A bridge too far for good PR

A bit of thought could have made for a PR bridge over troubled waters.

In difficult situations common sense can be the first thing that goes out of the window.

Maybe that’s what happened in the past few days at Highways England when it came to the Severn Bridge crossing.

The agency said “unprecedented level of staff sickness” had led to them closing the westbound tolls on the original crossing for several hours on a busy holiday Saturday. This is what they put out to the media.

“This was an unprecedented level of staff sickness.

“If we haven’t got staff members in crucial roles on the toll plaza it is not safe for our team or the drivers so we took the decision to close the tolls.”

The bridge carries around 17,000 vehicles a day and until the second crossing opened in 1996, formed part of the M4.

The agency claimed it wasn’t safe for its team or for drivers so the tolls were closed.

Families were cooped up in their cars in the heatwave and sent on tortuous diversions before the tolls re-opened at 2pm. Prompting Tweets like this.


Can’t say I disagree.

Seeing as the tolls are due to be scrapped completely on New Year’s Eve this year, surely it wouldn’t have taken much gumption to simply allow the traffic through?

However much pressure you or your team may be under, when you are faced with a crisis situation, take a bit of time to run through all your options and think about how your decision is going to affect your consumers.

Good PR is a precious commodity and worth a whole lot more than a temporary loss in revenue, and far more importantly, the public backlash this ill-thought out approach caused.