Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Brighton's £6.3m Lewes Road sustainable transport bid includes a direct bus-to-railway link and electric bicycles - but can it solve the problem?
The bid, made on 18 April, seeks funding of £4m from the Department for Transport (DfT) Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), with additional funding of £2.3m from local stakeholders including the bus and train companies, Sussex University and the council's own Local Transport Plan. If successful, the bid funds will be applied to capital and revenue projects over the period 2011-2015.
The bid application includes letters of support from major stakeholders including the Brighton and Hove Buses and Southern Rail, the Universities and several community organisations including Lewes Clean Air Campaign.
In January this year the DfT announced the £560m LSTF, intended to encourage Local Authorities to make plans to promote sustainable transport. Brighton and Hove's application was submitted to the DfT 18 April to meet the DfT deadline for the first round of funding ("Tranche 1"), for projects up to £5m. Winning bids will be announced end of June. A second round of bids for up to £5m closes 6 June (Tranche 2). Then there is another round for projects up to £50m. Deadline for expressions of interest for this is also 6 June.
Links to download details of Brighton's bid can be found at the end of this article.
Is the plan any good?
Cycle campaigners said that the application was prepared in a short time by the council planners, and there was insufficient time for community consultation.
Lewes Clean Air Campaign spokesperson Duncan Blinkhorn said: "Lewes Road for Clean Air / Bike Train are a community partner in this bid. We support it because we want to see real progress toward this route being a sustainable transport route which can have a positive impact on local health, well-being as well as the global threats of climate change from significant reductions in emissions of CO2, air polutants and noise.
He added: "We have some concerns that the bid lacks sufficient ambition and offers little in the way of practical steps to improve cycling but we hope that these things can be developed more a later stage."
Major elements of the proposal include publicity to promote cycling, walking and public transport, bus stop improvements including weather cover and "real time" bus information displays, and improved access to the South Downs National Park, including signage and resurfacing of routes and improvement of access including rights of way.
This is all to be welcomed. However, in the absence of a citywide sustainable transport plan, it will be hard to improve the problems of slow public transport links with other parts of the city, and dangerous cycle routes into town.
In particular, the publicity-promotion of cycling seems optimistic, without provision of safe cycling routes around such obstacles and pinch points as the Underpass, Vogue Gyratory and the Level.
The report does acknowledge: "The poor surrounding cycling and pedestrian facilities mean parents and carers are reluctant to let their children walk or cycle which also contributes to a lost opportunity to improve health."
The local improvements might encourage more people to use the South Downs National Park, but will it encourage more people to cycle and walk to work and school?
To ease congestion we want people to use cars less. To do that, we need to make sustainable transport the mode of choice: prioritise public transport, so becomes as fast to get the train station by bus as it is by car; make walking and cycling safe and attractive.
There are some nods in this direction: a "green wave" on traffic lights in Vogue Gyratory will give sustainable transport priority. And a new direct bus service will allow residents to get to the station without having to change buses (extension of route 21). But overall journey times on buses are likely to remain long as buses struggle through congested streets. And a green wave for cyclists on Vogue Gyratory is unlikely to make it less intimidating. A cycle bypass is needed there, and cyclists still have to confront the Level...
Imagine a fast tram to the station, and delightful cycling and walking routes... people leaving their cars at home or on the city outskirts. Am I dreaming? Actually, there used to be railway line running though the Vogue Gyratory, it was demolished only in 1984. Ultimately we will need to re-engineer the city to get where we want to go. That will help stimulate the economy as well.
For the time being, in my opinion, without an overall city plan that coordinates a sustainable transport policy, it will be hard for a local project like this Lewes Road Corridor bid to persuade substantial numbers of people to switch to sustainable transport for trips like work and school.
It is doubtful that more community consultation on this isolated project could have come up with better ideas - and in the end, the vocal spokesperson for Lewes Road Clean Air Campaign, Duncan Blinkhorn, gave the project his support.
In my opinion, the money would be better spent on making an integrated city plan - then we can make a start on some of the serious civil engineering obstacles - like Vogue Gyratory. And similar obstacles on Old Shoreham Road. So let's go for the big prize, the £50m bid.
In the meantime, this bid should be supported, not because it promises fundamental change - but because it is a step in the right direction, and an opportunity to focus the city's attention on what is needed to promote real modal shift toward sustainable transport. If it does not go ahead, we will lose the funding opportunity.
The application includes elements under the following headings:
SC1 – Personalised Travel Planning (PTP)
SC2 - Travel Planning (Universities)
SC3 - School Travel Planning
SC4 - Community Road Safety Campaign
SC5 - Electric Bikes Research and Promotion
TI1 - Links to South Downs National Park (SDNP)
TI2 - Traffic Signal Review and Upgrade
TI3 - Pedestrian Wayfinding Extension
TI4 - Bus Real Time Information (RTI) Extension and Upgrade to GPRS
TI5 - Rail Station Access Improvements
TI6 – Improved Bus Stop Waiting Environments
TI7 - Bus Service Improvements to Brighton Station
Download the full details of Brighton and Hove's "Lewes Road Corridor
2011-2014" LSTF Bid here: