Guy Craddock
Area Manager
Centro
Coventry

28th August 2015

c/o Age UK Coventry
7 Warwick Row
Coventry
CV1 1EX

Dear Guy,

I am writing on behalf of Coventry Older Voices (COV) which seeks to represent the views, needs and aspirations of older people in Coventry. The COV Group is also committed and fully engaged with the Age Friendly City Initiative which currently has prioritised three specific theme groups - Transport, Communication and Information, and Socialisation.

Since April, with the commencement of the Belgrade Plaza Scheme (Phase 3) and further work extending along Corporation Street to Queen Victoria Road, including Lidice Place, pedestrians accessing bus services to, from and across the City have experienced considerable disruption and confusion. This is even more acute for people with age-related mobility problems.

Following a letter from COV to the City Council in April some progress was made through the support of Councillor Rachel Lancaster and a helpful and informative meeting with the Public Realm Project Manager, Hakan Bikim and his colleague Louise Varney. The COV Group strongly emphasised the need for adequate, advanced public information to enable people to make the necessary adjustments to their journeys.

Commencing 17 August the maze of road works in the City was compounded even further by the start of the additional Phase 3(a) Project. In the week prior to this A4 notices were displayed on the bus shelters by the Motor Museum which proved to be both inaccurate and confusing. No information was provided on the stop in Bishop Street where many passengers had been used to getting off the buses since April. There was no advanced information in the form of leaflets, flyers, large clear display posters at information points in the City e.g. the Travel Centre in Pool Meadow/Public Libraries/Council Offices etc. Nothing was posted on the CCC/Centro web site until the middle of the week when work had actually commenced.

Chaos was inevitable and symbolised by ‘all things orange’ - barriers, cones, even Centro staff tabards, in Pool Meadow, Millennium Place, Hales, Fairfax and Priory Streets. People found themselves being taken into Pool Meadow without prior knowledge and then having to work out a safe route to the Precinct shopping zones or locate the stop for a connecting bus to another City destination. Posters were fixed on the windows by the relevant stands but served little purpose if someone needed information as to the approximate location of the stop to head for. There was undoubtedly a distinct lack of sufficient staff available for advice.

In the light of the above commitment by COV to improving the quality of life of older people in Coventry, you will hopefully have gleaned some glimmer of understanding of the serious concerns, bordering on disbelief, frustration and anger regarding this last wave of adjustments to bus routes in the City. The comments made by you on behalf of Centro on the BBC CWR Breakfast Show (19 August 2015) must be challenged.

During the BBC CWR interview (19 August) you made reference to the pressure of timescale set by the European Regional Development Fund to deliver by December 2015. What you did not mention was the fact that the bid for the necessary funding was initially considered by the City Council Cabinet on 3 March 2015 and was ratified at the full Council meeting on 17 March 2015.

Although the success of the bid was not guaranteed it was a missed opportunity of four and a half months ahead of the start of the works. It was surely not beyond the (Public!) realms of possibility to get round the table with other partners e.g. City Council officers/departments, National Express and user groups to prepare draft leaflets/posters etc.

You repeatedly stated on the radio that ‘as much as possible has been done’ and 'Centro have tried to do their best'. In terms of the quality of life of older people Centro’s best is anything but! Perhaps if you were to shadow a group of older people coming into the City on a bus and seeing at first hand the problems they experience on a daily basis you might enable Centro to ‘try harder to do its best’.

Sincerely

Anne Lakin
Chairperson, Coventry Older Voices.