Memorandum by Transport 2000 (South West)
In the South West, Local Transport Plans are
full of laudable objectives and policies on paper. However, delivery
on the ground of actual improvements in public transport, cycling
and walking is extremely sparse.
Around the end of 1999 more progressive policies,
engendered by "A New Deal for Transport" and the guidance
to local authorities on developing local transport plans, when
into reverse. Indication from central government was that a large
number of bypasses would, after all, receive funding. In consequence
many County Councils dropped everything to revive every road scheme
in the book during 2000-01, these schemes previously thought to
have been "lost" for ever to the new priorities of modal
shift, traffic reduction, social integration and environmental
In the South West, Government Office for the
South West (GOSW), the Highways Agency, and the transport officers
of the Regional Assembly, worked with the County Councils to achieve
Meanwhile public transport and walking and cycling
initiatives were left by many authorities in the hands of junior
staff to pursue, which they did without success. The idea of "sustainable
development" remained on paper but was by mid-2001 compromised
to the extent that the construction of environmentally damaging
roads across chalk grassland in the Wylye Valley, and around Salisbury
and Weymouth and also in the Cranborne Chase in Dorset, were considered
completely environmentally justifiable.
None of this reflects the actual priorities
expressed by the travelling public. When consulted as part of
the LTP process, stakeholder groups give top priority to public
transport investment and lowest priority to the construction of
new roads. Local businesses are often also willing to support
these priorities but green travel plans cannot be put into effect
until public transport becomes more than a theory.
It is worth noting that guidelines in PPG 13,
which aim to link new development with public transport provision,
are only being taken seriously by a few District Councils. Even
these are hampered by lack of real consideration of other transport
modes than the car by their parent County Councils. Development
associated with bypasses remains on the cards.
We recommend changes in the way that transport
matters are dealt with in the South West as follows:
1. The process of establishing a public
transport infrastructure should be done regionally rather than
county by county. There is a lack of expertise and political will
within many County Councils when it comes to delivery of a public
transport infrastructure. This is particularly the case in Wiltshire
and Dorset, and true to a lesser but still significant degree
in Somerset and Cornwall.
Whereas many local authorities are familiar
with the work involved in land acquisition and other necessary
negotiations for road schemes, the negotiations involved in public
transport/rail freight initiatives are unfamiliar and complex
and defeat already short-staffed council departments.
2. Bristol is hampered by having four unitary
authorities involved. The city would be better off with a single
passenger transport authority covering the whole Bristol Travel
to Work Area where it reaches out into BANES, South Gloucestershire,
North Somerset, North and West Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire.
3. The Highways Agency only focuses on roads
and is still driving the agenda. In the South West officers are
seconded from the Highways Agency to work on road projects; however
there is no similar arrangement with the SRA and rail transport.
The Highways Agency as a body needs to be abolished regionally
and instead a Regional Transport Authority put into place (see
4. There is a strong imbalance in GOSW,
with too may staff seconded from Highways Agency working on regional
road schemes rather than transport schemes. This would be remedied
by (5) below.
5. As there is no elected regional government,
decisions are being made by civil servants with little expertise
in transport and without any strong regional or political steer.
We would suggest that transport powers should be taken away from
County Council and put into a strong Regional Transport Authority
consisting of elected regional MPs and transport specialists.
6. Regional delivery targets should be set
for the SRA.
7. Multi-modal studies invariably end up
pointing to new road schemes because the road lobby is well organised
and because road building always remains a "tempting possibility".
We need to be clearer with these studies that we are looking to
implement government policy and change transport habits. This
has to be made explicit from the start.
8. Sustainable development is a key theme
in the South West Regional Planning Guidance. This cannot be carried
beyond policy on paper unless the Region is much firmer about
9. The lack of bus regulation and consumer
protection causes problems at every level at maintaining quality
10. We welcome the setting up of the new
South West Regional Public Transport Forum with partnerships with
the SW Regional Assembly, RDA, Rail Passenger Committee, T2000,
the National Federation of Bus Users, and Rail Futures.
11. With regard to financing public transport
(a) Money spent on bypasses should be diverted
to public transport. For example, the £92 million being asked
by Wiltshire for its seven road schemes could, for example, finance
all the necessary track, signalling and station improvements and
re-openings as well as the leasing of trains and purchasing of
buses to run a European-style bus/train commuter service for the
greater Bath conurbation including the growing urban populations
in Western Wiltshire and NE Somerset. This would help solve many
of the congestion problems on roads into Bath.
(b) Bidding for rural bus challenge money
should be made much simpler: The process is currently too bureaucratic,
in that money needs to be found to maintain and enhance existing
services. £14 million of revenue support is welcomed but
the region needs further revenue support for bus services and
capital to replace existing vehicles with modern low-floor buses.
3. RECENT PUBLIC
These are few but they deserve a mention:
Rural bus grant if well targeted
as in Somerset.
Rural buses at Wells, Glastonbury,
Street Yeovil to Bristol improved and running for 6.30 ammidnight
on hourly frequency six days a week (with Sunday service) with
very good ridership. Has funded 85 new bus shelters and new Wells
North Somersetnew bus interchange
in town centre in Weston.
Taunton-Minehead bus-rail link. New
high quality vehicles, new waiting lounges and rail ticket machines
for buses. Somerset.
Axminster-Lyme Regis-Dorchester bus
service with fast increasing ridership. Also operating through
to Taunton, making rail connections at Dorchester and Axminster.
Rural grant funded, operated by First Group.
Devon and Cornwall
Station improvements in conjunction
with Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership. New services on Tamar
valley line on Sundays.
Number 12 bus every 12 minutes serving
Torbay-Brixham along the coast.
Planned station opening in GloucestershireCharfield
and Stonehouse, London Road (these are imminent although problems
associated with land for car-parks have, in the case of Charfield,
held the project up for over seven years!)
Safer city schemes in Gloucester.
Grass-roots community rail partnershipthe
Brunei Rail Linksuccessfully managed to get limited frequency
(five trains per 24 hours each direction) between Swindon-Chippenham-Melksham-Southampton.
This happened during the process of re-franchising which liberated
a two-car set train which now performs the journey. Stations in
West Wilts however remain primitive, especially Melksham, Trowbridge
Improvements in Salisbury bus fleet;
talk of more bus/cycling facilities but very little accomplished
on the ground; real time transport info is promised.
A number of showcase bus routes in
Bristol between Hartcliff in the South and Thornbury and Filton
to the North. Bus lanes are being established along the busy Gloucester
Chew Valleysuccessful express
commuter service carrying middle classes to Bristol and back.
Good use of partnership between Somerset, Bristol and Mendip working
4. RAIL IMPROVEMENTS:
Radstock to Frome. Track re-instatement
with commuter link then from Radstock to Frome to Westbury. Would
serve urban populations of Radstock and Frome plus 50 plus villages
total population of 80,000 to benefit. Current situation is that
commuters and shoppers travel by car to Bath/Bristol. New line/station
would reduce congestion on roads into Bath and (especially) A36.
Reopen stations at Sparkford, Shepton
Mallet and Somerton.
No progress in Somerset when it come
to opening stationsthe last station opened successfully
was Temple Combe in the 1980s.
New stations at Devizescommuters
current travelling great distance to Pewsey.
Three kilometres of new line at Staverton
to re-instate track allowing trains to travel between Bath and
Melksham, establishing new commuter link serving growing town
(25,000) and surrounding large villages of Holt Broughton Gifford/Shaw.
Even more effective if combined with new stations at Hold, Staverton,
Lacock (for Agricultural College and National Trust Property)
as per consultant recommendations.
Melksham station (currently no more
than a small halt) needs to be re-built as bus-train interchange
to link to growing suburbs.
Westbury needs full re-vamp with
establishment of bus-train interchange and frequent shuttle bus
into the centre of town. This major N-S/E-W rail interchange is
depressing with no proper café.
Trowbridge station needs improvement
with café, toilets, etc, and bus interchange facilities
in line with station serving town of 35,000 plus.
New station at White Horse Business
Park in conjunction with major employers eg Virgin.
New stations at Wilton and Wooton
Bassett. Both would cut down dramatically on car commuting public/into
Salisbury and Swindon respectively. Salisbury area: Proper evaluation
of potential for stations at Porton, Wylye and Alderbury; reinstatement,
as light rail, of line to Downton; feasibility study of relocated
train station and bus-train-coach-car interchange at Salisbury;
examination of Salisbury FoE plans for light rail link to Amesbury
and Stonehenge using Army railway lines.
Bristol Travel to Work Area
Half hourly commuter/shopper rail
service needed for circular route as follows:
Bristol Temple Meads, Keynsham, Oldfield
Park, Bath Spa, Freshford, Avoncliff, Bradford on Avon, Trowbridge,
Westbury, Frome, Bruton, Castle Cary, Langport (new station) Somerton
(new station), Bridgewater, Highbridge, Weston Super Mare, Milton,
Worle Parkway, Yatton, Clevedon bus link, Nailsea and Backwell,
Parsons Street, Bedminster, Bristol Temple Meads.
Light rail absolutely essential:
must go forward without delay.
New station is needed at Newham (Newport
to Gloucester with bus links to Cinderford).
Double track between Kemble and Swindon
which, although a regional priority, is not being pursued and
instead the Highways Agency are pushing hard for road improvements
and bypasses along the A417/419, with long-term ambitions for
upgrading the entire route from Swindon, via Marlborough and the
A346/338, to Salisbury.
Stonehousenew station is needed
on Midland line.
Progress on bus-rail interchange
at Stroud has stalled and no progress being made.
Opening of Charfield station has
taken over seven years mainly because of disputes about land for
the car park.
No progress on dualling the Exeter-Salisbury
line despite this being top regional priority. 80 mile track costing
approximately £120 million. Badly needed to implement faster
service between Salisbury to Exeter with slow and fast trains
stopping only at Yeovil, Axminster, Honiton and Exeter. Needs
to remain with the SW Trains Rail franchise and not transferred
to Wessex Rail franchise.
Urgent need for improvement of track, signalling,
rolling stock, stations and service. This line has become a byword
for unreliability. Unsafe at night, etc. Gauge needs widening
for freight modal shift along A36/A350 road corridor, especially
for carrying largest size of shipping containers from Southampton
and the ports of the Severn and South Wales. This route needs
to be part of a stronger SW-based greater western franchise, or
SW Trains, but not transferred to Wessex Rail.
5. BUSSES: PROBLEMS
On the subject of inter-regional buses and bus
priority measure, there is very little progress despite these
featuring in LTPs No bus lanes at all have been implemented in:
Western Wiltshire urban conurbation
(Chippenham, Trowbridge, Westbury, Melksham. . . ).
In other areas progress is very slow:
In Bath, residents are putting
pressure on for the removal of bus lanes even though their development
is absolutely critical to achieving modal shift. This applies
in particular to the highly congested A367 Wells Road which serves
a huge commuter catchment. Also see section X.
In Weymouth there is only
one lane on sea-front despite government requesting series of
measures and works. With a plethora of measures needed implementation
to achieve modal shift, instead efforts are directed to the Weymouth
Relief Road and Chickwell Link. Much more effort is needed to
actually implement bus priority measures to improve bus routes,
interchange facilities at railways station, etc. Progress on public
transport infrastructure is in general very slow.
In Exeter and Bristol
there is some degree of success, however this is only limited
to the city centre area in the latter case. The establishment
of bus lanes into Bristol is very slow due to the break-up of
the former county of Avon (section X X).
In Cornwall, money was given
for Bodmin ParkwayPadstow link for bus-rail integration,
but at present time buses missing train.
In Western Wiltshire, Friends
of the Earth and local transport action group initiated the Wigglybus
which is now run jointly by local groups and the Country Council,
which makes much of this isolated achievement. However the bureaucracy
involved in setting up similar schemes is so fraught that few
communities would be able to put in the sustained effort needed.
In Western Wiltshire there
are still no quality partnerships even though the population is
growing fast with a number of towns with populations over 35,000.
On county services, especially as
Stagecoach have closed depots in Gloucestershire at Cinderford,
Cirencester and parts of Stroud resulting in small operators maintaining
essential public services with small elderly buses which only
the lame, and the poor and the sick will use.
In Wiltshire, low quality
services provide for the main core networks.
Gloucestershire County Council
should be commended in raising their highways maintenance budget
to maintain services but there is a need for revenue support tied
to a progressive regulation of quality, service reliability and
Urban bus services need to be maintained
in large housing estates and improved in quality and performance.
Operators must not be able to cherry-pick main profitable corridors
whilst neglecting housing estates, especially in areas of high
social exclusion, as has been the case of the greater Bristol
area with First Group. There is also a need to develop guided
bus schemes and hybrid schemes of bus-tram quality, which would
attract a middle class ridership with modal shift from cars.
5. RAIL FREIGHT
A Regional Network of termini are needed to
link with London and the South East, and also with Scotland, Wales
and the Midlands. Rail freight must be planned and specified by
the SRA as a priority for the whole SW Region. The new terimi
need to be evolved in conjunction with marketing of new employment
sites situated for transport of goods by rail. It is important
to explain to companies that these termini are often "mini
terminals" Swedish style, which mean that they serve a large
number of small companies with single containers being loaded
and of-loaded very swiftly. This is quite a different model from
the traditional freight terminal which is designed around the
needs of a particular industry.
Mini-rail freight terminals at Thingly
Junction, Luggeshall, Salisbury, Trowbridge, Westbury as suggested
in Parkman Report on rail freight for Wiltshire.
Larger terminals required, for example,
in Gloucester, Westbury, Bristol Cabot Park, Taunton, Yeovil,
Exeter, Shepton Mallet (Tor Head), Plymouth. . . .
Government policy on modal shift, traffic reduction,
social inclusion and environmental protection will be achieved
only if a very clear message is give to all that road building
is no longer on the agenda, and that instead, the aim is to build
a European-style system of public transport for the South West.
The process of specifying and building this public transport system
must be done on a Regional Basis. The Region has the basis for
an excellent railway and offers many opportunities.
The same principle needs to be applied to rail
freight: we need a clear directive that new businesses will be
evolved with rail freight in mind, and need to design a rail freight
network on a regional basis.