Memorandum by South West Transport Network
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
We offer these comments on the points the Committee
wishes to examine:
Making walking a pleasurable experience has
to be a major element in Urban Renaissance. No one should doubt
walking's potential contribution to healthy living and reduced
dependence on cars.
Walking in towns has declined because it is
distinctly unpleasant to walk along heavily trafficked roads with
vehicles belching fumes; having to make detours to get over busy
crossings, being delayed while waiting for lights to change, or
having to climb up and down steps and slopes to cross by unfriendly
steel bridges or graffiti sprawled dirty subways.
Development of city squares, pedestrian areas
and Home Zones should be encouraged. Harmonisation with public
transport is essential in making walking more pleasurable. Infrastructure
needs designing for safety and security as well as providing a
Where good practice exists (sadly lacking in
too many UK towns) much can be learned from it. Good examples
include Manchester (an effective PTA!), Walsall (West Midland
Metro rail station includes shopping precinct, buses close by)
and Shrewsbury (Shopping and bus station together, rail near by).
Skills and training of professionals has tended
to concentrate on traffic measures to cater for the ever increasing
number of cars. The accent needs to change towards making walking
pleasurable, accompanied by easy access to public transport which
needs to be convenient, frequent, clean and affordable, greater
use encouraged by such devices as easily obtained travel cards
and through ticketing across various modes, and clear information.
All this applies as much to Government Departments
and their agentsespecially the Highways Agency(vide
our transport related agencies submission of 10 November 2000
to the Transport Sub-Committee), as it does to local authorities.
LTPs are beginning to change in response to current policies,
but more in pious words than positive action. Guidance to encourage
walking needs to be more positive, and funding arrangements directed
towards provision of infrastructure appropriate to the creation
of seamless, pleasurable journeys with the minimum of hassle,
including good easy-to-follow signing.
Certainly it would be desirable for a greater
share of Government budget to be available for promoting the benefits
of walkingcombined with public transportimplying
in some situations re-allocation of road space. The question is:
how funds can be made available in a co-ordinated manner, given
the multiplicity of authorities and agencies involved? (see below)
It is doubtful whether national targets for
walking are appropriate, because each town differs from others.
Important factors are local circumstances and the base from which
each Town and City starts. National strategies are needed for
rail and roads, within which local arrangements have to fit. National
and Local should respect and complement each other.
The conurbation of Bristol provides an example
of where problems lie. It has the disadvantage, compared with
other major urban areas, of not having a PTEa Passenger
Transport Executive with a complementing Authorityto organise
and co-ordinate its public transport. There are four unitary local
authorities, albeit with the City of Bristol at its heart. Though
there is a Joint Strategic Planning and Transportation Unit it
has no powers, except as a means of the authorities talking to
each other. The journey-to-work area extends into three surrounding
Counties as well as having road and rail access to Wales. There
is the Government Office for the South West, the Regional Development
Agency, Railtrack (Western Zone) and three Train Operating Companiesone
of which is of the Group having most of the buses. The rail companies
receive public funds via the Strategic Rail Authority and are
regulated by the Rail Regulator. Such regulation as applies to
buses rests with the Traffic Commissioner, supplemented by "Quality
Agreements" (meaning funding support for some services) with
local authorities across whose boundaries their services necessarily
run. The Highways Agency and Environment Agency are also involved,
as well as pressures from commercial interests generally. As all
of these have their own objectives and agendas the wonder is that
anything gets done at alllet alone that walking is incidental
to all else, rather than being fully co-ordinated. There is no
financial motive in making provision for walking. But this is
the world in which we live.
Results of this dichotomy can be seen (among
other places) at Bristol's rail stations. Though to their credit
the Regional Development Agency are beginning, at the Temple Quay
development they inherited, to sort out walking and bus access
to adjoining Temple Meads station. To walk from the station to
main parts of the City is a detour across many main roads, yet
"as the crow flies" station to centre is only about
700 metres. Continuing what RDA have begun, a short-distance pleasant
walkway could be created alongside the floating harbour where
development is intended, with a bridge from the site of disused
brewery due for demolition, to the high part of Castle Park adjoining
a part of Broadmead due for upgrading. It would require co-oepration
between the City Council, RDA, Railtrack and TOCs (including who
gets the new franchise to incorporate a Bristol management unit),
a number of potential developers and some input of public funding.
All this to be associated with means for buses properly to serve
the station. But where would be control, and whence the necessary
The much used Bristol Parkway station is actually
in South Gloucestershire, as is much of what is known as "Bristol"
industry and commerce. Indeed a great deal of it has developed
in recent years influenced by the proximity of Parkway station
and access to M4. Improvements to the station were begun many
months ago, but work ceased apparently through lack of funding
from Railtrack or First Group. Initial funds came from Royal Mail
who have moved there from Temple Meads. Design for the upgraded
station is based on cars and is anything but walker friendly.
The new car park is on two levels, to release space for Royal
Mail, but the station remains on track level requiring passengers
to climb a stairway, but located halfway down the platform. And
there is as yet no provision for the extra facings to platforms
which will be needed to cater for improved local services as well
as the mainline trains. Walking between station and the recent
large office developments involves detour along heavily trafficked
roads lacking signing and crossings, and pavements are often uneven.
All the developments are laid out to suit cars. An attempt to
cater for public transport was made at the massive MoD centre
at nearby Abbey Wood, which has its own rail station (provided
from public funds) but badly located to minimise cost, with poor
train services and no connection from Parkway station, though
this is envisaged with the proposed Bristol LRT.
South Gloucestershire's July 2000 "Pedestrian
and Access Strategy" includes the admirable "Vision"
that: "Walking will become the first choice for local journeys
and together with public transport, a positive part of longer
ones." This could be achieved, it says "with the widespread
support of the community as a whole, and Government". Aims
include: "To seek to relocate roadspace from motor traffic
to pedestrians" and "To develop design standards for
street furniture, lighting and signing". Also: "To increase
use of public transport and "to increase access to public
transport by `green means.'" Much needs to be done to undo
And to avoid future ones. Related matters were
dealt with in our submission to the Transport Sub-committee published
in HC 185-11 of 20.01.00 (page 43), including the notion of a
Greater Bristol Metro rather than the piecemeal consultancy approaches
of the local authorities. The concept and its implications were
further developed in our 10 November 2000 submission about Rail
Investment. It is important that good and convenient (as well
as "green") be provided to all stations and boarding
points on such a Metro network, including LRT shared with heavy-rail
in the "Karlsruhe method" mentioned in Railtrack's LRT
evidence to Sub-committee (on page 199 of HC 153). There is fear
that the vital quadrupling of tracks between Filton Junction and
Lawrence Hill could be prejudiced by a Railtrack/First GW agreement
with Orange to have mobile-phone masts along the route. Similarly
the sale of what was Bath Road maintenance department at Temple
Meads, having been (mistakenly in our view) approved by Ministers,
hopefully will be prevented by refusal of any planning permission
unconnected with development of rail transport. All this depends
much on who gets the intended "Wessex" franchise with
its proposal to include a "Bristol management unit"
and what terms are agreed for the franchise.
It is important that Government honours its
"integration" commitment to control rail land sales
so as not to prejudice transport development. This applies to
what SRA have passed to Rail Paths Ltd and Sustrans. Their enthusiasm
for walking and cycling, good as that is, should not prevent opportunities
for re-opening rail lines or developing LRT on the corridors.
Station sites should not be sold off where there is prospect of
their re-use with easy pedestrian access. Dual use should be the
aim, with paths alongside tracks. Examples in the South West include:
Radstock-Frome, Portishead-Pill, Oakhampton-Bere Alston, Wells-Cheddar.
Walking, cycling and public transport are complementary,
relying on each other. It is not a case of "either/or",
they go together. Easy and pleasurable access, together with good
information and clear signing, is all important.
for Transport 2000 and Railway Development
Society in the South West