'Crash chaos proves fire stations must be kept' says MP David Ward (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Aftermath of collision shows need to keep Shipley and Idle stations says Bradford East MP
A major city centre crash that snarled up traffic in Bradford for hours is all the proof campaigners need to show plans to close two district fire stations would put people living in those areas at risk, says an MP.
David Ward, the Bradford East MP who has backed a petition against the proposed closure of Idle and Shipley fire stations, said the three-car collision in Canal Road at lunchtime on Wednesday had put plans to merge crews at a new station on that road into “shocking” perspective.
He said the incident cast doubt on claims by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service that the new Canal Road crews would be able to “blue-light their way through anything”.
But the fire service hit back, stating that all three fire engines that attended Wednesday's incident arrived within the benchmark time, despite the heavy traffic.
Mr Ward is sceptical about assurances over public safety and believes the merger would mean doubling response times for firefighters to reach emergencies in some outlying areas.
He said: “We have been told they will be able to blue-light their way through anything and there would not be a problem, but what happened in Canal Road makes that over-optimistic to say the least. That collision was a good example of where difficulties may occur.”
He said people, especially those in the Shipley and Idle areas, needed to be aware of that and he hoped they would have their say at a special neighbourhood forum on Thursday at 6pm at the Salvation Army Corps, Walter Road, Idle.
A West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service spokesman emphasised that “despite the heavy traffic congestion during Wednesday’s incident, all three of its fire engines arrived well within our benchmark attendance times for incidents.”
The spokesman also said its emergency cover proposals now out for consultation extensively looked at various sources including incident data, actual and predicted attendance times and changes in profiles of communities.
“This information is used, along with professional judgement and experience to support the proposals, to ensure they have minimal impact upon local communities,” he added.
The proposed closure of the two stations would save West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service about £8million. Mr Ward and Bradford Council Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Jeanette Sunderland have raised fears that lives could be put at risk with chief fire officer Simon Pilling and Fire Brigades Union (FBU) representatives.
First buses were seriously affected by the congestion from Wednesday’s collision but it was routes 622, 623 and 626 to Shipley that were identified as the most badly affected, said a spokesman.
Julian Jackson, Bradford Council's Assistant Director for Planning, Transportation and Highways, said a serious accident and police incident on any part of the road network would have resulted in major traffic delays.
“When such an incident occurs on city centre arterial routes those delays take longer to clear. Although there were heavy delays in the city centre in the vicinity of Canal Road while the roads were closed for the police investigation and damaged vehicles to be removed, other commuter routes were not as badly affected,” he said.
- Two men, aged 18 and 28, who were arrested in connection with Wednesday’s collision on Canal Road, have been released by police on bail pending further inquiries.