Businesses take knock from stop-go

Forward planning for businesses and customers alike hit some snags in the past week-and-a-half as a stop-go between Clovelly and Kalk Bay saw commuters stuck in traffic for more than an hour.

The stop-go was primarily during the day, between 8am and 5pm.

At the last community liaison meeting, it was announced that the stop-go would end on September 16, besides the occasional stop-go for normal construction purposes (“No more stop-and-go”, Echo, August 25).

Among the businesses affected was AP Jones which took out a R30 000 ad campaign with CapeTalk telling its customers north of Fish Hoek that it was easy to get to AP Jones again. Before doing so, AP Jones’ Greg Bing, who lives in Tokai, drove along the road to test it out a few times. Satisfied, he contacted Brett Herron, mayoral council member for transport. In an SMS he requested a meeting, in essence asking about the stop-go in the light of his proposed ad campaign.

Mr Herron, answered “very professionally” saying that the stop-go was suspended but it might be implemented in off-peak periods for example to complete sewage connections to houses.

Based on this information, he signed the contract for his ad campaign. To his dismay, on opening his emails the Saturday before his ad campaign was due to start on the Monday, he saw a notification (sent later on Friday) that the road was to be closed for a week between 8am and 4.30pm. This was followed a week later with a similar notice.

He said his issues were two-fold. The first was the financial implications.

“Yes, perhaps I could swallow the R30 000 after a period. But what I can’t swallow is reputation,” he said.

He said he wasn’t on the floor as often as he used to be in his store, but on the Monday even he came across two very disgruntled sets of customers, one from Constantia and one from Muizenberg, who had come because they had heard the ad about how easy it was to get to AP Jones and were stuck in the traffic for an hour and 15 minutes. The one customer said that one in every three or four cars were doing U-turns – and, said Mr Bing, how many of those were potential customers?

“That for me was confirmation of reputation being destroyed – and that is very hard to recover from,” he said.

He had contacted Chand Associates – the company contracted for community liaison for the Main Road reconstruction project – on October 1 and subsequently, requesting a meeting with the correct person to discuss the issue, as well as forward planning, but no one had got back to him.

“We have been very understanding about this project,” he said, saying that he and other businesses recognised the necessity of the Main Road reconstruction project and believed that they were doing a good job of engineering, but they had to make up for eight years of diminished business with some sort of forward planning and effective communication with the City.

The City has been asked for comment. Before the Echo’s interview with Mr Bing, the Echo had raised the same issue of forward planning, asking whether commuters could be notified well in advance.

Mr Herron responded that the stop-go system had been “temporarily reintroduced” on September 28 and was removed on Tuesday October 4.

“It is, however, very important to state to your readers that the stop-go may be temporarily reinstated at any given time for as long as the Main Road project is ongoing to allow the City to install underground services and service connections to properties,” he said. “That said, we will refrain from reinstating the stop-go system over weekends and will try to do this outside of the peak-hour traffic periods as far as possible.”

Sub-council chairperson Felicity Purchase added: “The problem was that when they dug down to do the sewer, it was a 3m excavation and they could not park the truck alongside the hole as it would have been too dangerous and therefore needed the extra room of the one lane.

“The connections have been made for the time being and there should be no further stop-go of significance until November for two days when another connection needs to be made. We will be notified well in advance and it should take only two days if there are no problems.

“The reality is that it is a construction site and you cannot predict the nature of the disruption in advance until the holes have been dug.”