BRIDGWATER LOCAL TRANSPORT FORUM
Held at 4pm on Wednesday 16th September 2015 at the Burgess Room, Bridgwater Town Hall
Present;- Cllr Moira Brown (BTC & SDC Eastover) Cllr Brian Smedley (BTC & SDC Westover) Cllr Dave Loveridge (BTC,SDC & SCC Eastover) Cllr Kathy Pearce (BTC & SDC Westover) Cllr Leigh Redman (SDC & BTC,Dunwear SCC BW South, Mayor of Bridgwater) Cllr Mick Lerry (BTC & SDC Victoria) Cllr Lance Duddridge (SDC Victoria) Cllr Peter Johnstone (BTC Wyndham) Nick Gibson (Bridgwater Forward) Rosemary Eaton (Bridgwater Church Leaders Forum) Mary Winning (Bridgwater & District Civic Society) Glen Burrows (Bridgwater Trades Union Council) Merv Heybyrne (Bridgwater Senior citizens forum) Chris Hooper (Bridgwater Senior Citizens Forum) Mike Slade (Inland Waterways Association) Ian Tucker (Bridgwater Forward) Phil Shepherd (Somerset Film and Video) Tom Dougal (SDC) Mark Pedlar (Webberbus) Alan Muir (Sustrans) Mike Greedy (First Great Western) David Hughes (Blacklands/Camden rd residents
1. Cllr Moira Brown welcomed everyone to the first Local Transport Forum and announced that she had been appointed lead member reporting back to the Town Council and as such would chair the meeting while Cllr Smedley took notes.
2. Cllr Brown went through the Terms of Reference as agreed by council.
3. ‘On the Busses‘ Mark Pedley of Webberbus addressed the meeting. Webberbus had started out from a blacksmiths at Wheddon Cross and expanded into school transport, busses and coaches. They had expanded and operated in Bridgwater since 2000 with their premier route being Bridgwater-Taunton. They had 39 busses and 15 coaches. They were a 6 day operation with no Sundays and no evenings. They had a popular orbital run from Weston to Cheddar to Wells to Bridgwater and also some town services. He listed some of the main issues facing bus companies.
a) Their main problem was driver shortage, which they had attempted to solve by advertising in the North and in East Europe
b) The road infrastructure and consequent traffic in the Brdgwater area was appalling and this affected timings and routes
c) Bus shelters and waiting facilities in the area were not good enough and they had no direct control over this which they described as ‚their front door‘.
d) The Hinkley Point project would be an extra roblem as some 5,000+ people a day would require even more drivers and even more stock.
e) Lack of stability was a problem-loss of contracts, noticeably the College run. The annual competition for contract was a recipe for insecurity.
MH asked about the lack of a bus from the station to the town centre.
MP said there was a problem that the trains were not timed to suit a regular service but he recognised the gap in the market and would look at including a stop on one of the runs. The issue was also that many users wished to go not just to the town centre but to the estates
GB said that if he could solve this he would be ‘canonised’ . She said the lack of signage at the station left people wondering even where the town centre was and therefore there were tourism opportunities missed.A further problem was the booking office shutting at 2,30, although on the plus side Dave’s Diner was a nice little café which had at last been given permission to move inside the station itself.
DL asked why you often saw 2 bus companies on the same run to the hospital at the same time
MP said this was the nature of competition, however they tried to split routes to get there.
LD said there was concern at the stopping of the no 6 bus from Kendale rd to town and that a petition was in circulation. As a trader he was concerned this would mean not just less people coming to the centre but an increase in people making the journey in cars.
MP said it wasn’t their route but said he would look into routes to see if they could help
IT said he had been a webberbus driver for several years and had always been disappointed that companies fought for the same routes. He asked about the fleet of white double deckers that they had added
MP said they had been taken up as a result of the college contract. However he also said the 370 promised students a day turned out to be really 130. New busses cost c.120k and coaches c 300k. They always bought new not second hand.
IT criticised the failure of SCC to send anyone to the Forum and said this was typical and that with their lack of interest was no surprise that they didn’t know what was going on.
ML asked who designed the routes SCC or the Company
MP said SCC asked for a service from A-B and the company made an offer based on that at the best economic rate to gain the contract. However, he felt there was a lack of joined up thinking between SCC, the College and Hinkley who were the 3 key contractors and that they should get together and develop a stable and sustainable strategy from which all could benefit.
RE said that churches and community groups relied on busses for their supply of people and therefore it wasn’t just a business thing
4. Rail Matters. Mike Greedy of FIRST (Great Western) spoke about the situation on the railways. He said they worked to a franchise dictated by the Department of transport which had been cut back to a 5 years programme which robbed them of the scope to invest longterm. FGW provide all the Bridgwater services and this mainly concentrates on the commuter market –Bridgwater-Taunton, Bristol and London. He is aware that the main issue is frequency but says that everywhere always wants more stops and so he has to balance that with all the other small stations. There is also the problem of freight and cross country sharing the same lines and therefor limited stopping options. They were addressing their stick issue as more than 50% of the regional fleet were 30-35 years old however, new fleet would include high speed IC expresses, electrified north of the town and diesel to the west. They will also be getting 2nd hand rolling stock from the Thames Valley for local services. He mentioned some of the key problems.
b) Lack of taxis and busses from the station
c) Bridgwater road system was appalling
d) In terms of positive actions he believed the ‚Celebration Mile‘ project would be beneficial to solving some of these issues and providing a better frontage with space for taxis and cycles
DL said the car park charges at the station had led to people parking in the limited spaces in the neighbouring streets
MG said they had to provide parking spaces and the cost of maintenance had to be found from tickets.
PS said the double yellow lines appearing around the station had exacerbated the situation. He was also concerned as to whether there were plans to extend staffing at the station beyond the current hours as 2.30 closure was not ideal for an operating station
MG said they had to balance local need against cost, footfall, ticket sales etc.Also more people were using the internet to book. Bridgwater was a small town and whilst some were worried these ticket offices would close he said they wouldn’t.
LR asked about the opportunities for spend on disability access as the college side of the station was atrocious in this respect leading directly onto poorly lit lanes.
MG said all stations had a masterplan on the net. Network Rail could solve this issue with lifts and a bridge but that was clearly an expensive solution.
LR asked why the money from EDF wasn’t being used to mitigate a developing problem which would be enhanced by their appearance on the scene and felt disability access should be a priority.
MG said there were 224 stations and a limited pot of money. However, Bridgwater options would be revisited in the next tranche of projects.
GB said Bridgwater is a growing town but the railway station is seriously deprived of staff . She felt the town was growing not just because of EDF. It was time the town was offered a proper rail service.
PS said this was a town where a lot of people used the trains and don’t have cars
ML said we should push FGW to consider more stops in Bridgwater
MG agreed and pointed to a successful campaign in Devon where Local Authorities helped fund a route and emphasise need, integrating bus and train services, eventually making the case for the service which was now met and paid for within the terms of the franchise.
5. Cycling. Alan Muir of Sustrans said his organisation which was brought about to promote sustainable transport ‘celebrating 20 years of the National Cycle Network this year ‘ and worked with volunteers in communities to promote action on travel and change the spaces in peoples lives. He was currently based at the Sydenham Family centre where one of the key community issues is travel. There has undoubtedly been a cycling boom yet in UK it;s not as acceptable a part of our culture as it is in Holland or Denmark where whole families cycle to work whilst here there remains the stigma of lycra
LR added that TBW (The Bridgwater Way) project had been set up with the aim of encouraging non motorised transport from North Petherton to Bridgwater (cycling,pedestrian) and was almost complete and would be upon the conclusion of the Brownes Pond link which had just been given the final go ahead. He believed in 6 months TBW would finally come to fruition.
GB said that cycling facilities in the town were at boiling point with a poor network in most of the town leading to conflict with pedestrians and road users alike. One of the members of the SCF had been in a collision with a cyclist recently and this was typical of the crisis of provision. She urged SCC to accept the need for a county wide transport forum which we could feed into.
AM said the correct infrastructure was not in place everywhere.
DH said many cyclists don’t use the cycle ways anyway and many prefer the roads.
CH said it was him that had been struck by a cyclist who had simply said ‘sorry’ and cycled on. Where are the Police? Shouldn’t they have bells? Often they don’t have lights.
MB said there should be an etiquette for cyclists but also felt cycling provision was good in the area and cited the canal towpath which many places would die for.
PS said it was important to ask FGW to make proper facilities on their new units for cyclists to further integrate transport.
DL said he could look into offering free lights and bells as a project
IT agreed the TBW was great but there were many areas not benefiting from it such as the Polden villages. However, he also recalled a fatal incident 4 years ago at Morrisons involving a lorry crossing a cycle path. He said the SCC safety officer at the time had said there would have to be more accidents until they would do something about the situation.
MS said the issue on the canal towpath was the speed of the cyclists and the lack of bells. Also there was no policing of the cycle routes.
NG said he felt the solution was education and a bit of wisdom for successful co-usage of the routes. Especially on the canalpaths he felt they would learn when they ended up in the water.
6. SCC Highways. Lisa Rogers (EDF/SCC) had declined to attend as she didn’t feel it appropriate to represent SCC Highways generally and so Cllr Leigh Redman (County Councillor) gave a short presentation describing the new plans for road improvements on the Huntworth junction which would have a 4-lane approach from the motorway and would be accompanied by a consultation on the Stockmoor estate
NG asked ‘When the town is not at gridlock or at a standstill;why are Traffic lights set to go to (or stay on) green for an empty road, whilst holding back queuing traffic on red on other roads??? When a vehicle eventually turns up on the empty road this then will trigger the change to red on what was an empty road and eventually allow the sequence that lets other roads have a green light???
1) Surely this holds up traffic FLOW and accelerates gridlock?
2) The effect of holding traffic on RED lights when their routes are clear surely adds considerably to the pollution of the town; for its residents, workers and visitors?
3) Surely this adds to driver frustration, which can be the seed for speeding (to catch up wasted time) or even road rage, amber light jumping and bad driving. Safety!!???
A better experience for all is if traffic flowed well, safely and efficiently. They are supposed to have road sensors (not a new idea! Years and years of tried and tested technology).
LR said he agreed with him however, the new works by EDF/SCC notably on the Taunton rd.Broadway section had been redeveloped with this in mind. The upgrade now meant that all lights ‘did’ talk to each other
MS said that bus companies that he had worked for had sensors to activate lights in bus lanes or through bus gates noticeably in Bristol or Devon
DH raised the issue of the 5 ‘rights of way’ across the Splash site which he had lodged an appeal to SCC about but was told there was a cut off date of 2026 and with some 300 applications for investigation this wasn’t likely to be recognised..He urged people to raise this matter with all local authorities to help speed up the process and bring it to greater attention before these rights of way were lost forever.
7. SDC & Parking issues. Tom Dougall said that SDC was responsible for off-street parking and had some 700 spaces. They also sold permits. These were a sizeable source of income totalling some £360,000 a year. Recently they were co-operating with SCC in trialling residents Paring Schemes in the Westover area which had just gone through a public consultation and a system of ‚scheme champions‘
BS said it was important to stress that Westover ward councillors only supported the introduction of these schemes where residents overwhelmingly wanted them –and this was measured by an 80% support rate.
LR agreed and said that SCC’s view also was it had to be a resident driven system
MB said that herself and DL as Eastover ward members were in the process of actively campaigning for these schemes to be considered now in their area
MH said the last time they tried this in Eastover they got so far down the line but there was no guarantee of a parking space at the end of it
TD said there was no guarantee of parking with RPZs as there was only the actual space available on the streets in question to use.
GB expressed concern about new build which didn’t provide parking spaces and understood there was a change in planning rules .
TD said there was a SCC ‘standard’ which they should abide by
DL said that from a planning ctte perspective members were aware that they could often lose on appeal
8. Waterways – Mike Slade of the Inland Waterways Association said that Bridgwater had no waterbased transport, although there were plans to revive the option of a trip boat, however, long term the hope was that a suitable ‚tidal barrier/locl scheme would open up the area to fully utilise the waterway network.
BS said BTC fully supported developing Bridgwater’s historical water-based heritage and this meant the docks, the canal, a navigable river and an active waterfront
9. Recommendations to Town Council. BS would circulate the minutes of the meeting to the relevent bodies and initially to Bridgwater Town Council for it;s meeting on the 24th sept.
MS asked that the Police be invited to future meetings
IT said SCC had to be at these meetings
GB said that the terms of reference should be sent to SCC
10. Future meetings . KP said that the Local Plan was going out to consultation and the transport element of this should come to our next meeting. This was agreed
MB thanked everyone for their attendance and said she felt the meeting had been very useful
TERMS OF REFERENCE
The transport industry, and those authorities responsible for operating transport and providing and maintaining transport infrastructure are subject to laws and regulations governing their actions and responsibilities. A level of public participation in this process is recognised as providing useful insights, particularly at a local level. The scope of this Forum includes travel by train, bus, motorcar and other road user, cycle and on foot.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
• To monitor the quality and suitability of transport provision to, from and within the Bridgwater area
• To promote links between users and user groups, transport companies and local authorities
• To ensure that local transport and pedestrian facilities meet the needs of local us-ers
• To provide a channel for complaints and suggestions for improvements and developments in local transport and pedestrian facilities
The following areas to be covered by the work of the Forum:
• Route planning
• Bus shelters and street furniture
• A participating membership will be developed of Transport providers and users
• Meetings to be held quarterly.
• Chair to be appointed from BTC membership (Lead member Moira Brown).
• Any recommendations from LTF to be put to immediate meeting of BTC or BTC Finance for decision