Traffic census jams roads for 13 miles

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The Independent Online
AFTER SPENDING hours inching their way along a 13-mile tailback, the thousands of commuters must have prepared themselves to see a terrible accident. But instead of roadside carnage, the drivers were merely greeted by a man and his clipboard.

He wanted to know what they thought of traffic jams.

With a logic one could attribute only to civil servants, the suits at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions decided, without warning, to close several lanes of one of Manchester's busiest commuter routes, a stretch where the M56 leads on to a dual carriageway into the city centre, to carry out a traffic census.

"They're lucky they didn't get punched," said onemotorist.

With the help of Greater Manchester Police, the officials were guiding vehicles - 10 at a time - into coned-off pens for interviews.

Eventually one senior police officer called a halt to the madness, cancelling the survey at 8.20am.

A spokesman for the force said yesterday: "Oh God, don't mention it. One of our staff was stuck in it for hours."

One officer was keener to vent his frustrations: "It must be the biggest cock-up in transport management history. The scene was unbelievable. Motorists were getting more and more angry - tooting their horns and shaking their fists."

Stuart Buckeridge, 33, a textile designer, who was forced to sacrifice an important meeting in the name of government data, fumed: "Whoever thought of staging a traffic census at the height of rush hour on one of the city's main roads must need their brains testing."

The AA said the jam was "horrendous".

Conducted by officials from the Greater Manchester Transportation Unit, the survey was designed to judge traffic movements in the run up to the completion of the city's ring road between Denton and Middleton. Residents were informed a census was to take place but not where.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions was unrepentant.

"We appreciate people's frustrations, but these surveys are vital if we are to estimate the level of clogged traffic," the spokesman said.