Tall Ships: traffic plan was too cautious

Car park at Crawfordsburn Country Park, which was not entirely full, after police closed off access due to the numbers of people expected to watch the Tall Ships.
Car park at Crawfordsburn Country Park, which was not entirely full, after police closed off access due to the numbers of people expected to watch the Tall Ships.

In 1991, the Talls Ships caused traffic chaos in north Down as people sought a vantage point.

The authorities face a difficult balancing act managing such numbers, but this year were perhaps too cautious.

More empty spaces in the car park at Crawfordsburn Country Park at the peak time of midday, ahead of the arrival of the Tall Ships but when road access to the area had been closed for an hour or so

More empty spaces in the car park at Crawfordsburn Country Park at the peak time of midday, ahead of the arrival of the Tall Ships but when road access to the area had been closed for an hour or so

Crawfordsburn Country Park was a prime place to see the ships, as they sailed near the coast, and on towards Bangor. But access to places such as Seapark, Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn was closed when I passed just after 11am. I walked to the beach with my nephews because my relatives live nearby. But the park had perhaps 300 people. Parking spaces were not entirely full.

Police expected 300,000 people to line the ships’ route, so it could have held many more. Cars could have parked on the long driveway and the wide hill out of Helen’s Bay.

The park is one of the Province’s most visited sites. It should not on big occasions be so restricted that people lucky enough to live within walking distance are likely to get the best of it.

Maybe access was easier on the far side of the lough.

Police had encouraged people to use public transport, which is fine if you live near a train station but not so easy if you are travelling from Saintfield to the north Down coast or Toome to the south Antrim coast.

Superintendent Darrin Jones said a traffic plan sought “to ensure as many people as possible were able to see the event but at the same time normal life in neighbouring areas was able to continue with as little disruption and inconvenience as possible”.