Continuing it’s strategy of opening up the Town Hall to the wider community, Bridgwater Town Council today launched it’s latest People’s Forum, this time with a focus on Transport. The meeting was chaired by Eastover Councillor Moira Brown and attended by 22 people drawn from local community groups and transport providers.
Full minutes are available here.
Mark Pedlar of Webberbus spoke about bus provision in the town and said their main problems included a chronic driver shortage, an appalling road infrastructure and consequent traffic in the Brdgwater area was appalling which affected timings and routes
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‘.They also felt the Hinkley Point project would be an extra problem as some 5,000+ people a day would require even more drivers and even more provision of stock and crucially there was a lack of security through the annual competition for contracts
Train Station needs a Bus Connection
Merv Heybyrne of the Senior Citizens Forum asked about the lack of a bus from the station to the town centre and was supported by Glen Burrows of Bridgwater Trades Union Council who declared that Mr Pedlar would be canonised if he could solve that problem.
Cllr Lance Duddridge (Victoria) raised concerns at the stopping of the no 6 bus from Kendale rd to town and said 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.
Mark Pedlar recognised the points raised and offered to look at ways of addressing these issues.
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 year 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 said that the main issue is ‘frequency’ but said 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 therefore limited stopping options. They were addressing their stock issue as more than 50% of the regional fleet was 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.
a)Poor signage outside the station
b)Lack of taxis and buses from the station
c)Bridgwater road system was appalling.
However he believed that the Celebration Mile‘ project would be beneficial to solving some of these issues and providing a better frontage with space for taxis and cycles
Pricey Parking and un-staffed Ticket Office
Forum members raised issues of pricey parking at the station and closure of the ticket office at 2.30 . Mr Greedy insisted there would be no ticket office closures
Cllr Redman (Dunwear) 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 and 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 this should be a priority
Mr Greedy said Network Rail could solve this issue with lifts and a bridge but that was clearly an expensive solution.There were 224 stations and a limited pot of money. However, Bridgwater options would be revisited in the next tranche of projects.
Glen Burrows (BTUC) said Bridgwater was 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.
Phil Shepherd (Somerset Film and Video) said “Bridgwater was a town where a lot of people used the trains and don’t have cars”
Cycling facilities ‘at Boiling point?’
Alan Muir of Sustrans said his organisation was ‘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
Glen Burrows (BTUC) 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. She urged SCC to accept the need for a county wide transport forum which we could feed into.
Phil Shepherd (SFV) said it was important to ask FGW to make proper facilities on their new units for cyclists to further integrate transport.
Nick Gibson (Bridgwater Forward) said he felt the solution was education and a bit of wisdom for successful co-usage of the routes. Especially on the canal paths where he felt they would learn when they ended up in the water.
County Council non-attendance criticised
The failure of Somerset County Council to send a delegate was noted with concern and it was felt their omission was a disappointment. County Councillor for Bridgwater South , Leigh Redman, 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
Nick Gibson (BF) 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???
Cllr Redman 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 now ‘did’ talk to each other
David Hughes (Blacklands residents) 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.
Residents Parking Schemes on the Horizon
Tom Dougall of Sedgemoor District Council said SDC was responsible for off-street parking and had some 700 spaces. They also sold permits. These were a sizeable source of income totaling some £360,000 a year. Recently they were co-operating with SCC in trialing residents Parking Schemes in the Westover area which had just gone through a public consultation and a system of ‚scheme champions‘
Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) 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.
Waterways -the transport of the future…?
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/local scheme would open up the area to fully utilise the waterway network.
Cllr Smedley 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
Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover) proposed that the next meeting should consider the Transport implications of the newly ‘out to consultation’ Local Plan.