Town centre traders were left counting the cost on Saturday with hundreds of shoppers staying at home to avoid the threatened roads gridlock as Network Rail shoved 113 trains through Spalding.
Instead of massive queues of cars, with four level crossings affected, traffic was lighter than a normal Saturday and there were scores of spaces at car parks that are normally filled by 10am.
Many of the drivers who ventured into town used the A16 and then Holbeach Road or Halmer Gate to bypass the crossings.
On Friday bus company Brylaine warned it might be forced to abandon its Spalding Town service by lunchtime on Saturday, because it feared falling so far behind, but the service ran as normal all day.
A Brylaine spokesman said yesterday: “We were very happy because we thought it was going to be horrible. Obviously people stayed away this time – your website reported there was a significant drop in the number of cars on the road and we noticed that as well.”
Spalding will have an influx of trains over the next four Saturdays and Brylaine will monitor the situation to see if roads are affected by drivers becoming “more adventurous”.
Trader Sharon Tear, boss of Pacey’s bakery and Strands hairdressers, said shoppers definitely stayed away.
She said: “We were probably £400 down on takings at Pacey’s. It was very noticeable at Pacey’s because we had people coming in on Friday asking ‘can I pay for my Saturday orders today because I don’t want to come into town as my friend’s coming in to collect it?’
“Several people I know said to me ‘I’m not going into town, I’m going to stay out of the way’.”
Insp Jim Tyner said: “We had contingency plans in place to deal with traffic disruption but in the event motorists seemed to heed the advanced warnings and stayed away.
“There were no issues from a policing perspective.”
Council leader Gary Porter, who last week met Network Rail in Downing Street for talks on the influx of trains, is pleased Spalding was not gridlocked by traffic.
He said the fact things didn’t come to a standstill was down to the advance stories put out by the Free Press, Spalding Guardian and the BBC.
Coun Porter wants to know if traders have suffered losses – or people simply switched days to shop – and if residents had any problems caused by drivers using different routes into town.
He said the council definitely doesn’t want to see shoppers staying away and traders losing money as a result.