THE TRAFFIC chaos that marred this year’s Crufts will hopefully be avoided in 2005 following the capitulation by the management of the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, to the Kennel Club’s concerns about the staging of next year’s show.
As reported in last week’s OUR DOGS, thousands of exhibitors and visitors were stranded on the motorway and on the approach roads to the NEC car parks thanks to a combination of factors, including faulty traffic lights on Junction 6 of the M42 and the staging of the National Homebuilding and Renovation show at the NEC alongside Crufts, thus vastly increasing the volume of traffic.
A meeting between Crufts officials, including KC Secretary Caroline Kisko, and NEC management took place at Crufts on the Saturday afternoon, to which the dog press were invited.
NEC Chief Executive Barry Cleverdon apologised to everyone for the horrendous traffic problems, but said that Thursday’s problems were beyond the NEC’s control.
"The accidents on the motorways, combined with the traffic signalling problems at Junction 6 caused a total standstill," said Mr Cleverdon. "As far as the NEC were concerned, the traffic had ground to a halt, although we did all we could to get relieve the pressure. We used the west side of the site to try to move traffic, but this gave no relief either."
Mr Cleverdon refused to be drawn on whether staging the National Homebuilding and Renovation Show alongside Crufts had added to the influx of visitors and thus added to the traffic gridlock.
"For many years, Crufts has not been the only show on site," said Mr Cleverdon. "There was no reason to believe that this would not work over these days. NEC management were working very closely with the organisers of both shows to estimate the volume of visitors.
"The problem isn’t parking, but getting people onto the site, and re-direction of traffic has, I admit, caused a few problems."
As of Monday last week, the NEC were maintaining that the National Homebuilding and Renovation Show would go ahead over the weekend of March 10–13 2005 – the exact same weekend as Crufts, and this fact was flagged up on their website.
However, on Monday afternoon of this week, the date of the homebuilding show had been switched to April 14-17 2005.
A statement was issued by the NEC accordingly from Barry Cleverdon, who said: "The National Homebuilding and Renovating Show will take place from April 14-17, 2005, in dates around one month later in the calendar than this year. The show is growing and has exciting plans for continued growth in the next few years.
These new dates will provide the additional scope needed to help the show's development."
When contacted by OUR DOGS, NEC Press Officer Aaron Richardson denied that this decision had come about as the result of any pressure from the KC or adverse press reportage, insisting that the matter of the show’s staging was "always under discussion and review".
However, Nick Noble, Group Event Director of the National Homebuilding and Renovation Show told OUR DOGS: "Crufts and our show are both very popular shows. It is in the best interests of both if we relocate (time-wise). Crufts is very important to the NEC as is our exhibition and we took this decision to avoid similar problems to this year in the future."
The Kennel Club were totally unequivocal in their assessment of the matter, and a statement issued by them to the canine press made clear the strength of discussions that had taken place between them and the NEC management:
On Tuesday of this week (16 March 2004) a meeting was held at the Kennel Club between Rosemary Smart, Chief Executive of the Kennel Club and Barry Cleverdon, Chief Executive at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss the parking and traffic problems at Crufts 2004 and the Kennel Club sought various assurances for the future of Crufts at the NEC.
The Kennel Club stressed that what occurred at this year’s event was an unacceptable situation for Crufts visitors and exhibitors. It was accepted that this situation was totally outside Kennel Club control and was the result of accidents, failed traffic management systems and congestion.
The Kennel Club has received an assurance that earnest discussions have already taken place and will continue to be held with all the agencies involved with traffic management and policing. The Kennel Club was further advised that the NEC has received total support from these agencies as all agreed that the situation must not occur for Crufts in the future.
Further, it was confirmed that the home improvement show that was scheduled for the first time and clashed with Crufts this year, will in future move to a date in April. The NEC was reminded of its responsibility to liaise with Crufts management regarding proposed future events running alongside Crufts.
Rosemary Smart said; "The inconvenience caused to visitors, exhibitors and volunteers during Crufts has been fully appreciated by the NEC and the Kennel Club has received a categorical assurance that this situation will not reoccur. There are a number of initiatives that Barry Cleverdon and I will be exploring, the primary objective being to protect and improve our visitors’ experience of the show. When we have concluded our various discussions we will be making a joint statement at a later date."
Ms Smart added; "Again, the Kennel Club can only apologise for and deeply regrets what has occurred. It was outside our control, but it is our responsibility to make everyone’s visit to Crufts pleasurable, and we will be working hard to achieve this for the future."