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Govt and GSD clash over Line Wall traffic plan

Eyleen Gomez

The GSD yesterday called on the Gibraltar Government to abandon its phased implementation of traffic restrictions on Line Wall as from June 1, describing the plan as “rushed” and “ill thought out.”

The Opposition was reacting after the government modified its original plan and said it will progress the project in phases, meaning the road will only be subject to restrictions for three days of the week.

The government responded by saying it was “disappointed” with the GSD’s comments, urging the Opposition to back its plans for a greener Gibraltar.

Earlier this week, the government said Line Wall Road will close on Monday June 1 as planned, except for defined categories of road users, but will open for the rest of the week before closing again at the weekend.

It will operate on the basis of having restricted access on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays initially during June.

The GSD said the government had “climbed down” from its initial decision to restrict traffic on Line Wall because it had failed to properly plan how to implement this idea, or properly consulted on it.

“Rather than continue regardless with a pilot project from Saturdays to Mondays, it should abandon the proposed implementation until such time as it has done proper groundwork, invested in infrastructure to support its plans and persuaded the public of the merits of its ideas,” the GSD said in a statement.

“This should not be rammed through on June 1.”

According to the Opposition, the insistence on implementing a three-day-a-week pilot project showed the government's “poor handling” of its traffic and transport policy.

The Gibraltar Government, the GSD said, was ignoring the concerns of thousands of people in the community who had expressed strong views on the subject.

The party said that discouraging the use of vehicles required “serious work” on traffic modelling and wide-scale consultation before making changes to the road network and infrastructure.

"A plan to reduce use of vehicles by our citizens requires serious and detailed planning with wide-spread consultation and not a suddenly rushed through and ill thought out announcement to be implemented by 1 June,” said GSD MP Elliott Phillips, who shadows the transport portfolio.

“The original plan failed to fully appreciate the implications of the closure of a major arterial road in our network affecting the lives of many people in our community and could have been avoided if the Government had done all the groundwork necessary to implement significant changes to our roads.”

“The recent rowing back on the announcement to close Line Wall Road and the widespread revolt by our community is the clearest sign that the Government is disconnected from the views of many working families, small to medium size business and the elderly on traffic management.”

GOVT REACTS

Last night, the Gibraltar Government dismissed the suggestion that the Line Wall plan had been announced without sufficient groundwork.

The government said it had announced its green agenda in its first term of office and had sought to deliver, following extensive consultation and advice from a specialist UK firm, a comprehensive Sustainable Traffic and Transport Parking Plan [STTP] as the backbone of its transport policies.

“It is incredible that this was only the first ever published Sustainable Traffic, Transport and Parking Plan,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“The GSD attacked the GSLP/Liberal government then by saying our plan took too long. Now they criticise us for going too fast.”

“That sounds like they will criticise anything we do in this area of policy.”

The government said the STTPP was published on the foundations of extensive consultation and traffic modelling, and sought to better understand Gibraltar’s “complex and challenging” road transport network and infrastructure.

It said that, against the backdrop of climate change, the commitment to schemes of this nature was in keeping with the government’s obligation to build a greener and healthier Gibraltar for future generations.

The GSLP/Liberals, No.6 added, won the last election on a platform of developing a green Gibraltar, a child-friendly city that the planned road closures were designed to deliver.

The government said there would be a “live consultation” once the measures were phased in, adding that political partners, affected sectors and members of the community had been consulted and that this would continue as the schemes were unrolled.

It urged the GSD to support the government’s policy agenda to develop a “clean, sustainable and healthy” city.

“The Government is genuinely disappointed with the GSD and Mr Phillips’ comments,” said Vijay Daryanani, the Minister for Transport and Traffic.

“Although as he has taken up on the offer to work with my team and attended meetings to discuss de-livery and implementation of the schemes, he chooses to suggest [the Gibraltar Government] has not done adequate groundwork.”

“We have worked so well together for our nation on the pandemic that it is a pity we cannot work together on this also.”

“One day Mr Phillips is criticising us for being too slow and consulting too much and the next he is criticising us for going too fast and not consulting enough.”

“I really do hope he will come round and work with us on delivering a great project for current and future generations.”

“That’s what we are really elected to do and it is what I am committed to delivering.”

Mr Daryanani said his ministry would continue to “actively” consult as many members of the community as possible to deliver and promote sustainable transport.

He said “the great majority" of people who had contacted the government were “hugely supportive and excited” by the plans.

“I know that includes many GSD members who have got in touch and who have expressed to me how disappointed they are with the GSD in this area of policy,” he said.

“We are going to deliver the Green Gibraltar that people voted for and want.”

“That will be our child-friendly city of the future for generations to come.”

“I invite the GSD to work with us and not against us on this exciting agenda.”