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Huge traffic queues see people miss 'fantastic' fireworks in Himley and Wolverhampton

Thousands of people turned out to the Black Country's two largest firework displays but many were left frustrated at queues so big that some gave up and went home.

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The fireworks at Himley Hall. Photo: @RiichardJP

A record 22,000 people bought tickets to the sold-out event at Himley Hall and while many of those had a great time at the "circus-themed" event, others were left angry at the congestion around the park, lack of parking spaces and obstructed views in parts of the grounds.

It was a similar situation over at Wolverhampton Racecourse, where tickets and car parking had both sold out in advance and many people were stuck waiting hours to travel the last few hundreds yards to get in.

Both events were held on Saturday night and at Himley the bonfire was lit at 7.45pm ahead of the display at 8.30pm - but the car parks were full by 7pm.

Dudley Council tweeted to urge people to use the free bus services put on across the borough but by that point thousands of people were already sat in queues and delays were also affecting the buses.

The fireworks display at Wolverhampton Racecourse
The fireworks display in Wolverhampton

Among those who spent much of the evening stuck in traffic was Jo Arnold, who reported arriving at 8.20pm after three hours of congestion only to be told to turn around and park on the road.

"At this point there was no available road parking as it was already chaotic," she wrote on Facebook.

"There was eight of us in two cars travelling together, paid VIP ticket price (so over £100) for nothing. We couldn't get in even if we had tried.

"Weather it be by parking on the road or by bus, cos by the time we had turned round got back through the traffic and got back to the gate it would of all been over and time to go home. We were all so disappointed."

The fireworks at Himley Hall. Photo: @RiichardJP

Debbie Wright shared a similar experience, and described the event as a "shambles" after spending £50 on tickets.

She said "Stuck in car for nearly three hours with two pensioners and two very disappointed kids. Unable to find anywhere to park within a reasonable walking distance. Cars parked everywhere blocking the rides and causing families with kids and pushchairs to walk down the middle of the road between cars."

There were also long waits to leave the event, with an ambulance among the vehicles struggling to get through due to the huge number of vehicles and parking along access roads.

Dudley Council apologised for the delays, saying: "Apologies to those experiencing delays leaving the park. An ambulance had to get through to attend an emergency incident as thousands were trying to leave and there has been inconsiderate on-road parking along the main road which has added to the delays. Please bear with us."

Some people responded to this to say stewards had been telling people to park along the road once the car parks were full.

However, many people reported enjoying the night and those with clear views of the display described it as "incredible". Plenty have pointed out that traffic and parking issues are nothing new at the annual bonfire - which is the biggest in the region and has been running for 40 years - but locals described this year's parking situation as the worst ever.

One resident explained: "I've never seen the parking so bad. By the bridge and all up to Holbeache House was horrendous. People parked fully on the pavement with no way to get past. People had to walk in the road because they couldn't get past including people with young kids. A disabled person or pushchair wouldn't have had a chance of getting past. We witnessed an ambulance on blue lights stuck for a good few minutes because they couldn't get past either. I have never seen the parking as bad and as dangerous as it was tonight."

As well as the bonfire and fireworks, there were street entertainers, food and drink, a funfair and a night market. Standard adult tickets cost £10 and family tickets £24. Organisers specified there would be no refunds unless the event was cancelled and urged people without tickets to stay away after it sold out days in advance.

Gemma Cox was one of many who took to social media to praise an "amazing night".

She said: "Other than the huge crowd and people pushing us, it was brilliant. Being stuck on the car park after didn’t ruin our night. We’ll be back again next year."

Nikki Smith added: "Fantastic night, best I've been to, loved the crowd it made the atmosphere."

Other complaints included long queues for food and being unable to see some of the fireworks due to trees blocking the view, including in the premium area where people had paid extra to be next to the hall on the south lawns.

Councillor Shaun Keasey, cabinet member for digital, commercial and customer services in Dudley, thanked people for turning out to the best-attended show Dudley Council has ever put on.

He said: "It’s wonderful to see so many people, of all ages, back in the park enjoying a wonderful evening of entertainment, topped off with one of the best fireworks displays for miles around.

"We missed this event last year and by tonight’s turnout we think others did too."

Over in Wolverhampton, the display itself was also widely praised but the marshalling criticised.

The Rana family from Bushbury were looking forward to the display. Rapinder and Sarb were with eight-year-olds Amelia and Sophia

Plenty of people praised the visual display at the racecourse but others complained of huge queues in and outside the event and questioned security measures.

Bushbury father Sarb Rana said: "We had a great time. There was a really great atmosphere and it was family friendly. It was a better than we thought it would be.

"We've been to Alton Towers before to see their fireworks but these were better, the children enjoyed themselves too."

Neil Johnson, from Low Hill, took his three children to the racecourse and enjoyed the night.

He said: "We all had a great time. It was a lovely atmosphere, especially as everyone has been in lockdown. It was a bit of a nightmare getting out but you have to expect with these kinds of events.

"The children have been talking about the fireworks ever since."

However Jennifer Leigh Hibell wrote: "The fireworks were great the organisation was horrendous. Was the driving as bad in previous years?

"It took one hour and ahalf to drive what is normally a four-min drive? No one checked tickets or bags. Staff spent more time on phones than directing traffic. Think we will try a different event next year."

Meanwhile Sarah Price ended up going to the cinema with her son after a nightmare journey.

She wrote: "We were so disappointed last night! We live 25 mins away we left home at 20 past five and got 1.2 miles from you within 20 minutes, we then sat in traffic until 7.30 and got as far as the science park. So we gave up and went to the cinema as we couldn’t see how we could get anywhere to park before the display at 8. My son was very disappointed."

Nigel Goodhead said it took an hour to get to the racecourse from the roundabout at Stafford Road next to Wickes less than one mile away and described the event as a "total waste of money".

However Catherine Wood was one of several people to praise both the fireworks and the organisation, writing: "I have never been before but must say we had a wonderful evening, fireworks were amazing and was very well organised with the security staff who were getting abuse from drivers who were trying to jump the queue."

Dudley and Wolverhampton councils have both been contacted for comment regarding the complaints.

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