Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by South West Transport Network (WTC 71)


  We offer these comments on the points the Committee wishes to examine:

  Making walking a pleasurable experience has to be a major element in Urban Renaissance. No one should doubt walking's potential contribution to healthy living and reduced dependence on cars.

  Walking in towns has declined because it is distinctly unpleasant to walk along heavily trafficked roads with vehicles belching fumes; having to make detours to get over busy crossings, being delayed while waiting for lights to change, or having to climb up and down steps and slopes to cross by unfriendly steel bridges or graffiti sprawled dirty subways.

  Development of city squares, pedestrian areas and Home Zones should be encouraged. Harmonisation with public transport is essential in making walking more pleasurable. Infrastructure needs designing for safety and security as well as providing a desirable environment.

  Where good practice exists (sadly lacking in too many UK towns) much can be learned from it. Good examples include Manchester (an effective PTA!), Walsall (West Midland Metro rail station includes shopping precinct, buses close by) and Shrewsbury (Shopping and bus station together, rail near by).

  Skills and training of professionals has tended to concentrate on traffic measures to cater for the ever increasing number of cars. The accent needs to change towards making walking pleasurable, accompanied by easy access to public transport which needs to be convenient, frequent, clean and affordable, greater use encouraged by such devices as easily obtained travel cards and through ticketing across various modes, and clear information.

  All this applies as much to Government Departments and their agents—especially the Highways Agency—(vide our transport related agencies submission of 10 November 2000 to the Transport Sub-Committee), as it does to local authorities. LTPs are beginning to change in response to current policies, but more in pious words than positive action. Guidance to encourage walking needs to be more positive, and funding arrangements directed towards provision of infrastructure appropriate to the creation of seamless, pleasurable journeys with the minimum of hassle, including good easy-to-follow signing.

  Certainly it would be desirable for a greater share of Government budget to be available for promoting the benefits of walking—combined with public transport—implying in some situations re-allocation of road space. The question is: how funds can be made available in a co-ordinated manner, given the multiplicity of authorities and agencies involved? (see below)

  It is doubtful whether national targets for walking are appropriate, because each town differs from others. Important factors are local circumstances and the base from which each Town and City starts. National strategies are needed for rail and roads, within which local arrangements have to fit. National and Local should respect and complement each other.

  The conurbation of Bristol provides an example of where problems lie. It has the disadvantage, compared with other major urban areas, of not having a PTE—a Passenger Transport Executive with a complementing Authority—to organise and co-ordinate its public transport. There are four unitary local authorities, albeit with the City of Bristol at its heart. Though there is a Joint Strategic Planning and Transportation Unit it has no powers, except as a means of the authorities talking to each other. The journey-to-work area extends into three surrounding Counties as well as having road and rail access to Wales. There is the Government Office for the South West, the Regional Development Agency, Railtrack (Western Zone) and three Train Operating Companies—one of which is of the Group having most of the buses. The rail companies receive public funds via the Strategic Rail Authority and are regulated by the Rail Regulator. Such regulation as applies to buses rests with the Traffic Commissioner, supplemented by "Quality Agreements" (meaning funding support for some services) with local authorities across whose boundaries their services necessarily run. The Highways Agency and Environment Agency are also involved, as well as pressures from commercial interests generally. As all of these have their own objectives and agendas the wonder is that anything gets done at all—let alone that walking is incidental to all else, rather than being fully co-ordinated. There is no financial motive in making provision for walking. But this is the world in which we live.

  Results of this dichotomy can be seen (among other places) at Bristol's rail stations. Though to their credit the Regional Development Agency are beginning, at the Temple Quay development they inherited, to sort out walking and bus access to adjoining Temple Meads station. To walk from the station to main parts of the City is a detour across many main roads, yet "as the crow flies" station to centre is only about 700 metres. Continuing what RDA have begun, a short-distance pleasant walkway could be created alongside the floating harbour where development is intended, with a bridge from the site of disused brewery due for demolition, to the high part of Castle Park adjoining a part of Broadmead due for upgrading. It would require co-oepration between the City Council, RDA, Railtrack and TOCs (including who gets the new franchise to incorporate a Bristol management unit), a number of potential developers and some input of public funding. All this to be associated with means for buses properly to serve the station. But where would be control, and whence the necessary funding?

  The much used Bristol Parkway station is actually in South Gloucestershire, as is much of what is known as "Bristol" industry and commerce. Indeed a great deal of it has developed in recent years influenced by the proximity of Parkway station and access to M4. Improvements to the station were begun many months ago, but work ceased apparently through lack of funding from Railtrack or First Group. Initial funds came from Royal Mail who have moved there from Temple Meads. Design for the upgraded station is based on cars and is anything but walker friendly. The new car park is on two levels, to release space for Royal Mail, but the station remains on track level requiring passengers to climb a stairway, but located halfway down the platform. And there is as yet no provision for the extra facings to platforms which will be needed to cater for improved local services as well as the mainline trains. Walking between station and the recent large office developments involves detour along heavily trafficked roads lacking signing and crossings, and pavements are often uneven. All the developments are laid out to suit cars. An attempt to cater for public transport was made at the massive MoD centre at nearby Abbey Wood, which has its own rail station (provided from public funds) but badly located to minimise cost, with poor train services and no connection from Parkway station, though this is envisaged with the proposed Bristol LRT.

  South Gloucestershire's July 2000 "Pedestrian and Access Strategy" includes the admirable "Vision" that: "Walking will become the first choice for local journeys and together with public transport, a positive part of longer ones." This could be achieved, it says "with the widespread support of the community as a whole, and Government". Aims include: "To seek to relocate roadspace from motor traffic to pedestrians" and "To develop design standards for street furniture, lighting and signing". Also: "To increase use of public transport and "to increase access to public transport by `green means.'" Much needs to be done to undo past mistakes!

  And to avoid future ones. Related matters were dealt with in our submission to the Transport Sub-committee published in HC 185-11 of 20.01.00 (page 43), including the notion of a Greater Bristol Metro rather than the piecemeal consultancy approaches of the local authorities. The concept and its implications were further developed in our 10 November 2000 submission about Rail Investment. It is important that good and convenient (as well as "green") be provided to all stations and boarding points on such a Metro network, including LRT shared with heavy-rail in the "Karlsruhe method" mentioned in Railtrack's LRT evidence to Sub-committee (on page 199 of HC 153). There is fear that the vital quadrupling of tracks between Filton Junction and Lawrence Hill could be prejudiced by a Railtrack/First GW agreement with Orange to have mobile-phone masts along the route. Similarly the sale of what was Bath Road maintenance department at Temple Meads, having been (mistakenly in our view) approved by Ministers, hopefully will be prevented by refusal of any planning permission unconnected with development of rail transport. All this depends much on who gets the intended "Wessex" franchise with its proposal to include a "Bristol management unit" and what terms are agreed for the franchise.

  It is important that Government honours its "integration" commitment to control rail land sales so as not to prejudice transport development. This applies to what SRA have passed to Rail Paths Ltd and Sustrans. Their enthusiasm for walking and cycling, good as that is, should not prevent opportunities for re-opening rail lines or developing LRT on the corridors. Station sites should not be sold off where there is prospect of their re-use with easy pedestrian access. Dual use should be the aim, with paths alongside tracks. Examples in the South West include: Radstock-Frome, Portishead-Pill, Oakhampton-Bere Alston, Wells-Cheddar.

  Walking, cycling and public transport are complementary, relying on each other. It is not a case of "either/or", they go together. Easy and pleasurable access, together with good information and clear signing, is all important.

Dick Drew
for Transport 2000 and Railway Development Society in the South West

January 2001

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