Bus passengers are being warned to expect changes during a partial closure of Queensgate bus station to allow the completion of a £60 million cinema extension.
Some passengers will face an extra 150 metre walk - estimated to take up to four minutes - across Westgate Road to a temporary stopping and pick-up point in Acland Street, close to the Brewery Tap pub.
The closure of the northbound side of the depot is expected to last 18 months.
Peterborough City Council chiefs and Queensgate bosses say the closure is essential to create a safe area where huge cranes can operate and where some materials and other equipment can be stored while the long-awaited cinema is built on top of the neighbouring Queensgate Shopping Centre.
The shopping centre has submitted a planning application to the council for the temporary closure of bays 10a to 20 in early 2020 to allow the safe construction of the 10-screen Empire cinema and new restaurants.
It says the extension is due to be completed before Christmas 2021 but before then there is expected to be an increase in construction activity with cranes, heavy plant and construction personnel working to complete the development.
The centre bosses and bus operators say they have gone to great lengths to ensure ease of access and safety for passengers who have to use the new bays.
A new pedestrian crossing and dropped kerbs will be installed on Westgate Road and lighting and CCTV installed at the temporary bus bays, currently used as a resting area for bus drivers.
Weatherproof shelters will be put up at the site and the route to the new bays will be well signposted.
Directors of bus operator Stagecoach East say the final details of which services will be transferred to new pick up and drop off point have still to be finalised.
The changes will affect some Stagecoach and National Express services and discussions are also underway with other bus service operators, such as Delaine and First, to reduce the impact on passengers.
A comprehensive list of services is currently being drawn up but it is understood the vast majority of the current bus station will remain unaffected and services will drop-off and pick-up as normal.
A consultation process is also underway with staff having already discussed the plans with representatives of the Disability Peterborough and Peterborough Pensioners Association and with plans to take up the issue with Dignity in Old Age Forum next month.
Pop-up displays and Q&A sessions will be advertised for people to visit and meet the teams behind the project to help answer any questions.
Leaflets, digital advertising, marketing, social media and a press campaign will help to communicate the temporary changes to the bus station users.
Mark Broadland, centre director at Queensgate, said: “We want to make the temporary bus station redirection as seamless as possible for the bus and coach user, whether you’re new to Peterborough or a regular visitor to the centre.
“Every provision has been addressed and we have a comprehensive plan in place to make sure the journey to the city centre is clearly communicated.
Mr Broadland added: “We know people in Peterborough have been waiting in anticipation for the cinema to come to the city centre, and now it is.
“This is an extremely exciting time for us all and, although we expect a small amount of disruption, the final result will be well worth it.”
Ross Barton, operators director for Stagecoach East, said: “We have been working closely with council officials and the developers to ensure this essential building work goes ahead with minimal disruption.
“As always, the safety of our passengers is of paramount importance and, for that reason, the east side lane of the bus station will have to be temporarily closed but we are committed to ensuring our customers are fully informed about any changes to our usual services.
“This is an exciting time for the city, its residents and visitors and we are pleased to have been able to play a part in helping to shape the future.
Councillor Peter Hiller, the council’s cabinet member for strategic planning, commercial strategy and investment, said: “The extension to Queensgate, including a new 10-screen cinema will be a great asset for our city and its nightlife.
“At a time when other city centres are struggling, Peterborough is bucking the trend.
“It will mean more footfall for retailers, more things to do for visitors and more jobs and retail opportunities for residents.
Cllr Hiller added: “Like all developments of this scale, it will take time to build and will cause temporary disruption, particularly for bus users.
“However, this scale of investment can only be good for our city and for those who live, work and relax in it.”
Plans for the cinema extension to the Queensgate shopping centre were first unveiled by its owners Invesco about four years ago.
The 77,000 sq ft extension is expected to create about 200 jobs and has involved a £21 million alteration to the John Lewis and Partners store to free up enough space for the development.
The plans were the subject of a High Court hearing after Hawksworth Securities tried to get Queensgate planning permission overturned in favour of a cinema-led development at the adjoining North Westgate site.
A questions and answers page about the bus station redirection has been created and can be found at www.queensgate-shopping.co.uk under the ‘news’ section and can be collected from the Customer Information Desk.