Memorandum by R Michael Ratcliffe (NT
What is a New Town, sustainability, car dependence
and social exclusion. I know because, I worked on the Master Plan
and construction of Runcorn New Town. I have lived here since
In 1964, a Civil Engineer with traffic prediction
experience I was appointed by the Development Corporation for
traffic analysis of an experimental scheme for a planned balance
between public and private transport. In other words, unlike other
towns, public transport, walking and cycling were to be viable
alternatives to private transport. Planned control of the use
of private transport was needed.
The Buchanan Report, "Traffic in Towns"
had been recently published, which clearly demonstrated the likely
effects of uncontrolled motorisation.
The plan for Runcorn was to provide a dedicated
route for buses, which would compete in travel time with the private
car. It had tortuous routes to the ring expressway. Parking control
was envisaged at workplaces.
In the swinging sixties, the motor car was becoming
affordable, especially for long commutes on the New Motorways.
The busway town was greeted with derision. The
Nation wanted greenfield housing within commuting distance of
Runcorn is sited on the south bank of the River
Mersey, upstream from Liverpool, with heavy chemicals as basic
industry. Widnes a like town is sited on the north bank. For the
twin towns to have no road joining them was unthinkable, and in
1961 the Runcorn-Widnes Road Bridge was opened across the estuarial
section of the River Mersey.
A road map shows Runcorn, and its Busway together
with the Motorways M62, M6 and M56 which serve the Mersey Valley.
Major construction has taken place over the last half-century,
the Manchester Ship Canal is now redundant, railways are of minor
value, transport now is Motor Vehicle. The time has come to build
The White Paper "a new deal for transport"
firmly grasped the matter, with unitary transport schemes, leaving
the implementation to the regions and local authorities. Greenfield
housing is a planning matter. Trunk roads are national priority
Runcorn and Widnes have been joined as the unitary
Borough of Halton.
I have two comments
1. The Runcorn Busway with a capitalised
value of £40 million, built as an experiment, is not being
followed through to its conclusion.
2. The Runcorn-Widnes Bridge now overloaded,
has become a problem needing an integrated traffic solution.
At the moment a second bridge, we are told,
is necessary to maintain the vitality of the area.
The second bridge costing £150 million
will merely create a North-West traffic corridor through the New
Town and impinge upon the trunk road network of the Mersey region.