13 Jan 2021
Some Green Party members and supporters have expressed concern regarding the outcome of the Hereford Transport Strategy Review – particularly the implication in some parts of the media that an Eastern bypass is now going to be progressed.
We want to assure everyone that this is NOT the case.
First of all, let’s acknowledge that the Cabinet’s decision in December 2020 to cancel the proposed Western Bypass is a really big win for sustainable transport campaigners! The bypass would have cut a swathe through precious landscape at the eye-watering cost of ~£200 million. Cancellation is excellent news, and it would never have happened without the election of the coalition in May 2019.
The transport strategy review showed that large-scale investment in walking, cycling and buses would deliver the same level of congestion reduction as the proposed bypass, but at a fraction of the cost. So that is what the coalition has chosen to do instead! We’ve rejected the old broken road-building model of the past and instead we’re intent on investing properly in sustainable transport solutions.
However, we have had to recognise that some people passionately believe that Hereford needs a new river crossing, both to alleviate congestion on Greyfriars Bridge and to promote resilience – for example, when that bridge sometimes gets closed.
But we are NOT proposing an Eastern Bypass. Indeed, all three groups in the coalition (Greens, IoC and Independents) are solidly agreed on that. The Eastern Link now under consideration is likely to be a toll bridge at Rotherwas with a short link to the A438. There is absolutely no way the link would progress further north than the A438.
In all honesty, if Greens had our way, we would not be building more roads of any sort, and we’d be making much quicker progress to modal shift and the reallocation of the road space we already have.
However we don’t – yet – have the Government, the tools, or the political support for that. As politicians we can’t achieve these things without first bringing public opinion with us. It takes time. We don’t have time (in terms of the climate) and this is very frustrating.
The big achievement will be the defeat of the Western Bypass. (That Cabinet decision still has to be endorsed by Full Council next month). There are still only 7 Green councillors out of 53. We’re influential, but we’re a minority. We need to work in coalition to win the big battles, and that means a degree of compromise with those who passionately believe a second river crossing is needed.
As Greens we know that road-building won’t solve traffic congestion; new roads simply fill up with more cars. The only thing that really works to reduce congestion is individuals making wiser transport choices. We know that and we need continuing help to persuade others, from everyone who cares about sustainable transport.
For us, the absolute top priority is putting in place the infrastructure for cycling and walking, and the new electric buses, to help people make different transport choices.
As part of the compromise required, we’ve agreed that further work can be done to assess the potential for an Eastern bridge, for the resilience reasons mentioned above. If it were a toll bridge, free to pedestrians, buses and cycles, with integrated park & ride, it might even help build support for more sustainable transport choices.
We will only support further development work on the Eastern Link if this assessment shows that the benefits are significant enough to outweigh any negative environmental and social impacts.
But whatever eventually happens with such a bridge, the most important thing is what we can do NOW in terms of walking, cycling and buses. In the last year we’ve secured funding for 3 new bike lanes in Hereford. A free electric hopper bus will be part of our Town Investment Plan submitted in January 2021. And now, having won the argument against the bypass, we will be cracking on as fast as possible with building that better alternative – transport solutions that work for people, right now.