Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Traffic chaos

I got stuck in a bad traffic jam on private land yesterday, and it's an interesting example of poor logistics. Coventry was completely rebuilt in the 1950s because it was bombed flat. The whole roof of the Covered Market and Town Centre is a big car park, joined up by ramps, some bits multi-storey. Yesterday, big shopping day, it was completely packed, so there were many thousands of cars (ETA - actually I have no idea how many). When you leave you put your ticket in a machine before you go to your car, and then you have ten minutes to get your car out through the barrier - which puts out onto the road opposite Ikea.

So, some snarl-up in the traffic on that road meant that egress was slow. A little queue built up inside the car park. At some point in the afternoon it took more than ten minutes for one car to get to the barrier. At that point every single ticket in the car park became invalid. It's a lovely little design fault: it became logically impossible to exit from the car park.

I was parked quite a long way from the exit - about five minutes drive in normal conditions. I pulled out, and there was a little queue at the first corner. I waited for a few minutes, and then got out to have a look. It became obvious that it wasn't a little queue. The entire car park area was completely jammed with immobile cars, stretching literally as far as I could see in every direction. Nobody could move. I was stuck in that place for many hours. To the credit of Coventry folk there was no fighting, or horn blowing, or pushing, though I think the passivity was a little annoying.

I sent my daughter to find out the problem and phoned the police and told them, and they said it wasn't their fault, it was the Council and CV1 (the private company who run the town centre). I said I agree it's not your fault, but somebody needs to come down here and take responsibility to override the exit barrier. He said he would send someone and eventually someone in a high-vis jacket (I think it was the Community Policing service) did come and force the car park staff to lift the barrier - but as I say it took many hours, and nobody supervised the flow of traffic as all the cars jostled with each other to leave - it's amazing that there weren't any fights.

While all his was going on I phoned H and asked him to try to get through to CV1. He said that not only was there no answer to the phone numbers on their web site, but that they were not actually connected to a phone - there was no ring tone. So, predictably, my little anecdote ends with a political rant that we do not want the unaccountable private sector to make money by running our towns, if they can't even man a help line on the second busiest shopping day of the year, and if they rely on the public sector to intervene when their poorly designed cheapest possible systems break down.

ETA link to CV1 web site. If you call the 24-hour emergency number you get 'the number you have dialled has not been recognised'. In other words, not only is it not manned 24 hours, it isn't actually a real phone number.
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