‘You can’t please everyone with traffic,’ Balban says
Dealing with traffic issues in Gibraltar is “a poisoned chalice”, Transport Minister Paul Balban said yesterday, as he insisted that it was impossible to keep all drivers happy.
Mr Balban confessed his frustration during a candid question-and-answer session with members of the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses.
The minister took questions on issues ranging from the taxi service and loading bays to parking, and set out the goals of the recently-published the Sustainable Traffic, Transport, and Parking Plan.
But as he was quizzed on how changes to commercial delivery hours, loading bays and parking would impact local businesses, Mr Balban replied in frank terms.
He spoke about the difficulty in trying to create a plan that would appease most people while generally benefitting the community and reducing traffic.
“There is always going to be someone unhappy,” Mr Balban said.
“I think this is a poisoned chalice, no matter what I do to try and make things better there is always going to be an element of unhappiness.”
He added that plans to curb the abuse of loading bays were underway.
Admitting that abuse was “rife”, Mr Balban said the changes would be imminent and businesses would have access to more loading areas.
“The law is changing,” Mr Balban said.
“We are going to make loading bays commercial and we are looking at perhaps having drop off areas for residents. The amount of abuse is incredible. “
“The loading issue is something that we have been looking at for over a year. The plan itself will not work without policing.”
“They can’t be there all the time but they will have to strike whenever they see fit. We have not gone live yet and there will be signage, without signage we cannot go live.”
“We were not going to get rid of the normal loading bays and give it all to the people that work in Main Street. That would not work. What we have done is create new loading bays exclusively for those people who work.”
In regards to parking, Mr Balban said the government is planning to implement sensors into ‘pay and display’ parking areas.
This would result in “intelligent policing” as the authorities would be notified when drivers overstayed the time limit.
“The way we are moving is we are hoping to use technology whereby we would have sensors on the pay and display bays, which means to say you would be able to know via an app whether parking spaces are free and we will be able from the control room know whether a person has abused the time limit,” Mr Balban said.
The taxi service was a hot topic amongst those in the GFSB. The service was called insufficient by members who challenged Mr Balban to answer how he plans to improve the service.
“We are moving the taxi rank to the City Hall,” he said.
“One of the complaints we had from the city service was that one of the most popular taxi ranks in Gibraltar used to be the one outside the Gibraltar Arms.”
“It is a battle. I am trying my best, and in all fairness, the number of complaints has gone down. If there are complaints, please let us know and take them forward.”
“I don’t know whether the decline in complaints is because the service is getting marginally better or people just are not complaining.”
“One big struggle I had with the taxi service is transparency. I have forced them to have a bigger sticker with a licence number so that people know who to refer to when submitting a complaint.”
In answer to questions Mr Balban added there are no plans to enforce the use of helmets for cyclists. An example he gave was that wearing helmets might put people off cycling.
Also if helmets were to be enforced, then a helmet dispenser would need to be fixed by the Redibike stands.
“What we are going to be embarking on is a safety campaign to teach people the risks of not wearing a helmet,” Mr Balban said.