EAST Lancashire bus operator Transdev is calling on Manchester City Council to drop a ban on traffic on one of its main central streets.

The authority introduced the blockade on a section of Deansgate, between Blackfriars Street and King Street West, on Saturday May 16, claiming that the move would ‘aid the city’s economic recovery by making it easier for people to socially distance’.

City council bosses have said they could make the vehicle ban permanent but Transdev chief executive Alex Hornby said it was already causing diversions and delays for its Witchway express from Burnley and Rawtenstall and its Red Express service from Accrington and Ramsbottom.

He warned it could scupper a planned £3.5million new fleet of buses.

The firm has already introduced a new Pendle Wizz route between Burnley, Colne, Barnoldswick and Skipton using the M65 to avoid the problems in Manchester City Centre.

Mr Hornby said: “This change has made life much more difficult for those who need direct access to the heart of the city most of all – those who cannot walk the long distance to and from alternative stops on a long diversion route. It’s bad news for vulnerable people who depend on our buses as their only means of transport.

“Manchester City Council says that although the closure of this key section of Deansgate has been brought forward on a temporary basis, its aspiration is to make it permanent.

“A permanent closure with a lengthy and frequently congested diversion route will increase pollution as buses are delayed in traffic, while it also places the viability of bus services at risk due to the double whammy of higher costs for extra fuel and lower customer numbers choosing the bus to reach the city centre. That has got to be bad for everyone, whether they depend on the bus or not.

“We’re calling on Manchester City Council to engage in meaningful consultation with bus operators so we can ensure our customers’ voices are heard, and a reasonable and viable solution is achieved.

“In spite of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, we decided to press ahead with a planned £3.5million investment in a new fleet of brand new ultra low emission and high-spec buses for the Witchway later this year, but it was all organised before we had £100,000 of costs and a lengthy diversion added to the equation.”

The Lancashire Telegraph has approached Manchester City Council spokesman for comment.