‘Christmas cancelled’: Lincoln’s decision under fire

Last-minute cancellation of Lincoln’s Christmas Market due to worries about the weather causes problems for coach operators

Around 70 coach operators were affected by the last-minute decision to cancel the final day of Lincoln Christmas Market because of forecast snow.

The council called time on the last day of the market – which had already attracted 160,000 visitors – just 14 hours ahead of the Sunday morning, leaving some coach operators scrabbling to contact all their booked customers, and getting a storm of protest from traders and visitors.

One visitor had travelled the previous day from Doncaster, and was baffled to understand why people already in Lincoln could not enjoy the event. Some traders who claimed they were banking on making their profit on Sunday vowed never to attend the event again, having lost money. Others had to dump huge quantities of fresh food.

Sheffield-based Maxfields Travel told Bus & Coach Buyer the first they heard of the cancellation was when a customer contacted them on Saturday: “Despite the fact that they organise coach parking with military precision, we didn’t even get an email from the council,” said travel consultant Ben Maxfield.

“On Friday, I’d contacted all of the councils for other Christmas markets further north we were visiting, and they all said they’d be going ahead, by hook or by crook. It never even occurred to me to contact Lincoln – why would Lincoln get cancelled?” he said.

“Some coach operators will have travelled there on the Saturday for an overnight and half day at the market on Sunday. But the people are feel most sorry for are the stall holders – some most have lost thousands.

“Our trip was fully booked two months ago, so we would have looked at putting two coaches on next year. But I think I’d rather disappoint 48 customers than 96,” said Ben.

Claire Smith, of Eastons Holidays of Norfolk, said: “We had to cancel a day excursion with 50 people on. Our tour and ops managers went into work at 9pm to ring everyone. Luckily they got hold of all but two people who understandably were annoyed to turn up in the morning to be told the excursion had been cancelled.

“We have since been informed that the parking charge will be refunded. In Lincoln Council’s defence, they did email us that night (although we saw it first on social media), and emailed again on Sunday to reassure that we would get the parking charge back.”

One operator we spoke to said the market could have gone ahead, and Lincoln Council could have simply issued a very strong travel advisory. Another, David Jeakins, of Jeakins Coach Travel, said: “We don’t run any trips, but I’m aware of many operators boycotting it anyway due to their heavy coach parking charges. So they will say numbers were low anyway, so cancelling wasn’t a huge issue, when they created the low footfall themselves.”

Through the Bus & Coach Buyer Facebook page, Graham Bethell, partner in South Staffs Coach Hire, said: “I don’t know anyone affected by it. I have personally avoided it for several years due to the ridiculous coach parking charges. I have steered customers elsewhere, to be honest.”

The police were adamant that the council had made the right decision, Superintendent Phil Vickers claiming in a Tweet: ‘It’s a sign of strong leadership that they’ve done so, not weakness or ‘H&S’ gone mad.’

In its original statement, City of Lincoln Council strategic director for communities and environment Simon Walters said: “After much consideration, and with great regret, we have had to make the sad decision to cancel the final day of this year’s Lincoln Christmas Market. This follows strong advice from partner agencies concerned about tomorrow’s weather forecast and its potential impact.

“The Met Office has issued an amber weather warning for the city and county and are also predicting 10cm of snow to fall. Given that many people travel to the market from all over the UK, we must make this difficult decision to ensure our visitors stay safe.”

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