HASTINGS AND BEXHILL BUS LANES – HAILSHAM/POLEGATE/EASTBOURNE PROPOSALS – BUSES IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS – BUS ROUTE 349 – TRIPS WITH NO CAR – A27 STUDIES AND ‘SCATE’ PLAN – NEW ROADS AND THE ECONOMY, DO THEY HELP OR HINDER? – BHLR AND PROGENY; WALKING AND CYCLING, HOLD YOUR HORSES – BRICYCLES’ ENERGY – EASTBOURNE WALKING CYCLING, MIXED MESSAGES – ROTHER TRANSPORT ACTION GROUP, RIP – CLEAN AIR FOR EASTBOURNE CAMPAIGN – RAIL SERVICES, NEW SOUTHERN TIMETABLE FROM MAY (not Theresa!) – SUSTAINABLE HOUSING? PROBABLY NOT – ROAD CASUALTY FIGURES SHOW NO IMPROVEMENT – CBT CHIEF TO STEP DOWN AFTER 30 YEARS! – TRANSPORT SECRETARY WANTS CHEAPER MOTORING:IGNORES BUS AND RAIL PRICE HIKES.

HASTINGS AND BEXHILL BUS LANES
Designed and presented in the ESCC Local Transport Plan 2000, the bus lanes were intended to be an important element in the three planned ‘quality bus corridors’. These would run:

1.St Leonards, Silverhill, Hollington, and The Ridge via Battle Road/Sedlescombe Road North
2.The Ridge
3.Central Bexhill (including a station interchange) via Glyne Gap to Ore via town centre

These were only partly dependent on the then bypasses being built and could have gone ahead even in a ‘no bypass’ scenario. No 1 was completed but 2 and 3 were not.

Bus lanes were promised again (plus new stations) in the February 2004 consultation on the Link Road (then @£47m, up from £24m estimate of 2002, now £126m). No 3 was a condition of planning consent for the Link Road in 2009 and should have opened in 2015 along with the Link Road.

The 2004 Tabloid Consultation

Traffic was predicted to fall after Link Road opening in December 2015 and did so. This was the moment when the bus lanes should have begun operating to take advantage of the freed up road space before the inevitable recovery of traffic levels. Reliability of the buses would increase, more buses would run and these would be the most modern and clean ‘low emission’ vehicles. More bus passengers would be attracted and the growth in car commuting/school run traffic would be stemmed or reversed.
No such luck. Elsewhere in East Sussex and into Brighton, bus lanes have transformed travel behaviour and people have flocked to the bus as an attractive alternative.

In 2007, between Newhaven and Brighton, the average daily two way vehicle flow was 28,000. In 2017, the figure was 25,000 – a fall of 11%. During that time, following the introduction of bus lanes and more buses on the 12 and 14 routes, bus ridership grew from 73,000 per week to 122,000. Currently, in the morning peak hour on this A259 route, 45% of those travelling into Brighton are on a bus – and buses comprise just 2% of the traffic. That’s a success story. Bus lanes work.

Decrease in traffic

Increased passenger numbers

The start of construction of the bus lanes has been delayed on several occasions, most recently in November. We now learn that the first phase of bus lane will begin construction in “May/June” – though that is now in doubt – and so could be opened for buses some months later, close to 3 years after the Link Road opened. The final phase may not be ready for some time after that so the completion could be four years late. That means higher traffic levels as the ‘car commute’ habit grows, and fewer passengers on the bus which will increasingly suffer delays due to the absence of the bus lanes. It is extremely disappointing, as is the editorial in the Hastings Observer which questions spending £450,000 on the bus facilities: the Link Road cost is currently running at 252 times that of the bus lanes at £126,000,000. With a less car focussed transport agenda, political will, and for less than 10% of the road costs, we could have had the new station at Glyne Gap/Ravenside, extensive cycle infrastructure, and many short car trips would have transferred to bike, bus and rail. The health benefits of such an approach are obvious yet sidelined, and with a £3m cut to the original £12m for walking and cycling measures for Hastings and Bexhill to plug a recently discovered funding gap for the increasingly expensive Queensway Gateway Road, commitment to sustainable and healthy transport choices looks very weak.

Jacobs Consultancy (employed by ESCC on the Link Road project) found in a study of 2011 that bus priority schemes (inlcuding bus lanes) had an average benefit to cost ratio of 5.4:1. That’s around three times higher than the Link Road itself. (Value for money of Small Scale Public Transport Schemes, Jacobs, 2011). In Hastings and Bexhill the value for money could be even higher given the predominance of short car journeys. Let’s have the bus lanes as soon as possible.

The Jacobs report can be seen here:

VfMSmallSchemesFinalReportVersion050711

BUS LANES/CYCLEWAYS FOR THE HAILSHAM – POLEGATE – WILLINGDON – EASTBOURNE CORRIDOR?
These are planned – along with cycleways – on this busy A22 corridor, part of the Eastbourne ‘travel to work area’. There is lukewarm backing from local councillors however (see below), even though the county council have put some energy into the plan development, part funded by the South East Local Enterprise Parnership (SELEP). There would (say the ESCC plan statistics) be a 67% journey time increase on this corridor by 2027 if no measures were provided, while with the measures, the increase in journey time would be 47% i.e. – less worse. This is of course due to the predicted housing developments north of Eastbourne in Wealden District, and the consequent increases in traffic. However, with the whole range of high quality alternatives made available to give real transport choice, and demand management solutions applied, the increases in journey times would fall from those far from impressive percentages. That would take political courage which is in short supply. A whole new ‘off line’ A27 would wreck the whole scheme and mean that its almost ten year gestation period would have been wasted. A situation where high volumes of ‘new A27’ traffic collided with the north-south ‘sustainable transport corridor’ along the A22 can only mean ‘traffic mayhem’. Both current MP, Stephen Lloyd, and past MP Caroline Ansell favour the potentially disastrous ‘big new road’ option.

BUSES IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS?
Hansard of March 8th 2018 featured debates on issues around diminishing numbers of passengers and services in rural areas:
Baroness Sugg (Con), Under Secretary of State at the DfT:

“What is the answer? The best answer is encouraging more people to use buses. It is still the best form of regular high-capacity transport that we have. Unlike rail, a bus can go virtually anywhere, and a bus service can be set up very quickly and at a fraction of the cost of rail. But buses need help to achieve this. One solution is to improve traffic in the key corridors used by buses, and one of the most effective ways is to give them priority over traffic. The sight of a bus cruising past lines of stationary cars or getting ahead of the queue at a junction is a much better advertisement and certainly sends a clear message to motorists. Priority measures offer good value for money, and we are funding many bus projects up and down the country through the Local Growth Fund. There are rapid transit schemes in Slough, Reading and Swindon and bus priority corridors in Manchester and Birmingham, which are genuinely innovative projects that are making a big difference in some of our busiest towns and cities. Busways, which provide dedicated corridors only to buses, such as in Cambridge and Luton, are also extremely effective and have the ridership to prove it”.

Other peers joined in – the Earl of Arran (Con):
The further isolation of our rural communities is something that this Committee should deplore, but why? In addition to social mobility, many people are now struggling to reach the basic services most of us take for granted, including shops, education and health. It is estimated that 400,000 people are in work or in a better job because of the availability of a bus service. Fifty per cent of students are frequent bus users for access to education and training. Our economists calculate that bus commuters generate £64 billion of economic benefit per year, with bus users making shopping and leisure trips worth £27.2 billion per year.

Lord Bradshaw (LD):
That brings us to the fundamental question of why so much is done in cities to encourage car use and so little to facilitate bus operation. Is it because of the intense pressure from the motoring lobby or the cowardice of politicians nationally or locally—local authorities vie with each another to attract cars to their shops with offers of highly subsidised parking, often ignoring the land values attaching to city-centre car parks—or is it because of an unwillingness to get tough with obstructive parking? When all these advantages are weighed in any objective assessment, what advantage does the bus have and who speaks for the bus user? In this situation, should not government, local or national, try to redress the balance effectively?

Lord Kennedy (Lab Co-op)
buses are an important lifeline for people, and the decline in bus use outside London is a serious problem that is affecting the viability of communities, particularly rural communities and those areas in our towns and cities less well served by other modes of transport, as they strive to be sustainable……Bus use and the provision of bus services have to be part of integrated services to make communities viable. Their decline is doing huge damage. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, spoke about car use and car parking. Work is going on to deter this but, as he said, it is not matched by a good bus service being in place to encourage people to get out of their cars and on to buses.

Lots of sense there and good cross party consensus. We don’t need constantly threatenend and diminishing bus services linking country and town. We need bus development. The new South East Transport Board should get to grips with bus issues: buses are part of the future.

RESTORED SUNDAY BUS 349 – HASTINGS – SEDLESCOMBE BODIAM – SANDHURST – HAWKHURST – CRANBROOK TO CONTINUE FOR SUMMER: REVIEW IN SEPTEMBER…
We are delighted to report that the 349 Sunday service linking the beautiful High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to historic Hastings and the coast will be running 7 days a week until at least September. The service will be reviewed during that time to examine a case for continuation after that. In the meantime, a high priority will be given to raise awareness of the service and the opportunities it offers for days out in either direction. It has proved useful in making it possible for people to find employment, carry out social visits – important for all ages – enjoy recreational opportunities (Bodiam Castle, Kent and East Sussex Steam Railway, Boat Trips), and experience the inspiring landscapes that unfold along the journey. Nurseries, vineyards, hopgardens, country walks – and of course countless pub lunch offers in historic pubs – all are on offer along the way. With a bus connection with the No 5 at Cranbrook (Sundays) shopping trips to Hastings and Maidstone are once again possible.

Castle and Steam Train


Hop Poles and Vines


Cranbrook Street


Bus services are rarely mentioned in publicity material as a useful and convenient way to explore attractions across the region, yet they do connect urban and rural areas including tourist and recreational attractions. That needs addressing and we’ll be trying to do just that. Combined with available train services, great days out without a car are perfectly possible and far more relaxing and sociable.

GOOD JOURNEY – WITHOUT A CAR
A new website that advises on ‘car free’ journeys to beautiful places. With local guides’ coverage of beautiful, interesting and historic places failing dismally to advise on non-car access ‘Hello, Good Journey’ (link here) gives some help in this direction and also invites contributions from walkers, cyclists and bus and rail users to build a data base of non-car options. We’ll be forwarding the detail of the 349 bus and the possibilities opened up by the now 7 days a week service.
Good Journey – Contact
https://www.goodjourney.org.uk/contact/
See also East Sussex and Lewes based information on this useful website:
TRAVEL LOG LEWES – Latest Travel Log Newsletter
http://travelloglewes.co.uk/index.php?page=latest-travel-log-newsletter

A27 STUDIES AND SCATE CAMPAIGN
The ‘£75m’ study output recommended junction and safety improvements, plus a continuous cycle/pedestrian path along its length and improved crossings for all non-motorised users at Drusillas roundabout and Wilmington crossroads. It has since become a £72m scheme, as £3m was syphoned off for a further study into a completely new ‘off-line’ A27 between Beddingham and Polegate: this study is underway. Also underway and almost complete is a study with no call upon the public purse into an alternative strategy for the entire ‘A27 corridor’ between Chichester and Polegate. This will be launched by SCATE before the summer and will consider all modes and their relative potential impacts – good and bad.We have a date and venue for the ‘local’ launch, giving a perspective on the Polegate – Beddingham – Eastbourne proposals: Lewes Town Hall, 21st April (Sat) 10.30 until 12.30 – doors open at 10.00.

The South Coast Alliance for Transport and Environment (SCATE) invite interested groups and individuals to the launch. Link here:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/new-transport-vision-for-the-sussex-coast-tickets-44634826969

NEW ROADS AND THE ECONOMY – DO THEY HELP OR HINDER?
Without exception, promoters of expansion of road capacity cite ‘economic benefits’ as justification for the roads in question. As we now know, the last major expansion – the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR) – included just that in its business case for the road. The Department for Transport’s assessment delivered a judgement at odds with that, giving it a rating of ‘medium to poor’ value for money, and hiding (until challenged with our appeal to the Information Commissioner) an alternative recommendation for a ‘public transport/demand management’ option that was set before the Secretary of State and which arguably would have been very much cheaper and better value for money. Before anyone had a chance to assess that alternative, Chancellor Osborne stepped in with a pre-emptive offer to fund the scheme which is now what we have – and massively over cost estimates.

Steve Melia at the University of the West of England has examined the question ‘Everyone says transport is good for the economy, but does anyone really know?’ You can read an article on the subject here:
https://www.transportxtra.com/publications/local-transport-today/comment/55819/everyone-says-transport-is-good-for-the-economy-but-does-anyone-really-know-

BEXHILL TO HASTINGS LINK ROAD (BHLR) – AND PROGENY; OPTIMISM TEMPERED ON CYCLING AND WALKING PROGRESS
We await the ‘one year after’ report on the BHLR with interest. The last predicted date for publication was December 2017 and there has clearly been slippage. There have also been adjustments in costs of all current road projects in Hastings/Bexhill as shown in the graph below:

Rising Costs – New County Roads


The increased costs predicted for the Queensway Gateway Road have led to a decision to use £3m of the £12m allocated Walking and Cycling budget. This could explain why a councillor due to give a presentation to Eastbourne, Rother and Hastings pedestrian/cycling organisations on cycle/walking plans in November, disappeared mysteriously from the agenda! ESCC officers gave assurances that progress won’t be held up in the early stages, but in fairness, we should be given the money back for justifiable healthy and sustainable transport as opposed to the unhealthy, unsustainable kind. We should seek assurances that the funds will be returned.

CYCLING CAMPAIGN GROUP – BRICYCLES – as its name suggests – is something to do with cycling in Brighton. But it’s much more than just that. With its comprehensive coverage of cycling as a modern, relevant, healthy and environmentally sustainable way to get around, it takes on a pretty wide remit extremely successfully and is expertly and confidently compiled. A well informed antidote to the pervasive ‘windscreenperspectiveitis’ that currently affects so many of our politicians! Have a look. Link here:

Bricycles News 114-1

EASTBOURNE CYCLING/WALKING – MIXED MESSAGE
In Eastbourne we are informed that despite budgets being substantially trimmed, a start will be made to implement the walking and cycling network improvements. We are pleased to see work in its final stages on the Lottbridge Drove – Langney roundabout section of foot/cycleway, thus completing an arc between Bridgemere (Stafford Junior School) and Langney. We hope that Ratton county councillors will reconsider their negative attitude to East Sussex County Council’s plans to create safe walking and cycling networks based on the congested Hailsham – Polegate – Eastbourne corridor where many would cycle (especially the young) to school, college, hospital, town and home. Councillors appear to have dismissed the plans altogether: they’ll be responsible for congestion and dirty air.
See Eastbourne cycling group’s website (BESPOKE) – Link here:
Bespoke Cycle Group – Safer Cycling In Eastbourne
http://bespokecyclegroup.org.uk/

ROTHER TRANSPORT ACTION GROUP R.I.P.
Hosted by Rother District Council for maybe a decade, this group is being disbanded. The rationale for this is that by combining with a newly formed Hastings Transport Action Group, the inextricably linked transport needs of the three neighbouring towns of Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill will be better reflected in the decisions taken: this new entity will be known as HARTAG. The idea of such a combination has been around for 30 years and regularly suggested by CBT East Sussex. It was adopted for the purposes of securing funding for the controversial Link Road, but never spoken of when the issue of Glyne Gap/Ravenside new station came up. The composition of HARTAG will be quite different to the RTAG membership, with the parishes of Rother no longer having individual places at the table. We understand that ways of capturing their perspectives are being explored – as they should be – but with a more formal local authority presence (including ESCC) it’s uncertain to what degree official policies will govern deliberations or admit objectives wider than, but highly relevant to just ‘transport’. We thank RTAG members for their support in securing, at least for now, the 349 ‘Bodiam Sunday bus’ – notably highly relevant to Hastings as well as the quality of life of those living in the High Weald towns and villages.

One of the last votes (maybe the first one ever taken) of RTAG was on the subject of Rother District Council moving ahead with a ‘decriminalisation’of parking offences, allowing action at last to be taken by the authority on parking transgressions such as motorists parking on bus stops – a situation repeated many times daily on Bexhill’s two main shopping streets – Sackville and Devonshire Roads, and Battle High Street. It is common to see less able passengers struggling to the kerb because the bus stop is obstructed. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of dealing with this selfish behaviour.

CLEAN AIR FOR EASTBOURNE CAMPAIGN
Eastbourne Friends of the Earth are hosting information on local air quality issues and also offering kits to the public and to schools for monitoring local air quality.
Further information here:
friendsoftheearth.uk/clean-air/join… @friends_earth Clean Air Kit
https://www.facebook.com/eastbourneair/ and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/eastbourneair

RAIL SERVICES – NEW SOUTHERN TIMETABLE FROM MAY
The presentation of the new timetable (begins May) is here: Southern New TT Pres 3 18
Less worse than feared on Brighton – Ashford services: these will be Eastbourne – Ashford. Extra semi-fast trains Brighton – Hastings. This will address the frequent and severe overcrowding at several points on the route currently operated by two car diesels and provide more ‘seats’ east – west on the busiest section of route. We also had confirmed at the DeLaWarr presentation that there will be ‘safer’ late evening connections between Tunbridge Wells – Hastings services and Hastings – Eastbourne – Brighton trains. There would also remain capacity for extra coastway services should there be calls for services, and a business case built, to serve a new station at Glyne Gap/Ravenside.

THOUGHTS ON HOUSING PLANS
Battle, Hastings, Eastbourne, Hailsham and almost certainly Crowborough are inline for £millions in funding for new housing schemes – some affordable (definition hazy) and with no mention in reports we saw of ‘social housing’. There are also significant funds promised for ‘infrastructure’ – major roads, a new school (Hailsham), etc.

New and existing homes for sale are now subjected to an ‘energy efficiency’ and ‘carbon footprint’ audit which features a graphic display. This shows for each category the actual and potential’ cost effectiveness’ of the dwelling and by implication, its ‘carbon footprint’. (See Below):

Energy Efficiency and Cost Effectiveness of Dwelling


The diagram gives only a partial picture of the ‘environmental impact’ of a dwelling, however. It doesn’t take account of the transport impact of the dwelling as reflected by the modes of transport adopted by those living in it on completion and in future years, or the impact of the whole development. For instance, on an estate where alternatives to the private car are poor and ownership and usage high, the diagram would be highly misleading and of limited value. It could be that a dwelling rated ‘high’ on both energy efficiency and low carbon emissions, but with high car usage, would score a significantly lower rating compared to the current system. Applied to a whole estate, we’d be heading in the wrong direction to achieve ‘sustainable housing’ served by all modes of ‘sustainable’, healthy transport. But the ‘estate wide’ performance would be the more useful measure for transport and land use planning purposes.
We have recommended to Stagecoach that for new housing developments on the edge of Hawkhurst – see photo –

Will there be a bus stop?

bus stops be provided, and that some of the value of the housing should be captured to support the local cross border bus services. All new developments should be designed to be easily served by public transport and to favour pedestrian and cycle movements over vehicle movements. That is not yet the case, and it has led Stagecoach to publish its own guide to developers. (see previous post link to ‘bus services and new developments’)

ROAD CASUALTIES – SUSSEX SAFER ROADS
Figures for ‘killed and seriously injured’ (KSI) in the county continue to be of concern: they are not improving. The recently released figures for 2017 show KSI at the 4th highest since 2008 (370) while fatalities at 26 are the second highest since 2008. We wrote to Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne asking about developments nationwide in improving matters. Our letter is here, along with a response from a member of her staff:
Katy Bourne Letter and the response:
Katy Bourne ReplyRoad Casualties
The link to the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership site is here, and well worth examining through the ‘data portal’ button:

Welcome to Sussex Safer Roads Partnerships | SSRP
http://www.sussexsaferroads.gov.uk/
‘SSRP is a collective that uses combined
expertise to make the roads safer and reduce collisions. Together, our aim is to “
Create a safer environment for all road users, significantly reduce life-changing
injuries and eliminate fatalities.” Find out more about the partnership’.

The related issue of conditions in East Sussex (and other) lanes where powerful vehicles need not defer to each other (or pedestrians and cyclists) but can just ‘power their way through’ results in damaged verges that offer no refuge. A challenge to any such driving style is often met with an outburst of obscene language. It makes walking in lanes far less pleasurable than it should be. Why should we permit this? Photo of lane near Etchingham with large puddles on damaged verges.

Damaged verge – a result of poor driving styles that discourages walking and cycling.

CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER TRANSPORT – CURRENT CAMPAIGNS/CEO STEPHEN JOSEPH TO STEP DOWN THIS AUTUMN
Campaign For Better Transport: Campaigns
https://www.bettertransport.org.uk/
After 30 years as CEO of Campaign for Better Transport (formerly Transport 2000), Stephen Joseph is stepping aside – though remaining for a short while to help his successor take the reins. He has been a great and widely respected champion of sustainable transport and planning throughout that long period and will be missed by many in the transport world. Thanks Stephen for your unrelenting inspiration and quiet determination, and canny ability to point out the ridiculous in a way that raises a smile, and encourages all to reflect upon the absurdities and contradictions that pepper transport policy.

SECRETARY OF STATE GRAYLING WANTS CHEAPER FUEL AT M’WAY SERVICE PUMPS – WHAT ABOUT RAIL AND BUS FARES?
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, wants cheaper fuel for those stopping at Motorway service stations (widely reported across media). How about acting on public transport fares? Come on Grayling! Do your homework! The last 10 years have seen bus fares rise 70%, rail fares by 60% and motoring costs by 25% (RAC Foundation). Please do something about that, and quickly.
Link here to RAC Foundation statistics:
Cost of motoring against costs of public transport – RAC Foundation
https://www.racfoundation.org/data/cost-of-transport-index
Do let your MP know if you feel that public transport fares are too high and join Campaign for Better Transport’s rail FAIR FARES campaign – information here:
Campaign For Better Transport: Campaigns
https://www.bettertransport.org.uk/

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CROSS BORDER BUS SUCCESS – MIXED PROSPECTS FOR SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT – PRIMACY OF THE CAR – AIR QUALITY

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SUNDAY 349 BUS TO BODIAM CASTLE – IT’S BACK! After an absence of three years, the 349 Sunday service run by Stagecoach out of Hastings has returned – and not just for summer! The route connects Hastings with Sedlescombe, Cripps … Continue reading

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A27 – HAILSHAM/EASTBOURNE STC – BHLR AFTERMATH – WALKING – CYCLING – PUBLIC TRANSPORT – AIR – PARKING

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A27 CONSULTATION The consultation on Highways England proposals for improvement of the A27 between Lewes and Polegate closed on the 4th December, 2015. The document can be read here: Consultation brochure. Our response can be read here: a27-cons-11-16. Please also see the … Continue reading

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BEXHILL-HASTINGS: DELAYED BUS LANES; EAST SUSSEX TRANSPORT OVERVIEW

A259 BUS LANES – DELAYED CONSTRUCTION

Provision of bus lanes on the A259 was one of the conditions on which Link Road funding was granted in 2012. They were first promised in 2004 to ‘complement’ the road, along with ‘new services and new stations served by more trains’ . The ‘new stations’ (Glyne Gap (Ravenside) and St Leonards – West Marina) won’t be appearing any time this decade, if ever, and the bus lanes may not be ready for use until Christmas 2016 – a year after the opening of the Link Road. (see press release: Bus Lane Presser – part published in Has/Bex Observers 3rd June 16)

It matters because a declared objective of the Link Road (Combe Valley Way) was to relieve congestion on De La Warr/Bexhill Road and – as the title  of the public consultation document (Future Travel Options) suggested – give us ‘alternative travel choices’. Ultimately, the title really meant ‘Which new road route out of 6 do you prefer  ?’ We now know that 5 of them were plain bonkers with no chance of being built.

East Sussex County Council predicted that although congestion would be relieved by the new road (as it has), traffic would begin growing back straight away – though by how much would depend on the quality of the bus and rail services on offer, and conditions being made acceptable and attractive for safe walking and cycling. Bus lanes would certainly be useful for cyclists. If this package of  alternatives could be attractive and of a high quality, the congestion reduction  benefits of the Link Road would be ‘locked in’.

The fact that the bus lanes will be delayed and the new station and rail services absent, will mean that there will be no incentives to swap the car for alternatives for short trips on the A259. Traffic will grow back faster as the ‘car habit’ is confirmed and encouraged. This is hardly sustainable or beneficial for local residents, workers, visitors or students: poor air quality is a known killer, and ‘active travel’ a recognised solution. (See guidance for local authorities – link):

Active travel: a briefing for local authorities :

The ‘value for money’ of the Link Road was assessed by government as ‘poor to medium’. If the congestion reduction function is weakened and traffic grows back faster than predicted through the absence or delayed provision of the promised bus lanes and rail station and services, the value of the very expensive Link Road (c£130m) is diminished further. Faster than predicted traffic growth is a very real prospect in any case if the current multi-million road building frenzy around Bexhill and Hastings continues. We won’t be getting ‘value for money’ or for that matter, better health.

Traffic growth means more pressure to convert front gardens to hard standing for parking, with consequent loss of biodiversity and increased risk of ‘flash floods’. There are many other side effects, a described in this BBC article:

The decline of the British front garden – BBC News

Bus Lanes Location Plan here:

Overview of proposals

The bus lanes and a new station at Glyne Gap would provide better alternatives to the car  between Barnhorn (new housing proposed), Little Common, Bexhill,  Hastings and Ore – with Ravenside retail park, Bexhill College, the beach, Combe Valley Countryside Park and the Bathing Pool site important intermediate destinations and major generators of short trips by car. See photos below:

Picture post Link Road opening: car dependency, gardens lost to hard standing, increased flood risk, more traffic.......

  1. Picture  on A259 near Harley Shute post Link Road opening: greater car dependency, gardens lost to hard standing, increased flood risk, more traffic…….bus lanes needed as soon as possible please.

Bexhill Road at Glyne Gap - a useful access point for the Combe Valley Countryside Park2. Bexhill Road at Glyne Gap – a useful access point for the Combe Valley Countryside  Park .                                                                                                                  

Bex Rd3

3. Glyne Gap station would be just a few feet away from Ravenside retail park. The train now passing…                                                                                          

Bex Rd4

4. This demonstration drew cheers from the crowd waiting for the new M&S store to open. Why no station?                                                                                            

Bex Rd2

5. While out on the Link Road, the Bexhill Enterprise Park boasts a bus stop (good) with no direct access to the brand new office block (daft).                                                              

A27 – EASTBOURNE MP CAROLINE ANSELL WANTS A BIG NEW ROAD 

And nothing else will do! No mention of the need to work out where the traffic will park or even where motorists need to get to and from, or, importantly, what will happen when the thousands of cars she ‘s so looking forward to, collide with the new bus services and cyclists using the long talked about and eagerly awaited ‘sustainable transport corridor’ between Hailsham – Polegate – Eastbourne. And if they’re piling into Eastbourne, where will the vehicles be left? Significant areas of town will have to be demolished to form massive new car parks. There are strong arguments in favour of converting car parks into housing land. This would reduce traffic, strengthen town centre economies, improve public health, improve air quality, help solve the housing crisis, give the next generation a fighting chance of something better……

None of this seems to matter to the MP who is apologising to her constituents* for the time spent on gathering evidence to determine the best transport future for the area. (not a word on rail investment).

Please Caroline, don’t wreck our National Park, and do your best to save us from the toxic traffic fumes which currently are leading to the premature death of at least 40,000 people a year in the UK: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Eastbourne’s air quality is already bad enough! * ‘Eastbourne and Out magazine, April/May 2016.

KEEP UP TO DATE WITH DEFRA AIR POLLUTION MAPS HERE:

Pollution forecast – Defra, UK – UK-Air

CAUTIOUS WELCOME: LONG PROMISED CYCLE ROUTE APPROVED BY EAST SUSSEX COUNTY COUNCIL

The next phase of the station/town centre – Langney cycle route has been approved: it will continue the latest Horsey Stream route from Stafford school to Lottbridge Drove and will pass behind St Anthony’s avenue to Langney Roundabout, with a spur to Tollgate school. Raising the profile of cycling in this way is essential but must be accompanied by policies that challenge the primacy of the car: any challenge to poor driver behaviour which cyclists find intimidating is often met with obscene language and irrational over-reaction. This can put off those members of the public who are wary of traffic danger but willing to ‘give it a go’. Most cycle journeys will begin on streets where there are no restraints on aggressive driver behaviour – it’s a small percentage of drivers who are to blame, but then there are so many thousands of vehicles on the roads that conflicts are commonplace. Eastbourne’s cycling campaign  group ‘Bespoke’ have published a map of ‘safer’ routes and those which are ‘less safe’. Link here: (Click on ‘MAP’)

NEWS – link to Bespoke map.

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY – URBAN AND RURAL

Eastbourne station car park access was, until mid 2015, from Upperton Road with the exit via Commercial Road. Then in August 2015 the Upperton Road entrance was closed and the Commercial Road exit became two way, with a rearranged carriageway. For many years the Commercial Road entrance had been an important and busy pedestrian route in and out of the station and through to the town centre. It still is. But pedestrians were suddenly relegated as their needs for safe access and egress were ignored.

CBT East Sussex undertook a count of car drivers/passengers, and pedestrians entering and leaving the station for one hour in the morning peak, and one hour mid-day. Here’s the result:

Car Park PiePedestrians outnumber car-borne entries/exits by 12:1

We pursued this with Cllr Rodohan of ESCC and he did his best to relay our concerns: slowly and bit by bit the situation was partially remedied. (See photos below):

Blind Corner: no pedestrian refuge in either direction.

1. Blind Corner: no pedestrian refuge. Concerns raised..

A pedestrian strip with obstructing vehicle and risk of reversing into children, invisible in rear view mirror. The building on the left is a childrens' 'soft play' attraction.

2. A pedestrian strip with obstructing vehicle and risk of reversing into children, invisible in rear view mirror. The building on the left is a ‘soft play’ attraction.

Road markings give clear prime status to vehicles over pedestrians. This is not a shared space.

3. Current road markings give clear prime status to vehicles over pedestrians. This is not a shared space.

Unattractive, uneven, too narrow - hazardous for the elderly and impossible for wheelchairs. This footway needs a major upgrade

4. Unattractive, uneven, too narrow – hazardous for the elderly and impossible for wheelchairs. This ‘footway’ needs a major upgrade. Current state.                                                     

Small victory for the pedestrian: a refuge was provided on the blind corner, the 'left turn arrow' relocated and a zebra and speed hump appeared.5. Small victory for the pedestrian: a refuge was provided on the blind corner, the ‘left turn arrow’ relocated and a zebra and speed hump appeared. It doesn’t look planned.                              

At the Upperton Road (town) end of the station, those exiting the station towards the library no longer have to pass between the bumpers of waiting taxis and crossing the road is a little less intimidating...

6. At the Upperton Road (town) end of the station, those exiting the station towards the library no longer have to pass between the bumpers of waiting taxis, and crossing the      road is a little less intimidating…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

...and the apron at the front of the station is a big improvement...

....as is the cycle storage.

8.    ….as is the cycle storage.              

9. But the signage gives no acknowledgement to the extremely likely presence of pedestrians and cyclists who make up by far the majority of user of this access route.

9. But the signage at the sole entry/exit gives no acknowledgement to the extremely likely presence of pedestrians and cyclists who make up by far the majority of users of this access route.

10. Opportunity for conflict is high. The passenger of this vehicle exhorted the driver to 'run 'em over' . Unlikely to be a serious suggestion, but typical of attitudes that place the car first in the transport hierarchy. The new, haphazard arrangements at this car park confirm that.

10. Opportunity for conflict is high. The passenger of this vehicle exhorted the driver to ‘run ’em over’ . Unlikely to be a serious suggestion, but typical of attitudes that place the car first in the transport hierarchy, even close to the town centre. The new, haphazard arrangements at this car park sadly confirm that.                                                                                                                                       

There is an added hazard of cars/taxis dropping off/picking up train passengers, occasionally travelling at unacceptably high speeds to catch/meet trains.

11. Extra traffic movements (since August, 2015) derive from cars/taxis dropping off/picking up train  passengers, occasionally travelling at unacceptably high speeds to           catch/meet trains. This particular vehicle was not being driven inappropriately.                                                                                            

We have fed photos and data at regular intervals to East Sussex County Council via Cllr Rodohan, though we have yet to send the latest observations. At no point did we receive any direct acknowledgement from ESCC. Cllr Rodohan’s efforts are appreciated but clearly, more needs to be done.

NOW THE RURAL BIT:

Two bits really, though connected. On Thursday 26th May there was a planning committee meeting in Bexhill Town Hall (Rother DC). I was there to support objectors to a planning application for a tourist accommodation development off Sheep Street Lane Etchingham: my objection was concerned with intrusion of such a development on the very peaceful East Rother valley, including the potential impact of traffic which did not appear to have been considered. The lane – between Ticehurst and Etchingham – already experiences fast moving vehicles, and for those walking or cycling, can be an intimidating environment. In recent years vehicles have got bigger (and smaller) but the big ones leave ruts, chew up verges, and not infrequently, don’t defer to vulnerable road users or each other. (See photo):

Don't give way,. just put your foot down!

Don’t give way, just put your foot down!


Local District Councillor Mary Barnes eulogised about the lane and its community, tranquillity and wildlife (nightingales were mentioned). There are also glow-worms (brilliant creatures!). She then voted for the development which she felt had acceptably stringent conditions attached. We’ll see. But most worryingly, she pronounced the lane too dangerous to walk down. And presumably to cycle on. Action required to remedy that?None suggested. It’s a countywide, or even nationwide problem and a product of ‘car culture’ and it needs not dumb acceptance but a robust challenge: the alternative is to lock up our children.

To get to the planning meeting, I cycled to and from Bexhill from Eastbourne, using the seafront in Eastbourne to start and then moving to Pevensey roundabout to take the ‘old marsh road’ parallel to the A259. It’s a scenic lane, but far from tranquil – with vigilance needed at all times. On the two way trip, I was ‘cut-up’ twice and observed two drivers using mobiles while on the move. Scary. Potentially a great area of marshes and ditches and wide landscapes through which to walk or cycle, but for family outings with children on bikes you could never recommend it – too risky.  The remedy, suggested at the last Rother Transport Action Group meeting (and earlier by Sustrans): make the lanes ‘access only’ and get rid of the through traffic.

PART TIME SEASON TICKETS

These were the subject of letters I sent to three East Sussex MPs. (Hastings, Bexhill and Battle and Eastbourne – Amber Rudd, Huw Merriman and Caroline Ansell).

Put simply, we were made aware that the Department for Transport (DfT) had spent considerable sums on working with train operating companies to bring about these tickets for those seeking part time work yet currently having to buy weekly seasons or expensive daily tickets. Despite this, there had been no news on their introduction. ‘Victims’ of punitive fares also included those who had had to move out of London due to excessive rents and house prices and were relocating to cheaper accommodation, making some savings through ‘home working’,  yet trapped by the rail fares now needed to get them to work. Grossly unfair! Matters are far from resolved but we will continue to press for more user friendly ticketing and suggest that those affected do so too by writing to their MPs. This letter, received from an agent of Caroline Ansell MP (Eastbourne) and written by rail minister Claire Perry, MP, is the most positive response yet:

Part Time Seasons C Perry response

Just to ‘test the water’, a request was made at Petts Wood, Southeastern, and Eastbourne, Southern stations for a three day season ticket for specific days of the week ahead. Neither of the ticket offices could offer such a product, so nothing doing yet. Interestingly, Claire Perry’s letter mentions availability of a ‘carnet’ of day tickets offered at a discount by Chiltern Railways: that could be part of a solution for other train operators. Fragmented railways eh?

A quick note about a facility withdrawn from Southern ticket offices: on production of a Eurostar ticket, until the beginning of May 2016 you could get a discounted ticket to and from St Pancras. It’s still available but only on-line. Oh dear, the Southern website is a daunting prospect with its physically impossible maps – I’ve just tried and failed again. It is a truly awful website.

REAL TIME PASSENGER INFORMATION AT BUS STOPS

The system has at last been switched on (see previous post) and is to a considerable extent working in Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings. Hastings station installation has not yet begun however – and is currently the subject of negotiations with rail bodies, Stagecoach and ESCC.

*************************

derrick.coffee@talk21.com

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HASTINGS ALLIANCE and CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER TRANSPORT EAST SUSSEX : JANUARY 2016

BHLR – Local Transport Plan 3 – Campaign Pointers for 2016 – A Range of Measures

The opening of the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road took place in late December – precisely 7 years after the initial date predicted by East Sussex County Council (ESCC), and at £120.8 million, exactly five times the originally estimated 2002 costs of £24m. The costs may yet rise further. The real reasons for the delay are explained in our previous post (scroll down to read). The original 2004 timetable for delivering the completed BHLR shows as December 2008 the road ‘open to traffic’ . (see  bhlr-tt-2004-rt-size-2 ) From the word ‘go’ in 2004, the public consultation document offered only road schemes, despite being titled ‘Future Travel Options’.   (bhlr-consultation-2004) The conditional approval for the BHLR in that year required close cooperation with government’s own statutory conservation bodies – English Heritage, Natural England, Environment Agency. Nearly three years later all objected (two formally) to the BHLR at the planning application stage. It also required that contributions were sought from the private sector. None ever came. The costs were required to remain unchanged: they didn’t; and ‘value for money’ assessment by the Department for Transport ended dramatically at ‘poor/medium’. It stays a speculative and risky scheme that materially affects future travel and development patterns. We have to campaign in this new environment.

The stories behind the March 2012 green light from Chancellor Osborne to fund the road must continue to be told as a warning and an example of how a series of conclusive reviews and analyses (including the government’s own doubts) advising against a course of action to fund and build it, can be overturned at a stroke:  the most powerful government minister, in charge of prudent use of funds in times of supposed austerity, came to fund the  road scheme in England with the worst value for money and highest climate change gas emissions.

Now, as then, we have major financial commitment to new roads, £15m for the Queensway Gateway Road (QGR) and an almost certainly depressed figure of £5m for the North Bexhill Access Road (NBAR). Given the history of BHLR costs, these figures will surely rise, paid for by………….

These new roads spawned by the BHLR scheme are now at varying stages of development. The Queensway Gateway Road has been approved by Hastings Borough Council planning committee; the North Bexhill Access Road has received £200,000 from ESCC for ‘development’, but the planning application has been deferred, possibly because  no business case has been written yet, possibly through fear of a legal challenge on ‘air quality’ grounds. (for further information on these and other matters, see Combe Haven Defenders | Stop Osborne’s Roads to Nowhere: Stop )

Both roads would have significant negative environmental impacts, and housing and commercial/industrial developments would be difficult to serve by means other than the private car. The ever expanding car parks and inadequate or threatened public transport services to/from the Conquest Hospital are likely to be reflected at these developments. We are in car county, where land use, transport and health policies are applied in a seemingly haphazard way. CBT – East Sussex has objected to both schemes.(see nbar-obj-final-2 and qgr-objection-3).

So, what follows?

Most recently, and as  for the past 30 years, we have responded to the invitation by ESCC, the statutory transport authority, to comment on the latest stage of the Local Transport Plan process (LTP3). We believe our comments represent a positive vision that would sit comfortably with many UK local authorities’ positions on best practice in ‘transport and land use planning’,  and a move away from ‘car based’ perspectives. Transport choices other than the car are too frequently absent as we close our front doors behind us to face the challenges, opportunities and joys of a new day. A significant shift is required to restore this imbalance. View ESCC LTP3 ‘Implementation Plan’ here: ltp-draft-2016-20

The day ahead.....

The day ahead…..

…and the response from CBT – East Sussex here: ltp3-implement-final-3

We believe the submitted attachments to our response amplify the points made in our response. A brief explanation follows each one below:

Unsafe routes to school

Unsafe routes to school

Cars reversing over pavements would not induce parents’ confidence when considering allowing children to take their first steps to independence by walking or cycling to school. In addition, the biodiversity loss and increased risk of flooding should be of concern to all of us. The research into flood risk caused by loss of gardens to ‘hard standing’ for cars on a massive scale  carried out in Southampton will be of interest. Many gardens along the Bexhill Road (A259) have also been lost : front-gardens-to-car-parks-2

The relationship between ‘parking availability’ and aspirations to reduce levels of traffic is well known and usually ignored by politicians anxious not to upset ‘the motorist’. This leads many of them to set aside, or at least relegate, concerns on public health and healthy modes of transport, the environment, local accessibility and the availability of ‘walkable/cycleable’ services and shops – all essential components of a pleasant neighbourhood. It also impacts on the rights of children, the elderly and those who would choose high quality alternative modes of transport if they existed.  The following two attachments show how parking policy could be used to create better town centres and at the same time save huge sums of public funds – and solve the housing crisis:

TRL 5 Cities Graphic Grabbed

(The TRL research was published by a rather more enlightened Conservative administration of 1996 as a formal contribution to the Transport Debate – ‘Transport – The Way Forward’ April 1996.)

and,

Jacobs consultant John Siraut (Director, Economics) presents a slide show offering an interesting and expert view on better use of scarce town centre space. Jacobs have carried out work for ESCC, though not in the field of economics.

parking-presentation-jacobs-2

A further example of  better use of town centre space is illustrated in the example in the link below where car parking spaces have been removed and cycle storage, lockers and showers installed instead. Hastings FE college car parking could be usefully and similarly replaced:

London’s first underground cycle vault in Bloomsbury Square

Weather protected storage at  Lewes station

Weather protected storage at Lewes station

WHAT NEXT?

LTP3 SHOULD BE: A POSITIVE CONTRIBUTOR TO A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THIS AND THE NEXT GENERATION: And we will continue to campaign for a reversal of priorities in favour of alternatives to the current procession of expensive big road schemes. These should be replaced through an integration of transport policies with policies on land use, health, environment and support for local urban and rural economies. Transport measures appropriate for creation of more easily accessible and attractive town and district centres would flow from this policy integration, creating healthier town and village environments and populations, and stronger more resilient local economies. The starting point should not be the latest ‘traffic generating’ road scheme (exclusive) but expansion of choices from everyone’s front door (inclusive). That would be a step change!

See response from cycling campaign group Bricycles here: ltp3-bricycles-respnse-2

WHAT TO SECURE AND MONITOR?

Adoption of the whole available range of traffic demand management measures, imaginatively and fairly applied, and including workplace travel plans (wtp) including ‘personalised travel planning’ (information from consultants Steer Davies Gleave  here.); parking restraint; affordable, reliable, comprehensive and attractive public transport services; 20mph residential speed limits; 40mph limits on rural lanes; workplace parking levies to support sustainable transport investment; putting walking and cycling first in street design and maintenance (DfT; Manual for Streets); good value fares for young people on the cusp of independence.

Adequate evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday public transport services in the coastal towns and rural East Sussex, including restoring key services where there are none, such as Bodiam Castle and Batemans whose busiest days are Sundays: 287,000 visitors per year – loads of traffic – no Sunday buses. Reinstatement of cross border Kent – Sussex links. Quality advertising/marketing to be carried out in respect of ‘supported services’ There is often ignorance about their availability and local authority tourist guides don’t ‘champion’ them. Cycle carrying buses to be explored on appropriate routes in East Sussex e.g. High Weald AONB; South Downs National Park.

Specifically, pressure on Stagecoach to improve poor or non-existent Sunday, Bank Holiday and Christmas period bus services: Boxing Day and New Year’s Day saw no services at all. Brighton and Hove buses (which serve parts of Eastbourne well) ran on both days. Stagecoach should move with the times.

Seamless connections on bus services to the Conquest Hospital from Bexhill using the BHLR. Passengers are currently left waiting at Hollington Tesco for up to half an hour. Public transport links from communities to hospitals according to clinical need and convenience of visitors, and the needs of all working at the hospitals.

Enhanced bus services along the A259 corridor between Barnhorn (west of Little Common) and Ore: first proposed in LTP1 in 2000, it’s needed now.

Confirmation by ESCC of a February start to construction of bus lanes and priority measures on the A259 Bexhill Road, and improved levels of service before the traffic grows back after BHLR opening. This scenario of a steady increase in traffic is predicted by ESCC itself.

A realisation of the potential of rail to meet public needs and offer a good alternative: station plans for Glyne Gap, St Leonards – West Marina, Stone Cross to be reviewed with the Willingdon Chord installed. Provision of a new London – Sussex Coast link via Lewes – Uckfield – Tunbridge Wells. Enhanced levels of Coastway services. To protect the National Park – a stunning and priceless asset – abandonment of any ‘new A27’ proposals.

Part time railway season tickets – promised in the current government manifesto – have yet to be offered. High rents in London and high fares for part time workers are a toxic combination resulting in difficulties for a newly qualified highly talented student of 24; a housing officer of 40 priced out of London accommodation but now having to travel from the coast for 3 of 5 working days and home working for 2; a hard working and talented carpenter unable to seek work in London or elsewhere because of the lack of a part time season ticket arrangement. The lack of part time season tickets closes down opportunities for hard working and talented individuals.

As a young man, this technician first examined the sign 8 years ago. It has never worked.

As a young man, this technician first examined the sign 8 years ago. It has never worked.

A new funicular rail link to be examined capable of carrying cycles/wheelchairs from Pier/White Rock to Hastings Museum and offering access to all through ‘gradient transfer’. Together with the existing East and West Hill lifts enhancing accessibility for all, these would operate from 7.00a.m. and into the evenings and be an important tourism asset. The Ebbw Vale system, recently installed, could be a model.

Real Time Passenger Information for bus users –  system to be accelerated please: the Eastbourne system was installed 8 years ago but has never been switched on. Clearly not a priority. Hastings and Bexhill are currently being added to the system and we look forward to seeing it at work. (Photo)

A step change in public transport links between Hailsham – Polegate – Eastbourne Hospital/Colleges and Town Centre equal to the best in the UK. Complementary cycle/pedestrian improvements to enhance their safety and status, along with essential traffic demand management measures (see above). Enhanced 98 and 99 bus services to take advantage of Hailsham – Eastbourne upgrades.

A renewed campaign to challenge aggressive, careless and inappropriate driving styles in urban and rural environments which daily threaten and harm pedestrians, cyclists – and considerate motorists. This impacts on childrens’ freedom and persuades those who would like to allow their children to walk or cycle to ‘get in the car’. Unfair, unhealthy; inhumane.

Packages of measures such as those alluded to in this blog would automatically flow from proper analysis of transport problems and can be sifted and tested for their efficiency, appropriateness and positive/negative impacts. The resulting mosaic of measures is much more likely to deliver the wide range of accessibility, health, environmental, social and economic objectives than the often speculative ‘big scheme’ approach beloved of politicians. They become objectives. They are not. In stark contrast, the package approach is certainly a better way of reducing CO2 emissions than pursuing the ‘big new roads’ agenda now threatening East and West Sussex along with the consequent growth in often short private car trips. These emissions are growing in the transport sector, in contrast to a fall in other sectors. We therefore welcome Secretary of State Amber Rudd’s recent commitment to challenge the Department for Transport on this matter of growing emissions and look forward to her withdrawal of support for the Queensway Gateway Road and other ‘traffic generating’ schemes which have constantly crippled all alternatives to the private car. rudd-ltt-art-5

A fuller appreciation of the major health benefits of reducing ‘car dependency’ and sedentary lifestyles expressed through ‘active travel’ measures – easily delivered and with  benefits quickly discernible in the improving health of our communities. Five hundred people or more die prematurely in the county through poor air quality. Tackling mental and physical health problems through active travel measures would bring massive benefits to our quality of life – and almost immediately reduce pressure on the NHS. These opportunities must be grasped with urgency.

Derrick Coffee.

(County Officer, Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex)

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BHLR: DELAY – COSTS INCREASE – APOLOGIES – BLAME

There has been a long time lapse since the last update – apologies for that. This is a quick update and will be followed in the next two weeks with latest news and also comment on transport issues in Hastings, Bexhill and the wider county.

The saga of the BHLR continues. With the county council website behind events and still displaying information on the 10k running event for the 20th September, we have since seen elsewhere in the news revelations of delay, apologies, blame and staggering multi-million pound costs increases.

The latest information we have is:

  • the road will open on or around the 2nd November
  • there will be a new bus service operating between Bexhill – Tesco – Hastings. It will be an extension of the current 21 route with three vehicles available
  • bus lane construction along the existing A259 will begin in February 2016

All of this is, of course, subject to confirmation and possible revision, and  no details of frequencies of the proposed bus service were given. Will it happen on November 2nd?

The recent televised apology for the delay made by county council leader Cllr Keith Glazier was tempered by an assertion that ‘protestor action’ had been a significant cause. It may have delayed construction by a few weeks, but the years of delay are due to the mis-management of the scheme, with a gap of three years (2004-7) due to legally required consultation meetings with government ‘environment protection bodies’ to devise measures to mitigate (make ‘less worse’) inevitable environmental damage.

The meetings must have been less than effective, because all three government Statutory Environmental Bodies ( SEBs: Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage) raised serious doubts about the quality of the planning application for the Link Road scheme when it was submitted to the county’s own planning committee: the first two objected formally and the third raised questions about the size of the budget to conserve for the nation the archeological treasures already known, and those judged almost certainly  present – but yet unknown – in the Combe Haven valleys.

It took until 2009 to determine the planning application and then came the Public Inquiry late in that year. The inspector’s report didn’t appear for a further two years.

The government’s ranking of the Link Road in the ‘value for money’ league table for all English local authority road schemes was bottom of 23 and the worst for CO2 emissions: the environmental impact of the road was calculated by the Department for Transport as incurring a cost of between £77m and £123m. Nevertheless, our ‘prudent’ austerity conscious chancellor, George Osborne, ignored that, as well as the Department for Transport analysis that the jobs claimed to follow the road were grossly inflated by a factor of 3.5, and awarded East Sussex County Council £56m. Local taxpayers have been and are liable for the continuing cost overruns with the bill now standing at £65m.

See this link to the published Observer letter of 28th August, 2015:

Council is to blame for delays – Hastings and St. Leonards Observer

While the Observers published our concerns over the latest £4.4m cost increase:

H Obs Art Latest

The appetite for further road building goes on and shows no sign of abating: valued accessible, attractive and ecologically important countryside on the urban fringe is under threat of insensitive and inappropriate development. The nature of that development is highly likely to be ‘car dependent’ and therefore unsustainable and unhealthy, ignoring the needs of the next generation. Alternatives to that failed model of planning have been tried and tested in other locations and shown to deliver a better quality of life: nothing less is acceptable. The Queensway Gateway Road – recently quashed after a High Court action for its failure to properly consider air quality infringements, will be back before the Hastings Borough planning committee before long (objection advice  here). While the Bexhill Northern Access Road planning application has been lodged with Rother District Council. That unnecessary scheme would have major negative environmental impacts on presently quiet rural areas bordering Bexhill and Sidley

We believe that this poses serious problems for quality of the urban developments that will certainly follow. Details from the Seachange development company  website can be seen here. Objections may still be made to Rother District Council (Planning Application: RR/2015/2260/P)

This post concludes with two images taken on 6th September of the formerly intimate, tranquil Decoy Pond Stream Valley showing the BHLR separating Decoy Pond Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Little Bog Wood (left of the road site). Silent no more, Little Bog wood is classified as ‘Ancient’ and along with Decoy Pond Wood is visible on maps from the 1700s but existed in medieval times. Decoy 6 9 15 B

Decoy Pond Stream Valley, September 2015

Decoy Pond Stream Valley, September 2015

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MASSIVELY EXPENSIVE BHLR : TRAGICOMEDY CONTINUES : ELECTION – QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES

So much is wrong with the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR) that it would be very fertile ground for a film, play – or comic opera. One aspect of the saga is the ever rising cost, so where better to start than with a telling graphic:

Link Road costs inc gateways 2015The BHLR, originally costed at £24m in 2002, now comes in at £116.4m. That’s bad enough, but we’ve added the costs of the two links to the BHLR as described by the promoters, creating a total of £136.4m. for new road capacity in Bexhill and Hastings. This is just one of many negative consequences of their relentless pursuit of road schemes to the exclusion of sustainable and healthy alternative transport measures. It’s a taxpayers’ rip-off! To see what’s happening right now, follow this link to a report by CBT’s Sian Berry on the ‘rip-up’ of the countryside around Hastings…

LEP Watch: a tour of the destruction around Hastings

Described by the Department for Transport in 2012 as offering ‘low to poor value for money’,  the BHLR was originally intended by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) to open in late 2008. The considerably later May 2015 opening date has now slipped and there is currently no revised date.  The eventual cost to local council taxpayers is also unknown but continues to rise.

‘Official’ reasons for delays to the Link Road (followed by our comment in italics) are given by the promoters as:

Extensive evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, Romans, Saxons, Norman and medieval folk  known to have been active in, or to have settled in the valleys – leaving evidence acknowledged by experts some years ago as being of national importance;

Weather conditions leading to flooding and a difficult working environment on unstable ground; the valleys are subject to sustained floods every year

Protestors protesting; it would be very bad news indeed if they hadn’t

Dormice and badgers demanding attention; it’s an appealing PR driven idea to give them a headline billing suggesting that they and a few other species are being ‘cared for’, but  the bigger questions of habitat loss, ecological damage and landscape degradation have been marginalised or ignored, suggesting that these locally valued assets were considered expendable in order to chase a fantasy job creation scheme   

The fundamental reasons for delays:

A poorly thought through, error laden planning application in 2007 by ESCC

A failure to recognise the high quality of the landscape, heritage and natural environments that would be damaged and destroyed, leading to prolonged negotiations with government bodies

Recognition by the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2011 that it was the worst local road scheme in England in terms of value for money

Recognition by the DfT that it was unclear to them whether a package of alternatives had been fully examined by ESCC, as required according to government guidance issued to local authorities – we know that alternatives were wilfully and resolutely ignored by ESCC

Early conclusions of DfT analysts and others that the new jobs claims made by ESCC relating to the BHLR were highly inflated and based on highly questionable assumptions

Construction difficulties due to geological/hydrological conditions, including previously undetected fissures beneath the road’s foundations

The Result?

Chancellor Osborne ignores all the experts’ doubts and gives the BHLR the go-ahead in any case, before the DfT analysts had finished their work. Funding was announced in the 2012 Budget Statement. Rising costs and the damage to the ecological, archeological and landscape riches will have further reduced the ‘value for money’ of this expensive vanity scheme.

Did Ministers for Transport disagree?

When we asked the DfT what recommendations to ministers  were ‘on the table’ immediately prior to the 2012 Budget Statement, we were denied that information. We appealed to the government’s independent ‘Information Commissioner’, asking that the recommendations be revealed by the DfT. Almost a year later, the Commissioner upheld our appeal and instructed the DfT to reveal  the ‘redacted’ recommendations. (see links below). As we suspected, these included an option to provide £56m of funding towards the BHLR; they also included another option to fund a package of alternative measures that would benefit Bexhill and Hastings: it was this option that was hidden from the public.

A credible public transport based alternative was therefore available that would have avoided the risky, damaging, unhealthy and speculative ‘car based’ path determined by Chancellor Osborne, and cheered on by ESCC, Hastings Borough Council, Rother District Council and the local MPs. There was therefore no prior ministerial agreement from the DfT.

29_Dodgy Doc 1 The redacted (concealed) recommendation to ministers

30_Dodgy Doc 2 The disclosed information

For citizens who will have to live with (and pay for) all of this, there is still vagueness about the ‘complementary’ transport measures claimed to be planned by the transport authority, ESCC.

With 15 years to conceive, plan and deliver bus, rail, pedestrian and cycle networks  little has happened: there is no current plan. Whatever concoction of  ‘sustainable’ transport we end up with, it will follow some way behind the traffic generating Link Road and simply be ‘bolted on’ to the core car-based strategy given primacy by the promoters. Those depending on, or who would choose and enjoy high quality alternatives if they were available, are not given consideration. The whole package of healthier alternatives that could have been delivered would have cost a fraction of the Link Road and benefits would have been enjoyed by all members of the community. In the medium to long term,  pressure on A&E departments would reduce.

THE CURRENT SITUATION:

There is no predicted opening date for the £116.4m (latest) BHLR

Opportunity for a new station at Glyne Gap (Ravenside Retail Park) has been missed due to a flawed study and a failure to marshall support and evidence necessary to make a ‘business case’ that would attract funding. It has always been a very popular aspiration for the public, has been identified in two transport studies as viable, and has appeared for many years as an aspiration in local transport policy statements. The (incomplete) study, commissioned by Rother District and East Sussex County Councils, cost local taxpayers £30,000

New ‘state of the art’ buildings on Queensway lie empty despite promises of hundreds of new jobs being attracted. In 2012, Hastings Borough Council hosted an international conference on managing ‘climate change’ in one of the buildings – an edge of town location with no bus links. How was this ever an acceptable venue? What did delegates from other countries make of such an embarrassingly unsuitable choice ?

New ‘real time passenger information’ signs are being put in place in Hastings and Bexhill – two cheers for that – but we’ve waited many years for that promise to be fulfilled and in the meantime, services have been cut. If the brand new information display tells a passenger that there are no buses, it will make any claim of availability of a comprehensive and integrated transport service look very hollow indeed. It will also cause upset, annoyance and sadly, for those who have a choice, rejection of the sustainable and healthy option. Even conventional timetables have failed to appear in Hastings on the first day of the new Stagecoach summer services.

The cuts referred to above were intended to save ESCC £1.79m. Against the sums being thrown at the Link Road, this looks a tiny amount indeed.

The richness of archeological finds in the four valleys* being sacrificed to the road and interests of the motor trade in general, and the destruction of a beautiful succession of tranquil valleys within which the historical assets might have been enjoyed by future generations, is an appalling comment on the values of those promoting the road.

*Combe Haven; Watermill Stream; Powdermill Stream; Decoy Pond Stream valleys  

Watermill Stream Valley as it was

Watermill Stream Valley as it was

Watermill Stream - start of construction

Watermill Stream – start of construction

Huge machines arrive, to be followed by countless thousands more

Huge machines arrive, to be followed by countless thousands more

Decoy Stream Valley 1Above: Decoy Stream Valley, once peaceful.

Below: Greylag goose in Decoy Stream Valley, alongside wood in above photo, left.

Decoy Valley Greylag

Adams NEW

Above: Combe Haven looking west from From Adams Farm

Below: Combe Haven Valley before earthworks

From Adams Farm 3For further news on BHLR and related topics, please see the link to the comprehensive CHD’s website:

Combe Haven Defenders | Stop Osborne’s Roads to …

EAST SUSSEX CONTINGENCY FUNDS RAIDED FOR THE BHLR: CALL FOR CONTINGENCY FUNDS TO SUPPORT FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORT ON DAYS OF ‘POOR AIR QUALITY’

Now standing at £7.6m, the funds ‘borrowed’ from the county council’s contingency fund to pay for the Link Road have been added to the balance sheet. This fund is primarily for emergencies such as the Lewes floods in 2000, when flooded out families had to be rescued and re-housed.

We think that during the latest episode of dangerously poor air quality along the coast  affecting Hastings and Eastbourne (see map below), a proper use of contingency funds would have been to provide free public transport and apply a speed limit to all motorised traffic during the period to reduce exhaust emissions. In northern France – similarly affected – a speed limit was applied in the area around the town of Boulogne. Here, nothing happened. The contingency fund should certainly not be used to underpin a poor value for money road scheme such as the BHLR. Here’s a reminder of what happened as we experienced exceptional air pollution:

OFFICIAL MAP OF UK AIR QUALITY – 10th APRIL 2015

Air Quality Map jpeg April 15The map defines Eastbourne, Bexhill and Hastings – including much of Wealden District and Rother – as having ‘very high’ levels of pollutants. The situation was described in a Guardian article of 10th April, link below:

Guardian Air Pollution jpeg26 4

The irony is of course that if we had a comprehensive set of alternative measures, with incentives to use them, at least we’d be heading in the right direction in rendering the air quality problem less acute. Building and planning big new road schemes and going slow on walking, cycling, bus and rail improvements is bad for your health!

The matter is being raised at the next Health and Wellbeing Board on April 28th

BUS CUTS – LESS WORSE

Tremendous pressure was exerted by various groups and individuals on the County Council asking that the proposals to cut supported bus services in the county be withdrawn.( See previous post).The full council gave their backing to this but was overruled by the all powerful Cabinet. We and many councillors think this undemocratic. In the end, some services were taken on by bus operators but some have been lost. We joined demonstrations (below) and had several dialogues with county councillors and officers. Below is a link to a letter to a county councillor:

Bus Cuts Barnes Letter

Lewes Demo 1Lewes, November 8th – march to County Hall: strong opposition to the attack on the bus network, following a similar demonstration in Hastings.

In Hastings, two services have been maintained with funding from the parking surplus. No such thing is possible in Wealden or Rother, where parking is overwhelmingly free and plentiful, thus undermining the bus services which benefit everyone – including tourists and visitors and the associated tourism economy so important to East Sussex. Battle Abbey, Bodiam Castle and Batemans receive around 374,000 visitors a year yet public transport access is poor. There is a train to Battle (half a mile walk to the Abbey) but the Sunday buses (304) have been withdrawn; there is no Sunday bus to Bodiam (349), even on Sundays during Bank Holiday weekends; there is no Sunday bus serving Batemans and has not been for many years.

Today (23rd April, 2015) we had a definitive confirmation of the above from East Sussex County Council:

‘For the dates in 2015, a Sunday level of service will be provided on the 254/304 and 349 on:

  • Monday 4 May – May Day holiday
  • Monday 25 May – Spring Holiday
  • Monday 31 August – Summer Holiday
  •  No service will be provided on the 254/304 and 349 on any Sundays’.

There will be confusion and disappointment among tourists and day-trippers who rely on public transport, especially on the Sundays within the Bank Holiday weekends. Access to the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) by public transport will therefore be diminished. It seems the AONB is protected for all members of the public except those without access to a car. The objective to protect the AONB is contradicted by a policy to reduce bus services and increase traffic. Good for car sales!

Links to ESCC changes are available via the links below:

Rother District – Changes to bus services April 2015 final

Wealden District – Changes to bus services April 2015

A piece of good news came from Uckfield/Heathfield/Burwash/ Etchingham and Hurst Green where the daily mid-day east west service was saved from reduction to a two days a week service. It will now run 6 days a week (not Sundays). Generally, connections with trains at Etchingham from Heathfield/Burwash are available, but to Tunbridge Wells/Charing Cross much less so. The printed timetable issued ahead of the new service operated by Sussex Bus doesn’t give train connection times. This would be most helpful. Check Traveline for times.

Notably, the Hastings Arrows services are left unscathed. The successful, well used services are the result of the Quality Bus Partnership (QBP) proposed and implemented by East Sussex County Council between Hastings/central St Leonards and Hollington in the early noughties. The other two proposed QBP routes – one serving The Ridge and the other West St Leonards, Bexhill and Little Common –  were proposed by the county council in 2000 but never taken forward but surely would have attracted large numbers of passengers and would very likely have played a part in reducing congestion and improving air quality. The reason for their abandonment? Well, quite possibly, the obsession with the Link Road is to blame: the new bus routes (plus Glyne Gap station and a decent cycle route) might have been too successful!

Hastings Borough – Changes to bus services April 2015

For further public transport developments, please also see the very useful and well informed www.travelloglewes.co.uk

These cuts and uncertainties around bus services will discourage any shift away from car dependency and towards the bus. Steady improvement of services and incentives to use them, with a clearly stated intention to carry this out over a number of years into the future , are the only way to allow the bus service to make its full potential contribution to meeting the accessibility needs of individuals and communities, and making a useful contribution to reducing climate change gas emissions.

STAGECOACH COMMERCIAL SERVICES – 99/100

These services, though useful and well used, could do with a re-think – we think! Over the past few years things have improved, with new buses introduced just prior to the Olympics. And over the same few years, we have often suggested the following improvements (at the Rother Transport Action Group quarterly forum):

  • The Eastbourne/Bexhill/Hastings 99 service – three per hour in the daytime – could be upgraded to four per hour
  • The Hastings/Rye/Lydd 100 service – hourly daytime – could be upgraded to two perhour
  • Sunday/Bank Holiday 99 services, currently hourly, could be upgraded to two per hour
  • Sunday/Bank Holiday 100 services, currently two hourly, could be upgraded to hourly
  • With trains running parallel to the 100 route late into the evening, while buses finish earlier, a useful facility would be a combined bus/rail ticket enabling ‘bus out-train back’ options, useful for tourists and day trippers
  • For the benefit of those patients and visitors wishing to access either of the two major hospitals at Eastbourne (DGH) and Hastings (Conquest), and for those who work there, a 99X limited stop service should be introduced.
  • Here’s what we think about the absence of public transport links between the hospitals and the communities that rely on them (link):Hospital Transport Links Presser.

A27 CONCERNS/£6m HAILSHAM-POLEGATE-WILLINGDON-DGH-EASTBOURNE ‘SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT CORRIDOR’

Every 10 years or so, the ‘south coast motorway’ idea pops up, with politicians fuming over the length of time it takes people to drive from Folkestone to Devon (it’s always a single journey – they must settle there!). This is usually followed by a study which discovers that no-one actually drives, or wants to drive from Folkestone to Devon and, in fact, any congestion hot-spots are connected with much shorter trips – themselves associated with daily journeys to work, major hospitals or the school run. The last official study (South Coast Multi-Modal Study, 2002) found: ‘little justification for a long distance strategic south coast route’.

The latest proposal for a study on the A27 came from the Department for Transport as part of its Road Investment Strategy (RIS). It was a hastily conceived proposal (election time drawing close!) which caught the Highways Agency (now Highways England) by surprise. This haste led to very short timeframes,  short notice given to stakeholders prior to meetings, and lack of clarity as to who should attend: a bit of a shambles. The SCATE website will give you more detail of the proposals for the A27 between Chichester and Pevensey.

South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment …

Here is a very brief summary of the ‘east of Lewes’ situation:

£75m FOR SAFETY AND JUNCTION IMPROVEMENTS

That’s it! For now anyway, and it’s not controversial. Our position was that:

A major new road and effects of its extra traffic would degrade the South Downs National Park;

Would conflict with the Hailsham – Eastbourne Sustainable Transport Corridor scheme;

Could not be built before upgrading rail services on the parallel line;

Would conflict with policy and increase climate change gas emissions;

Its proposals appear to accept a ‘back of a fag packet’ figure for new job creation east of Eastbourne, close to that discredited by the Department for Transport’s analysts. (3,500 as against a DfT figure of 900 – 1,000, many of which would go to workers from outside the area).

The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, was invited to a meeting at Eastbourne Town Hall on 28th January by Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce to meet those clamouring for the major new highway between Eastbourne and Lewes. Derrick Coffee of Campaign for Better Transport, East Sussex was able to present him with counter arguments and to respectfully suggest that to visit Eastbourne to discuss a road scheme – as opposed to transport strategy –  was missing the more important issues of first tackling congestion and air quality and securing a good quality of alternative and sustainable modes of transport in the immediate travel to work area. The railway line parallel to the A27 had seen new signalling installed, and could now accommodate more trains – let’s have them please. Sec of State response suggested that buses need better roads: I pointed out that the big boon to car commuting resulting from a multi-million road scheme (A22 new route/Polegate by-pass of 2002) had still not been accompanied by a step change in bus services 13 years later, thus firmly entrenching the car habit. Another boost for car sales!

Ebne Demo SoS and MeSecretary of State for Transport accepts a press release from Campaign for Better Transport – East Sussex.

CHALLENGING THE CALLS FOR EVER MORE AND CHEAPER PARKING

Dependence on private motorised transport – overwhelmingly the car – has huge impacts on everyone’s quality of life. The greater the dependence in a given town or city, the harder it is to challenge it. The graph below produced by Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) in 1994 for the then Conservative government shows some interesting results. It followed an investigation (‘5 Cities’) into the most effective means by which public transport usage could be increased and car usage reduced:

TRL 5 Cities Graphic GrabbedThe pressure of traffic on urban environments and its negative impact is widely accepted. Poor air quality (see above) has long and short term health impacts; pedestrian and cycling conditions are often unpleasant (including for those who drive into town); childrens’ independence and opportunities for play are curtailed or stopped; hazards for children walking or cycling to school induce parents to drive their children, making the trip for those who continue to walk more dangerous; otherwise pleasant, attractive and  historic town spaces become heavily trafficked; public transport is held up; and pressure on green spaces increases – reducing opportunities to transform our towns through public art and planting schemes, and to offer tranquil refuges to our residents and visitors. Reducing traffic where possible is a key to addressing some of the above problems.

The chart above illustrates the complexity of the issues around parking

  • Reducing the amount of space given to parking is by far the most effective way of increasing bus/rail/tram use and reducing traffic
  • Cordon charging (as in London) is next best
  • Doubling parking charges comes next
  • A 50% fuel increase and 50% reduction in bus/train fares come 4th and 5th in the effectiveness ranking

Since 1994, walking and cycling have received much attention as further ways to reduce traffic but local authorities and twitchy politicians, scared stiff of the reaction of car drivers and vociferous business spokespeople, have failed to tackle the issue of parking and its role in degrading everyone’s quality of life and town centre economies. And an excellent public transport offer, 7 days a week, has worked well in Brighton and Hove, with services operating at good frequencies until at last 10,p.pm – and that includes links to/from every residential area and the main hospital.

One other notable exception has been the city of Nottingham where a path has been successfully pursued against all the odds to challenge the ‘free parking everywhere for ever’ lobby, very strong in Eastbourne, Hastings and adjacent rural areas of Wealden and Rother.

Nottingham’s answer lies in the principle that the city’s public transport system would be better with an investment stream derived from car parking spaces. This is in the form of a levy on each space where each firm with 11 or more parking spaces pays a levy of £362 per space: all the income for this is ring-fenced for public transport improvements and has enabled an extension to the city’s tram network and underpinned its future usage.  By contrast, owners of off street private non-residential parking in Eastbourne and Hastings pay nothing towards offsetting the congestion impact of their ‘free parking’; public transport provision remains patchy, especially in the evenings and on Sundays. It is less than adequate.

Despite strong opposition at first from Boots – who threatened to move their 3,000 parking places outside the city – no firm in Nottingham has failed to comply with the levy and the number of firms moving into Nottingham has been greater since the levy than in the 5 years before it began. Boots did not carry out their threat.

In its three years of operation, and with other initiatives in the city designed to expand walking and cycling provision ,  the ‘workplace parking levy’ (wpl) has also enabled Nottingham to adequately fund its ‘supported’ bus services.

It should not be written off as a joint option for Eastbourne and Hastings, and could provide a funding source to new railway stations at Stone Cross, Eastbourne, and Glyne Gap (Ravenside), Bexhill. If it is serious about tackling congestion and the effects of climate change gas emissions and air quality improvement, East Sussex County Council should have a look at it. In the case of Eastbourne, wpl could also underpin the success and ‘value for money’ of the Hailsham – Polegate – Eastbourne  ‘Sustainable Transport Corridor’ scheme which is rumoured to be heading our way.

THEN THERE’S AN ELECTION!

Lots of fodder in all the above to get you fired up on possible questions for candidates – and here’s a link to Campaign for Better Transport’s suggestions:

http://t.co/aBQ5ap0JBz http://t.co/ZHUr37IFNx

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