Latest transport campaigning news. Let’s solve our transport problems rather than just moving them around!

30 October – Southern Link Road Public Inquiry LAST DAY IS TUESDAY 13 NOVEMBER

The Inquiry will examine whether it is in the public interest for land to be compulsorily purchased to build the SLR.

The Inquiry will be held in the Bridge Room at Hereford Left Bank. Starts at 10 AM on 30 October and runs for seven days (excluding weekend), closing on 7 November.

It is open to everyone – not just those who have objected to the SLR in the past.  Just drop in if you can spare an hour or so.

All the documents to be considered are on this website

Hope to see you there!

Clear public support for HEREFORD BYPASS – Real or fake news?

The correspondence below illustrates how public support for the Hereford Bypass is being mis-represented. Our position is that the recent consultation showed that only 41% of the public who took part want a Bypass. And some of the 41% may have been saying Yes to an Eastern Bypass.

By ‘working the numbers’ Herefordshire Council wants us to believe that the level of support is actually 59%.

Either way, there is clearly not overwhelming support!

And if the decision to go ahead with the Bypass was made back in 2015, why ask the public in 2018 if they support it?

From Jeremy Milln:

Dear Councillor Price,

You didn’t answer my supplementary question at Cabinet meeting this morning (27 July), complaining you could not hear it properly and promised to answer it after the meeting.

An answer, and I mean a direct answer to the question as posed and not a ‘response’ which argues or equivocates, is respectfully requested.

For ease of reference, here is the text:

Obviously if you are prepared to count only a subset of respondents, you will skew the percentage. The fact remains 1789 ticking ‘yes’ to a bypass out of 4351 is 41%, and the report adds that 1747 indicating a preferred route is just 40%. We now learn quite a few volunteered preference for an Eastern route, so the actual percentage supporting a Western will be only thirty something percent, and of those only 121 or about 3% voted positively for the Red Route.

Yet I am reminded that at Full Council on 9th March, the Cabinet Member for Infrastructure said “it would be wrong to set a percentage” to the question and he is recorded as adding he would press on with his bypass no matter what. In that case would he kindly beg our indulgence for misleading us to thinking we had a say and for spending public money collecting data he uses as he chooses?

I must correct your reply to my original question, and the Consultants’ presentation on the results of the Consultation where the line ‘59% agreed a bypass form part of the package’ was mischievously repeated in one of the slides.  This ignores the significance of the fact a very large number of respondents declined to be drawn on the subject of a bypass at all.

The message from the Consultation and from the IoC, Green and Independent group presentations, is that it is overwhelmingly the active/sustainable transport measures people want.  Also that few outside the conservative group – and I suspect several thoughtful individuals within the conservative group –  buy the narrative this is only to be considered if, at ruinous environmental and financial cost, we accept your ‘bypass’ and masses of car-dependent urban sprawl.  This is outdated 1970s thinking when, for the sake of our health and well-being we need to embrace 21st century values and behaviors in a convincing and enlightened way.

Yours sincerely

Jeremy Milln

For reference, here are the council meeting public questions and answers on the subject:

Cabinet 27 July 2018

Submitted Question: Para 11 of the report for Cabinet, states ‘A total of 4,351 questionnaires were either fully or partially completed’, and in para 15, ‘1789 of these respondents (59%) said they agreed that a bypass should from part of the package’. The claim, at para 24, that this represents a majority is untruthful, since of course 1789 respondents ticking ‘yes’ from a total of 4351 questionnaires is 41% not 59%. What is the number or proportion of this 41% who, in the consultation form comments boxes, indicated a preference for an Eastern route?

 Response

I must correct the statement included in the question; the Phase 2 Consultation Report is not untruthful. Paragraph 15 of the Cabinet Report is quite clear that 3,033 people responded to the question ‘Do you agree that a bypass should form part of the package?’ Of these respondents, 1,789 (or 59%) said that they agreed a bypass should form part of the package. This indicates clear support for the bypass.

Full Council 9 March 2018

Submitted Question: The Hereford Transport Package consultation asks respondents if they agree that a bypass should form part of a package. What percentage answering No to this question will result in the bypass proposals being dropped?

Response: It would be wrong to set a percentage in relation to a single question as you propose – this is a consultation not a referendum. To do so would be to disregard the comprehensive evidence base which informed the Core Strategy adopted by Council in 2015 and which confirms that the bypass scheme is needed to deliver the county’s growth.

Hereford Times letter – Buses in Crisis

From Trish Marsh, published 19 July 2018

Dear Editor,

Herefordshire looks set to be squeezed over transport choices due to bus service cuts and an anticipated rise in fuel duty.

A new national report – ‘Buses in Crisis’ – shows Herefordshire is hardest hit in the West Midlands following 31.25% cuts to council funding of bus services from 2010/11. Shropshire made 3.8% cuts to buses, Worcestershire 11% and Staffordshire 20%.

Many of our rural residents, young people and the elderly bear the brunt. The number of our residents aged over 65 is 24 per cent above the national average and rising. At a time when people might otherwise think of giving up their car because of costs and health reasons car use here is increasing.

A shrinking public transport network means more cars on our roads, more problems in meeting environmental goals and health risks for residents unfortunate enough to live near traffic pollution hotspots.

Herefordshire Council must act to prevent further bus losses and join other councils to vigorously make the case to Central Government for a new deal on public transport. Last year local-authority bus budgets were slashed by £20 million due to lack of government funding.

Yet at the same time more than £50 BILLION is being spent on the widely criticised HS2 vanity project which will cause major environmental damage and benefit few. (The Institute of Economic Affairs says there is “no economic case” for HS2).

Money would be better invested in local public transport services in Herefordshire and across the country.

Councillor Trish Marsh,

Green group leader,

Herefordshire Council

Wye Ruin It? – A Herefordshire walk not long for this world?

Toni Fagan’s article in the May 2018 edition of The Hedge. Are we really going to build the Hereford Bypass through  such a special landscape and ruin it forever?

Wye Ruin It?

Sometimes – often, we don’t realise what we have lost until it is gone. With this thought nagging me like a tired child I find myself walking from the heart of Hereford, within minutes in a landscape I hadn’t truly realised existed.

The beautiful River Wye is swollen, angry, tumultuous after a spring of unprecedented snow and rain in a time of tyrants and loss. Every walking step I take tries to bring me back to the moment, each precious one I am training myself to value. Blink and it is gone, but here comes another.

From Hunderton Bridge we walk past the Model Railway at Broomy Hill, following the Wye Valley Walk, past the Waterworks Museum and into the meadows where walking is free to the poorest, and richest, of Hereford. In the future these are the kinds of open spaces that city planners will try to recreate. Places where families can breathe out, emptying their heads of all the busyness that makes us ill, escape the fumes of vehicles that lay claim to our right to clean air – places where children can run free with nothing but the wind in their ears. How amazing that places like this exist I tell myself, in cities like this. Following a band of dedicated Green Party friends, we follow the path along the river to Breinton.

Not far along the path past the ancient woodland that is a haven to the wildlife that is fast dwindling under pressure from our human developments, we see Belmont House across the river. Grade ll listed, designed and built by James Wyatt in 1788, a second gothic skin added less than 100 years later by Edward Pugin. To our right is Warham House, dating back to the 16th century and later rebuilt, reputedly with input from Edward Pugin, in 1854. Beneath the house lies the Queen Elizabeth II Field in Trust, gifted in perpetuity by the Wegg-Prosser family to the people of Hereford during the Queen’s 2012 celebrations, and designated Local Green Space in Breinton’s Neighbourhood Plan. Several magnificent trees, exactly as they were painted by local artist Brian Hatton in 1908, stand like sentinels over this precious, threatened, space.

We walk on, past rich medieval water meadows where pastoral keepers once fattened their livestock early, onto National Trust land where Jeremy Milln from the Civic Society shows us Breinton Spring, rescued after a landslip a few years ago. We drink thirstily from the spring. This is Breinton, bordering the River Wye European Special Area of Conservation, and Site of Special Scientific Interest, a landscape little changed since it was immortalised by the tragically young Victorian painter Brian Hatton, killed in action in Egypt in 1916; a landscape designated by Herefordshire Council for a bypass that will slice its way into a vision of progress that will, by all accounts, do nothing for the traffic congestion in Hereford, but at enormous cost will enable 44 tonne HGVs to move unfettered from Wales past the city.

Our walk moves us uphill, clambering up to patches of wild daffodils by St. Michael’s Church (Victorian but with Norman foundations) where we head back towards Hereford, weaving alongside wild periwinkle, guiding us like timeless purple stars past hollowed oaks that have stood patiently for hundreds of years. Back at Warham House we marvel at the trees towering above us that might soon fall beneath the blades of an alleged progress, taking with them all those sentient creatures who harbour in their boughs. We leave through the kissing gate, passing Hereford Community Farm, set up in 2013 to provide animal assisted and land-based therapy and skills to people who are disadvantaged by ill health, disability or social need – just the kind of place a ‘big society’ aspires to have. The kind of place that will be impossible to replicate when a road destroys it.

Slowly we follow the lane as it winds back to Broomy Hill. I try to counter my sense of sadness, my feeling of loss, my anger – with an optimism that surely, we won’t let this happen. Surely, we have learnt enough by now to know that this is a landscape, with all its special designations, that must be valued, protected and acknowledged for how much it has to offer us – how much we have to lose should it disappear?

Join us for another walk across the proposed Western Bypass route on Sunday 13 May 2018, ring Rick on 0780 5441457 for details.

For more information:

WyeRuitIt

Herefordshire Transport Alliance

 

Hereford Transport Package consultation – ending soon (20 March)

The consultation closes on Tuesday 20th March.

An exhibition of bypass routes and possible improvements to support for cycling, walking and public transport will be open at Hereford Library on Friday 16th, Saturday 17th and Monday 19th March

Background information about the Bypass, and an on-line consultation response form is on the Council website here.

If you are opposed to the bypass, which is the main part of this package, we ask that you consider carefully how to answer questions 2 and 3. There is a risk that if you answer “No Preference” to Q3, it will be taken to mean you are happy with any of the proposed routes.

If you do not think there should be a Western Bypass we suggest you may wish to complete the form as shown below.

Richard Priestley – Transport beyond fossil fuels

Many countries are now setting themselves the goal of moving from petrol and diesel powered transportation systems to very much cleaner technologies. The UK, like many countries has set itself the goal of banning sales of new fossil fuelled vehicles by 2040. Norway plans to do so by 2025. Many people still don’t seem to realize that we already have most of the technologies we’ll need to run a modern global economy purely on renewable forms of energy. Renewably generated electricity, supplied via the grid, via batteries or via hydrogen fuel cells will be the basis of most methods of transport.

For over a hundred years trains and trams have used electricity via either overhead cables or live rails. There is a strong case to keep electrifying railway lines. An emerging alternative, particularly suitable for quiet rural railway lines, where the high cost of electrification might not be justified, are hydrogen fuel cell trains. Alstom is already marketing the Coradia iLint, and Siemens are now partnering with Ballard to make something similar. There are lots of advantages to getting people and freight off the roads and on to rails. Steel wheels on steel rails generate much less friction than rubber tyres on tarmac, meaning greater energy efficiency and less pollution. The longer thinner shape of trains means less air resistance, again aiding efficiency.

We will of course still need buses, trucks and cars. There are many possible fuel options. Oslo has a fleet of 135 buses powered on biomethane made from food waste and sewage. I’ve blogged about methanol fuel cells, and a whole range of innovative and experimental ships, planes, and solar panel clad roads and cars, which are all promising but not yet in common usage. Battery electric vehicles are getting massive media coverage due to Elon Musk and Tesla, and are beginning to sell in large numbers. Last year in Norway over half of all new cars sold were either battery electric or petrol/electric hybrids, but sadly in most other countries the proportion is very much smaller. In terms of volume of sales, China is a long way ahead of any other market for battery electric or hybrid cars and buses.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the other main technology to be moving from the experimental stage to the mass production stage. (earlier blogs from me in 2015 and 2017) The Scottish government has recently helped Aberdeen double its fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses from ten to twenty. Cologne in Germany has just ordered thirty, and dozens of cities are ordering a few. Ballard, the Canadian hydrogen fuel cell specialist has now teamed up with some Chinese companies to build a fleet of 500 hydrogen fuel cell light trucks and the refuelling infrastructure to support their roll out in Shanghai. Meanwhile the Nikola company has secured 8,000 pre-orders for its huge hydrogen fuel cell trucks, and will start production next year in Arizona. At the other end of the spectrum is Riversimple, who are due to build their first twenty tiny hydrogen fuel cell cars later this year, and which our local car club may be in a position to trial. Exciting times!

The days of petrol and diesel are numbered. It is too early to say which technology will dominate in the post fossil fuel economy. Both hydrogen and batteries are in essence ways of storing surplus wind and solar electricity and it is this aspect of how best to store energy cheaply and at vast scale which may be the main determinate of which fuel is used where. There will undoubtedly be a role for many technologies in various settings. I’ll explore more on this next week.

28 Feb: Big Green Conversation – Will the Hereford Bypass bring relief?

Herefordshire Council is pressing ahead with its plan to build a ‘Western Relief Road’ or as it’s now known the ‘Hereford Bypass’.

This Big Green Conversation will discuss the proposals for the new road and bridge over the River Wye between Belmont and Breinton. And look at the alternatives.

7.30pm in De Koffie Pot, Left Bank Hereford

 

Potholes and other road issues

Potholes and other road-related issues are high up my list of priorities at the moment, as residents often contact me about them. I have to admit I’m rather frustrated that we still don’t have a Balfour Beatty (BBLP) locality steward for the ward – I’ve got an ever-growing list of issues to take up with the new person as soon as s/he is in post, which BBLP assure me will be in mid-February. In fact, wouldn’t it be simpler all round if it was Council staff doing the work, rather than it being outsourced to BBLP? The collapse of Carillion has sparked a long-overdue debate about the pros and cons of contracting out; personally I’d much prefer the Council to be running its own highways services in-house, as I’m sure the extra layers of management and contract supervision mean that contracted-out highways services are more expensive and less responsive…

Anyway. One very practical and useful thing that we can all do is report potholes and other roads issues to the Council via this web page (which also shows you if it has already been reported). You can also use this pothole and road defect progress map to see which issues are currently being addressed. So please, if you notice a pothole, help us all out and report it online – and I’ll make it my business to chase BBLP up. Thank you!

A ROAD, A ROAD, MY KINGDOM FOR A ROAD.

Road building is seldom off the agenda at Herefordshire Council meetings, and last month (January) the controversial subject of ‘The Bypass’ got a really thorough airing. On one side we had the Council (or perhaps, rather the Cabinet) who want a sort of M25 for Hereford. On the other was a determined group of activists and opponents who object to the proposed Western Relief Road because – it’s too expensive and not needed; it disfigures a beautiful, peaceful un-spoilt part of the County; it threatens closure of the Hereford Community Farm; or it should be on the eastern side of the city.

Roads deliver economic growth – or do they?

Why does the Cabinet want this road so badly? While they make soothing noises about alleviating traffic congestion, improving air quality, getting people out of their cars to improve their health, their answers to the dozens of recent public questions mention ‘growth’ again and again.

For example at Cabinet on 18 January, the meeting was told emphatically that ‘businesses are desperate for a bypass.’ (So emphatically it almost felt like reactive denial.) But that was as far as it went – no details about which businesses, how much they would increase their profits or how many jobs were to be created. You might think that if businesses are going to benefit from a road scheme costing at least £175m (budgetary estimates for the Western Relief Road plus the Southern Link Road), they should be paying the lion’s share of the price.

As I wrote in the Hereford Times (published 1st Feb), the ‘growth’ justification is tenuous at best. It’s extremely hard to find solid evidence that major new roads bring investment, jobs and time saving to the extent that their developers claim.

In 2016, The What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth reviewed 2,300 evaluations of the local economic impact of transport projects, and found only 17 robust evaluations looking at the local economic impact of roads – and the findings on impacts are rather mixed. They concluded, “there is little robust evaluation evidence on the impact they [roads] have on local economic development.”

Then in March 2017, CPRE tested the evidence itself, using government data known as POPE, which records the effects of each major road built. In their report, ‘The End of the Road’, CPRE found that the great majority of road schemes delivered far less economic benefit than claimed. But, Herefordshire Council stubbornly dismissed the report’s findings, and ploughed ahead with the options study for the Western Relief Road presented to Cabinet this month.

When we’re being asked to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on these schemes shouldn’t there be ’robust’ data to substantiate the claimed benefits? Preferably before public money is committed to the design stage, which itself is hardly low-cost.

What I’ve observed in Hereford, and from talking to road campaigners in other areas, is that the economic justification develops a life of its own. Prior studies are cited as though they are evidence – when in reality they are just a previous consultant’s forecast of what might happen. Consultancy and council staff costs mount up as study after study is produced, until it becomes nearly impossible for a decision maker to shut down a project which has by then cost several millions and has delivered nothing to the communities it is meant to benefit. Meanwhile the option to improve travel for residents by other proven means is sidelined.

It’s also puzzling that a definitive business case is not developed as the first stage in the process, instead of at the end. It’s worked up as the project evolves. Rather oddly, the Department for Transport offers to refine the developing business case so it stands a better chance of being approved – by the Department for Transport.

We are talking about huge sums of public money here. At the time of writing, we have another NHS winter crisis, possibly the most serious one yet. Violent crime is at record levels, as police numbers are constrained. Teachers and nurses are leaving their professions in droves. Herefordshire Council has had to raise council tax rates to protect adult social care services. Public services have been squeezed by austerity for nearly ten years, but a new £175m road to bypass Hereford can apparently be developed without a clear idea of what benefits it will bring.

A stab in the dark

The budgeted costs are virtually certain to rise by the time Hereford’s various relief and link roads are built. Some recent major road schemes have gone seriously over-budget:

Norwich Distributor Road – original estimate £148m, forecast £205m

Bexhill to Hastings Link Road – original estimate £24m, forecast £116m

The A3 Hindhead Improvement – original estimate £107m, forecast £371m

The A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton scheme – original estimate £490m forecast £639m

Which means that the ‘value for money’ assessment on which the projects were justified turned out in practice to be highly optimistic. One case I looked had a Benefit Cost Ratio of 16:1 when the scheme was approved, but 5 years after opening, the BCR was assessed as only 4.7:1

Congestion relief

 The consultation report on the Hereford Transport Plan (primarily dealing with the Western Relief Road/Bypass), adopted by Council this month, found unsurprisingly that Hereford residents wanted something done about traffic congestion in the city.

That’s not the same as support for a bypass / relief road. Many other measures are already available to ease congestion and reduce journey times. Most obviously to get people to use their cars less: the Destination Hereford project between 2011 and 2015 proved that car use can be reduced by encouraging people to switch to alternatives, without laying down more tarmac. Easily delivered active travel measures reduce traffic congestion, and with quickly achieved health benefits, almost immediately reduce pressure on the NHS.

Then there is smarter technology to control junctions and give warnings to driver through sat-nav systems of congested points and alternative routes. It’s interesting to note that traffic on Hereford’s Greyfriars Bridge (A49) has only just returned to the same level it was in 2008, measured by average daily vehicle movements. Yet congestion and journey times are considered to be worse. The most likely explanation is that we have more junctions and that they are not being optimally controlled. Not that there are too many vehicles and not enough road.

But has Hereford really got such a serious congestion problem that spending another £175m of public money is valid? Perhaps there is an element of group-think here. People talking up the problem, people getting disgruntled about roadworks and teething problems with other new roads? Dept. for Transport data for 2016 showed that Hereford is by no means an extreme case: “And while Herefordshire drivers may get furious about traffic jams, they are actually delayed less than the majority of England.”

And, because over 80% of car journeys in Hereford are less than 3 miles, the bypass will affect a very small proportion of those journeys.

It’s an open secret that new roads don’t always reduce congestion; in many cases they increase it by inducing traffic. The CPRE ‘End of the Road’ report analysed 13 road schemes in detail for traffic impact and concluded that the new roads generated more traffic. On average, traffic grew 47% more than background levels, with one scheme more than doubling traffic within 20 years. None of the four schemes assessed in the longer-term showed the promised reduction in congestion; all put pressure on adjoining roads.

Have we reached ‘Peak-Car”?

The Hereford bypass is not going to be opened for many years. It would seem prudent to try to understand the likely changes in travel patterns and transport choices over say the next two decades. For example, across the country, car use is not increasing, people are ‘connecting’ instead of travelling.

A huge part of the congestion problem is that so many cars are used for short journeys and have only one occupant. Ideally some people can be persuaded toswitch to non-vehicle modes of transport, but we have to be realistic when it comes to trips of more than a few miles on the county’s narrow and poorly surfaced rural roads. What is also needed is a way to reduce the number of vehicles on the road but allow as many, possibly more, people to travel by vehicle. That is where demand-responsive transport services come in. Instead of bus services with fixed routes and timetables, where the passenger goes to the bus, the reverse happens – the shared vehicle comes to the passenger at the time required. Like a taxi but shared and much cheaper.

Some councils have already started to breathe life into their public transport this way. Essex runs a Demand Responsive Transport service in rural areas. Somerset has ‘Slinky’, Fife has ‘Ring & Ride’, Stirling’s offering is described as a rural taxi service.

Longer term, transport professionals are talking about Mobility as a Service, where among other things, it’s envisaged that travellers who don’t own a car or who don’t want to use it for short journeys will be able to hail a ride using their smartphone, and pick up an autonomous vehicle, ideally one shared with other passengers.

Car dependency

Hereford needs more housing, but what we need to do is ensure that as much as possible is built on brownfield sites and that where new greenfield sites have to be used, the housing schemes are designed from the outset – and controlled by planning conditions – to reduce car-dependency.

Environmental impacts


All roads schemes have harmful effects on the environment. Frequently they are categorised as ‘severe adverse’. Council’s consultants have already advised that the Hereford Western Relief Road will have severe impacts.

Developers carry out mitigation works, like landscaping and tree planting to soften the blow. CPRE’s report, referred to above, concluded that in the majority of cases, the environmental degradation caused by major road schemes is often worse than forecast, and the mitigation works are less effective than forecast.

For example, the Dept for Transport’s 5 year review of the A1 Peterborough to Blyth Grade Separated Junctions scheme, known as Post Opening Project Evaluation (POPE) reported:

  • “Impacts on landscape are worse than expected due to problems with plant growth. Despite replacement planting having being undertaken, the current levels of plant growth and establishment indicate that the visual screening, landscape integration, and visual amenity functions of the plant stock at all junctions is generally considered unlikely to be developing as well as would expected at this stage.
  • Biodiversity impact is worse than expected in the short term due to the ecological impact of the slow establishment of the new tree and shrub planting.

Summary

I’ve set out the main reasons why the Hereford Western Relief Road is a bad idea. When the local economy is struggling to fund essential public services, when congestion is not really as severe as the loudest voices are saying, when smarter travel solutions are emerging, it is absolutely essential that the economic justification for the bypass is prepared thoroughly and openly, and is subject to detailed scrutiny. It is not enough to base the case for the road on vague expectations of economic growth.

The project will take another decade to deliver. In that time, travel in and around Hereford could be improved significantly using other tried and tested solutions. We should not be made to wait.

Rob Palgrave

HEREFORD TIMES TALKING POINT 1 Feb 2018

“The latest consultants report on the ‘Hereford Bypass’ shows just how damaging the road will be. Houses will be demolished, large areas of farmland lost, the setting of historic listed buildings like Belmont Abbey and Belmont Lodge destroyed, and a beautiful landscape ruined.

 What is still not clear is exactly how this road will benefit Herefordshire. There are no specific forecasts of how much traffic congestion and air pollution in Hereford will be reduced. No details of the extra traffic that will be encouraged to use the A49 as a relief for the M5/M6, or to travel between north and south Wales. No hard information on the economic benefits or jobs to be created.

 It is often claimed that new roads are essential to reduce congestion and to boost the local economy.  With so much road building in Britain, there must be clear proof that they work? Actually no – a recent independent report found that of 25 road schemes justified on the basis that they would benefit the local economy, only five had any evidence of positive economic effects.

 Vague justifications like, “businesses are desperate to have a bypass” are not good enough. A new £150m road paid for by someone else – who would object to that?

Aren’t more roads needed because the number of car journeys is always increasing? Wrong again – government’s National Travel Survey shows that car travel per person in the UK has fallen markedly since 2002, and the average annual mileage of a household car was 7,800 miles in 2016 down from 9,200 in 2002.

The same survey shows young people are increasingly less interested in owning a car and getting a licence.

The smart thinking about future travel envisages ‘movement as a service’, ride-hailing, and demand-responsive shared transport. Large-scale road building has had its day. Herefordshire Council should re-assess its plans in the light of real evidence and emerging technologies, and stop spending vast sums on infrastructure that isn’t guaranteed to work, and may be outmoded by the time it is delivered.”

Highways – resurfacing woes, and safety improvements

I met the Head of Highways, Clive Hall, last Friday, which was very helpful. One of the things we talked about was learning lessons from the A4103 resurfacing road closures in autumn 2017. Clive explained some of the background (including the delays due to the unexpected General Election purdah period), and I made two main points:
1) Communication: This simply wasn’t good enough. There wasn’t enough consultation with residents in affected wards, and there wasn’t adequate real-time information available to travellers, neither online nor on the ground. Disruption was worse as a result.
2) Compensation: Individuals shouldn’t have to bear disproportionate costs for improvements that are for public benefit. Many business owners along the road suffered very significant financial losses during the closure, and haven’t had adequate compensation. Future compensation schemes need to be much better designed.

The stretch of A4103 from Newtown Cross to Hereford is also due for resurfacing later this year, and the council are currently consulting with affected people. Amazingly, they weren’t planning to consult with our ward! I made a very clear request that we should be consulted, as road closure in the Hereford direction will obviously have knock-on effects on the same businesses that already suffered last autumn. I’ll post that info separately. I very much hope that lessons will be learned from last year’s debacle, and that this year’s work will be much better organised.

Finally on roads, I met the council’s senior road safety investigator at Stoney Cross on Tuesday to discuss the planned works on the junction there. This has reached the top of the priority list due to a cluster of accidents in recent years, and so the planned works will straighten the road somewhat, prevent overtaking at the junction, and improve the camber. I’m glad to see that Cradley is getting this investment to improve safety at this junction; and I’m also glad that the works will be done with traffic lights and convoys, i.e. there will be no full road closure.

You can check on planned roadworks using this map: https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/…/2001…/roads/234/roadworks

A4103 re-surfacing work: Letter to Tony Johnson, Herefordshire Council Leader

From Dr Ellie Chowns (Green Party),

Bishop’s Frome & Cradley Ward

16 October 2017

Dear Councillor Johnson,

Re: Road closures for resurfacing work on the A4103

I will shortly be a candidate in the Herefordshire Council by-election at Bishop’s Frome & Cradley and I have been busy talking to residents about their concerns. Without a doubt the most urgent issue affecting residents and businesses in the ward are the current full closures of stretches of the A4103.

There is a great deal of local dissatisfaction and much criticism of the way Herefordshire Council and its contractor has managed this programme.

Residents have been forced to drive many extra miles on long detours making local road conditions dangerous and chaotic. Local businesses, frequently cut off and marooned, have suffered substantial loss of income.

Residents and businesses are baffled as to why total road closure was deemed necessary over so much of the programme. Haphazard and misleading signage has increased problems – one business owner counted 14 ‘road closed’ signs along the A4103 between the Worcester roundabout and her business at Cradley when resurfacing work had been completed on that section. There appears to have been a lack of real consultation with the communities affected.

In the wake of the Blueschool House overspend controversy, it is quite clear your council needs to keep a firmer grip on the way it oversees contracts. Councillor Johnson, I would respectfully ask you to use your authority to intervene in the way the A4103 resurfacing work is being handled and take steps with the contractors to implement fairer and less fraught traffic handling over the remaining weeks.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Ellie Chowns

Prosperity without Growth

Letter to Hereford Times 17 August 2017

 

Startling claim

MR A W Johnson, leader of Herefordshire Council writes about the need for a Hereford bypass (letters column July 13 ) citing as reasons, future traffic management and opening up the space for 6,500 houses and businesses which must be built by 2030.
He goes on to assert: “Our future depends entirely on growing the economy and income.”
This is a startling claim and I think it’s increasingly untrue.
A desirable future for the people of Herefordshire is definitely possible. But it depends on a whole host of things and unlimited economic growth will ruin everything that’s unique about it.
Since the mid 20th century the world economy has grown by more than five times. However, over recent decades expectations of further growth have created enormous levels of consumer debt. And now growth is increasingly stalled by hard physical limits such as depletion of resources, environmental devastation, financial crises, mountains of debt and the rapidly deteriorating net energy of oil.
Our future, Mr Johnson, does not depend on the fantasy of an ever-growing economy. Our future depends on us clearly seeing the reality of our situation, moving away from growth in consumption and towards improvements in the quality of life.
Herefordshire is a wonderful county, we can thrive, we can create something better. Growth is over – what about “prosperity without growth”.
BRIAN LUNT

Bridge over the River – Wye?

Letter to Hereford Times 17 August 2017

River’s role
THERE are interesting links to be made between recent items in the Hereford Times.
The river party ‘Wye Float’, and Herefordshire Lore’s new project ‘River Voices: Stories from the Wye’ are just two examples of the central role this beautiful river plays in our lives.
And of course this is the time of year when we see hundreds of tourists enjoying canoeing, birdwatching, and walking the Wye Valley walk.
Our council promotes the Wye as a prime attraction, and recommends walking from Hereford to Breinton Springs to admire this unspoilt stretch of river, and its surrounding meadows, orchards and woods.
Meanwhile, Tony Johnson, our county council leader, tries to persuade us of the ‘need’ for a massive bridge and road through west Hereford ‘to open up space for new housing’.
This road is also being promoted by the council as a relief road for the motorway system! More houses and more traffic – not exactly solutions to congestion!
Last week’s item on planning permission being refused for the decking and summerhouse overlooking the river Wye quoted councillors’ views that the construction ‘adversely affected the character and amenity of the landscape’. Following that reasoning, how much would smashing an enormous new bridge and road through Breinton’s unique scenery ‘adversely affect the character and amenity of the landscape’?!
Mr Johnson also appears in the paper making another desperate plea for suggestions on how to save money.
A good place to start would be to cancel this hare-brained scheme, which, as we know from experience, would end up costing us all a fortune, as well as causing irreparable damage to the precious green lung to the west of our city.

DIANA TOYNBEE

Fix it first!

Roads in Hereford are full of potholes and getting worse. It’s partly because the Council spend money in the wrong places, says local Green campaigner Rob Hattersley.

‘We estimate the Council have spent up to £3million just on surveys for a bypass’, said Rob, who lives in Bartonsham. ‘Yet they can’t even find money to fill in the holes. Potholes damage cars and cost drivers, but they also make it very hazardous for cyclists who can be injured, or forced to swerve.

Research shows that 85% of Hereford’s traffic is internal. A bypass would come with more housing, so it is likely to make traffic worse, not better. But safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians would give us more travel choices, reduce congestion and air pollution and improve things quickly, especially for our kids.

Rob says : ‘We should fix it first. We certainly shouldn’t be thinking of an expensive bypass to the east, bringing heavy lorries through Tupsley and Central Ward, as some local councillors have suggested. Even a ten percent reduction in traffic similar to what we see in the school holidays would make a huge difference – and faster.’

Potholes can be reported on 01432 261800 or at www.fillthathole.org.uk

Talk: Optimal Transport

Local activist and environmental blogger Richard Priestley presents a talk entitled: ‘Sustainable Transport, Local & Global?’ on Wednesday 10th May, 7.30pm at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank, Hereford. This is part of Left Bank’s regular Politics, Ethic’s and Ecology evenings most Wednesdays.

What might ‘optimal transport’ look like? Do some people suffer from excessive mobility and others from too little? Can global trade be sustainable? What are the latest technological innovations towards zero emissions vehicles and transport infrastructure? Individually and collectively, what can we do in Hereford? Richard Priestley will give a talk, show slides and take questions. He has recently written about the Cities and Cars here.

Better Transport for Hereford

Another week, another argument between our local politicians about a western, eastern or both route for a bypass which will miraculously solve all our traffic woes.
The western route is supported by the Conservative county council and what’s left of the Lib Dems. It relies on massive housing development which will fill the roads up again. It’s such poor value for money, Government won’t even fund a survey, never mind the road itself, hence the need for lots of new houses so that the builders will be made to pay for it, putting up house prices so locals can’t afford them.
The eastern route supported by It’s Our County, the City Council and Jesse Norman MP is arguably worse. It would have to go across the Lugg Meadows, close to Tupsley houses, encouraging heavy lorries and congestion along Hampton Park Road and Ledbury Road. To say that the congestion, air pollution and noise will not be popular with residents is an understatement. This is the route already stopped by Government back in the 90s, due to cost and environmental damage. So again, they won’t give us money for it.
Our politicians keep asking for bypass funding. Every time, they are told a big no. They’re told we have to try other cheaper alternatives first, to address Hereford’s main problem which is internal, not through traffic. But they keep arguing, even though the answer is the same. Civil servants in London must think Hereford is a basket case.
As they argue instead of acting, we, our kids and elderly have to sit in poisonous traffic fumes. We endure dangerous roads for pedestrians and a cycle network which doesn’t join up. Bus services are cut. Walking or biking to school feels dangerous and unpleasant, so lots of us drive our kids instead.
We need councillors who can think out of the metal box. Instead waiting even longer for bypass cash, we could focus all our efforts on funding pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities to rival those of the Netherlands. This isn’t anti-car. It would give us real choice about how we travel, improving public health and allowing the remaining motor traffic to flow freely. It would make our city more attractive to the tourists and businesses who bring in money.
We simply won’t get funding for a bypass until we’ve really tried the cheaper options. The £1.5million already secured is a good start, but we have to be consistent and determined to be taken seriously by government. How long are we going to wait in our traffic jams for our politicians to work this out? Or do we need new ones?

Leominster concern over loss of parking

There is real concern among traders and residents over Herefordshire Council’s proposed sell-off of part of Broad Street Car Park. Local councillors Felicity Norman and Jenny Bartlett have raised residents’ and traders’ questions with the council over loss of parking space, impact on businesses and protection of the riverside.

The Green councillors told Conservative-led Herefordshire Council that they must evaluate the impact on local traders before reducing parking space.

Under the council’s growth proposals Leominster is being forced to expand by a minimum of 2,300 houses in the coming years, so car parking space and a vibrant town centre are crucial issues.

Bus services are getting there

Deep funding cuts by Herefordshire Council have left many local bus services in a sorry state. Now work by Leominster Greens and others to restore some vital bus links by getting the town and parish councils working together is paying off.

Ludlow Town Council has agreed to back Leominster’s initiative on the 490 service between the towns by giving a £1,000 grant.

“This is welcome news,” said Leominster Town Councillor Trish Marsh. “We want people to come to Leominster to shop. Not everyone has unlimited access to a car – a surprisingly high number of local people don’t own a vehicle.”

Hereford city travel survey

Residents in Hereford city are being urged to take part in a city wide travel survey. The survey results will be used to make sure the council’s transport model for the city remains up to date.Hereford is undergoing an unprecedented period of change and regeneration; the data captured will ensure the council’s transport modelling is capable of supporting transport projects and developments across the city.

Councillor Philip Price, Cabinet member infrastructure said: “We want to make sure we have a cross section of views from residents that we can analyse and consider within the plans, to make them robust. I would urge all residents that receive a questionnaire to take part, so we can ensure we have the very best transport outcomes for everyone.”

The survey will be sent to all addresses within the city boundary and are expected to arrive on door mats from 1 February. All respondents will be entered into a prize draw with a chance to win one of ten £50 Amazon vouchers.

From Herefordshire Council website.

Let’s sort Hereford’s traffic right now

The news that Herefordshire Council has again failed to get funding to progress a bypass should make us all stop to think. Do we want to solve our traffic problems right now, or would we prefer to suffer another 20 years in traffic jams as we wait for them to find the money?

Most of Hereford’s traffic is internal. Half of all Hereford’s car journeys are less than 2 miles long. We could now switch our efforts to dealing with internal traffic and the 2 mile journeys which would never use a bypass anyway. This is much easier, faster and cheaper to fix.

This isn’t about forcing everyone to use a bike either. Just a small reduction in internal traffic could make the rest of it flow freely, as it does in school holidays.

Our politicians haven’t managed to deliver a bypass for decades. Do we trust them to deliver in the next 5 years when government won’t even fund a survey? Why are we still waiting? Why not solve our traffic issues now? A city wide 20MPH limit along with a proper well designed bike network, free school buses and better pedestrian facilities would make it easier and safer for our children to get to school and all of us to walk or cycle every now and then.

With air pollution a major factor in ill health for both young and old, even a small reduction in traffic volumes could reduce pressure on our underfunded NHS too, by making us all a little bit fitter, healthier and happier. We could start right now, but we need councillors who ‘get it’.

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