Covid gridlock 'puts 999 patients in peril'

Covid gridlock ‘puts 999 patients in peril’: Councils using emergency corona cash to rush through ‘green measures’ are causing life-threatening delays for ambulances

  • Councils are using Covid cash to rush through ‘green’ measures, audit suggests
  • Portions of road are now closed or being turned over to pedestrians and bikes
  • Councils were handed £250million for schemes to promote social distancing

Road closures brought in during the pandemic are causing gridlock and leading to life-threatening delays for the emergency services, campaigners claim.

Councils are using emergency coronavirus cash to rush through the ‘green’ measures, an audit of local road schemes suggests.

Under the projects brought in to aid social distancing and encourage walking and cycling, portions of road are being turned over to pedestrians and bikes – and in some cases, closed off altogether.

Blocked by bollards: Ambulance in Ealing, west London. Road closures brought in during the pandemic are causing gridlock and leading to life-threatening delays for the emergency services, campaigners claim

The Mail carried out a snapshot survey of 30 local authorities and found all have introduced schemes that have an impact on traffic in the past four months.

Analysis of data from satnav makers TomTom also reveals rush-hour congestion was worse than normal in 19 of 25 towns and cities on Thursday morning. 

The rash of new restrictions has also led to life-threatening delays in reaching heart attack and stroke patients, according to the College of Paramedics.

In May, councils were handed £250million for ‘green’ schemes to promote social distancing and to encourage walking and cycling in the wake of lockdown.

Supporters say the measures have cut air pollution, led to a rise in physical activity and attracted strong local support.

But campaigners claim draconian measures are being rushed through, bringing chaos to the roads at a time when many are shunning public transport in favour of their cars over Covid fears.

Department for Transport figures show traffic volumes were at 97 per cent of normal levels on Monday, September 13, compared with 36 per cent for trains.

Chaos: Traffic chokes a road in King’s Cross, London, as bollards mark a new cycle lane

In a letter seen by the Mail, the AA has warned Transport Secretary Grant Shapps the combination of high traffic levels and anti-car schemes has made congestion and pollution worse in some areas.

The motoring organisation’s president Edmund King has asked the minister to rethink the schemes so local people and emergency services are properly consulted.

In his letter, he wrote: ‘Some schemes are regrettably adding to congestion and poorer air quality rather than improving them.

‘As you know, governments at all levels succeed best when they engage residents and include them in both the thought and decision-making process.

‘Unfortunately, the lack of consultation is leading to growing levels of dissatisfaction and frustration across many road users, including some emergency services.’

Richard Webber, of the College of Paramedics, said certain schemes had caused ambulance delays.

He told the Mail: ‘Some streets are now almost impossible to get through. This really matters with heart attack and stroke patients. For every minute you delay treatment for a cardiac arrest, there is a 10 per cent drop in survivability. Crews have been given keys to bollards. But the process of unlocking them is time-consuming.

Covid blitz on drivers

Bristol: Council has pedestrianised parts of city and suspended parking. Bristol Bridge has been closed to private vehicles.

Bath: Motorists are banned from using key city roads from 10am to 6pm.

West London: Several roads have been closed in Ealing to give people more room to socially distance.

Bolton: Seven roads shut in the city centre to aid social distancing.

Colchester: High street closed to cars. 

Ludlow, Shropshire: High street closed to traffic between 10am and 3pm.

Wigan: Pedestrian zone times extended so they run from 9am to 5pm. 

‘As for cycle lanes, some have been extended and separated from the road by hard bollards. This means that ambulances are forced to sit in traffic.’

The London Ambulance Service said the changes all had the potential to delay their response – although they admitted that, even though the schemes had caused problems, they have still managed to hit all response time targets.

Howard Cox, of pressure group FairFuelUK, said: ‘Clueless local authorities, conspiring with and funded by central government, are aimlessly clogging up the heart of our cities, and screwing the world’s already highest taxed drivers with yet more “pay to pollute” congestion and ultra-low emission taxes.’

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘We expect local authorities to engage constructively with residents to make sure any changes they make are the right ones for everyone and must accommodate emergency services.

‘Evidence shows these schemes are significantly cutting rat-running traffic, improving air quality and reducing noise pollution, and increasing walking and cycling. Where they do this, they have attracted strong public support.’

The Mail’s survey of local authorities uncovered the introduction of schemes from the widening of pavements and cycle lanes to full closures of town centres to cars.

Source: Read Full Article