Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Norfolk and Norwich Socialist Environment and Resources Association (IT 100)

  In general there was a strong welcome for the White Paper, especially for the emphasis laid on the reduction of car use, and on the need for an integrated system of public transport. There was, however, concern about the level of funding sufficient for improvements in public transport, and for traffic management. A lower speed limit in built up areas was felt to be key element in the promotion of non-car transport (cycling and walking), and in the reduction of traffic casualties. There was general regret that the problems of disabled access were not dealt with in greater detail.

  Taxes: There was a big majority in favour of hypothecated charges for workplace parking, to be paid for by employees, but much less enthusiasm for road pricing. Out of town parking charges should be paid for by the car users and not passed on to customers in the form of higher prices (i.e., if shop owners paid the parking charges themselves).

    Green Commuter schemes and company transport schemes are to be welcomed.

    Strong support was evident for replacement of company cars by rail or bus passes.

  Rural issues: The problems the shire counties have in highway maintenance should be dealt with more fairly.

    School Transport should not continue to be funded within the education budget.

    The Rural Bus Subsidy Grant was welcomed and is already having a positive effect.

    More community bus schemes are needed, with Dial-A-Bus facilities.

    Through ticketing and more affordable fares would have a big effect on the use of public transport.

    Heavy lorries should be banned from villages and small towns.

  Cycling: This should be promoted as part of an integrated system of transport, which constitutes a relatively easy switch from cars by preserving the element of private use, especially for short journeys—which are the majority of car journeys.

    Motor cycles should not be allowed in bus lanes, as suggested in the White Paper.

    Problems of cycling in rural areas should not be neglected: road design, off-road cycle paths on trunk roads, and stricter police enforcement would improve the present situation.

  Safe routes to school: There was strong support for a combined approach involving encouragement to walk (health considerations demand this, together with the principle that "more is safer" to counteract safety fears) and traffic calming measures near schools.

  

  It was suggested that "set aside" walking strips inside hedgerows or boundary verges would help in rural areas where there are no footpaths. School governors, parents and staff should be consulted on ways and means of achieving safe walking to school in their own catchment areas.

  Changing the Culture/Planning issues: Local communities must be involved in the planning process, although there needs to be an overall regional level of planning as well.

  The process should be bottom upwards. The present planning process is too complicated, opaque and long drawn out for people to engage with; it seems to favour the more affluent and articulate. More needs to be done to include the public in the planning process. A start has been made with Community Partnerships already in place in Norwich.

  Out of town facilities, public and private, should have adequate public transport taken into account in preliminary stages of the planning process.

  No increase in car parks in city centres.

  Local media should be encouraged to promote public transport use.

  All development proposals should include a non-car strategy (cycling and walking as well as public transport). Traffic laws to be more strictly enforced.

  Rail: The White Paper's aim to increase passenger and freight levels was strongly welcomed. In order to increase passenger use, there must be better information, through ticketing, better bus/train interchanges, better disabled access and facilities for cyclists (both on the train and in cycle parks at stations).

  Good practice by some railway companies should be used as a lever to raise the standards in the poorer ones, or, if this fails, franchises should not be renewed, and we see the formation of a Strategic Rail Authority as an urgent priority.

  The rail network should be widened using old railway lines to reconnect towns and villages.

  The environmental impact of fuels should be examined (diesel vs electric). The public should be made aware of the difference in environmental impact of various forms of transport (air, car, train, bus).

  Buses: Many people perceive bus costs as greater than car costs—but realistic figures need to be publicised and discount schemes promoted, for example with ticket strips and smart cards.

  Buses designed for comfort with wider access for push-chairs, for the disabled and for shoppers need to be generally available.

  Reliability is a key factor in promoting bus use-quality. Partnerships and similar measures were welcomed.

  Information needs to be improved both before the journey and at bus stops, for example real-time information, time tables and route maps at all stops.

  Although the best antidote against insecurity, particularly, though not exclusively, at night, is to have more people travelling by bus, there should also be conductors on most routes.

  Environmentally sound fuels must be universal.

  Teaching children to use buses by encouragement and example would help to bring about a "bus culture", but for this to happen buses must be family-friendly in terms of design, prices and helpfulness of staff.

  Concessionary fares schemes should be reciprocal between local authorities as well as nationally standardised.

Davida Higgin

For Norwich and Norfolk SERA

24 September 1998


 
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