St John aim to avoid Grafton jams

By Mathew Dearnaley

St John Ambulance has drawn up contingency plans to limit delays in rushing patients to Auckland City Hospital when Grafton Bridge closes late this month for major strengthening.

Regional operational manager Gary Salmon said yesterday that the historic bridge's planned closure by Auckland City Council on October 25 - for about 14 months until early 2010 - would cause "some inconvenience, and this is a concern", but "we have contingency plans in place for us to continue our normal business".

Although the bridge lies between the Pitt St ambulance station and the hospital, Mr Salmon said St John's communications centre would dispatch vehicles along an alternative Grafton Rd route or from Mt Wellington to avoid traffic delays.

"I do not expect any delays in getting to people who need us except maybe in an extreme situation where people are outside the shops near the hospital," he said.

In that case, there was a good chance an ambulance would be already be at the hospital, and available to reach patients in the vicinity.

Ambulances already use the hospital's Grafton Rd entrance as an alternative to the main gateway off Park Rd, where construction work began several months ago as part of the city council's $43 million Central Connector busway project between Britomart and Newmarket.

Council project manager Graham Long said Grafton Rd would be the main alternative route from central Auckland for all traffic while the bridge received a $6.9 million structural upgrade as part of the new bus corridor.

Although the council considered allowing ambulances to keep using the bridge during the closure, that was ruled out because of a need to keep loads off it at crucial times.

Pedestrians and cyclists would still be able to cross the bridge, and it would be re-opened to other traffic in time for the structure's 100th anniversary in 2010.

Heavier, new Link buses have already been banned from the bridge.

- NZ Herald

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