting a city centre road closure after losing 120,000 passengers because of it.

Stagecoach has revealed passenger numbers decreased by 19% when services were rerouted to accommodate Christmas markets on Newcastle's Blackett Street.

More than 600 people have signed a petition against plans to close the road permanently.

Newcastle City Council has said it is "simply not true" to claim the closure was wholly unpopular with shoppers.

A spokesman said it wanted to "prioritise public transport" and was consulting on "ambitious proposals that are aimed at transforming our city centre" which could involve changes to vehicle access.

Stagecoach said more than 30,000 of its lost passengers were elderly or disabled, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

"Stagecoach North East has repeatedly expressed concerns over the likelihood that closing one of the city's key corridors would have a detrimental impact on the level of accessibility for vulnerable bus users, and it is now clear that those concerns have been realised," it said.

Image caption The council has plans to pedestrianise a further section of Blackett Street

The council's plans, which include pedestrianising nearly all of Blackett Street and part of Pilgrim Street, are expected to cost more than £10m to implement.

City centre businesses and street traders are being warned delivery vehicles could be banned between 07:00 and 22:00.

Council cabinet member Arlene Ainsley said it was important the city was "safe and welcoming".

"Our intention is for buses to use alternative routes through the city while continuing to stop at locations close to the main shopping areas," she said.

"As we seek to encourage more people out of their cars in order to improve our air quality, we need to ensure that public transport remains a convenient choice."

A public consultation will run until 31 January.

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