SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT NEWS UPDATE
Bexhill to Hastings Link Road (BHLR) ‘Complementary Measures’ – Offsetting Environmental Destruction – Real Time Bus Information – Access to Hospital, or not – Glyne Gap Station – Bus Service Cuts – Challenging £multi-million South Coast Road Building:Launch of SCATE (South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment).
A SINGULAR FOCUS ON THE PRIVATE CAR
Car users can happily rehearse how they will make use of the Link Road from day one of opening in May 2015 (current ESCC prediction) – maybe doing new journeys, or switching back to their cars from sustainable, healthy alternatives. Those without access to a car, are unable to drive, or who choose not to, can only guess at the promised improvements to alternatives to the car. These were always described by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) as ‘complementary’ to the Link Road. Remember, alternatives were never fully examined: there was a resolute refusal to do so. But what? When? Where?
In our view there should be advance publicity around this issue, and a prospect of delivery of ‘high quality’ healthy and sustainable transport coinciding with opening of the Link Road rather than a confused picture of what to expect, and a ‘managed decline’ in bus services now offered through impending cuts.
It is grossly unfair that after 14 years of planning the road, there is almost complete silence on the nature of those ‘complementary measures’ we were led to expect, and what exactly non-car users can look forward to as the Link Road opens. This group of the electorate – plus young people – clearly matter less than habitual car drivers. Time for an urgent dialogue between ESCC and Stagecoach – it might be fruitful.
We have formally asked ESCC to hold exhibitions showing what will be in place on day one of Link Road opening for non-car users. We have heard nothing. A failure to set in place high quality alternatives to the car at that point in time will simply promote the ‘car habit’ and increase traffic congestion, making it much harder to promote or achieve a high take-up of ‘active travel’ – walking, cycling and public transport. This has serious implications for public health and doesn’t comply with ESCC policy, or health policies in general. Once again, it seems that alternatives will lag behind provision for the car, struggling to play catch-up.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT MATTERS – BEXHILL, HASTINGS AND THE WIDER COUNTY
Sure does – but what and where are the plans?
To borrow a phrase, here is a list of the known unknowns:
The bus service to The Conquest from Bexhill may, or may not run on the Link Road. The last we heard, it would run to Tescos where passengers would need to change for the Conquest. Good for the supermarket, but not for those wishing to get to and from the hospital. Evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays would be excluded. The proposed frequency is unknown.
Eastbourne, Hastings, Bexhill
The wider issue around access from communities to their local hospital, or newly reallocated clinical services, is also unresolved, with Eastbourne District General Hospital (DGH) better connected to its local communities than is Hastings, but no improvement in sight for public transport access to either hospital from their more distant ‘catchments’ eg Hastings Conquest from Hailsham/Eastbourne, or DGH from Bexhill/Hastings. How needs of patients, visitors and staff will be met is unknown. There has been no forward planning, over recent years, simply never ending car park extensions which generate more traffic and undermine the bus market and make walking and cycling unpleasant. It’s crazy!
Those with access to a car are fine. But a taxi from one to the other costs £34. There is not a comprehensive bus service – and there are no signs of one appearing. The Royal Sussex in Brighton offers a good practice example for bus access until late evening, should anyone be interested – and they should be.
Real Time Passenger Information
Funding for Real Time Passenger Information signs (RTPI) intended for Hastings and Bexhill – indicating how long until the next bus arrives – was a casualty of funding the Link Road. These signs have long been in operation in Brighton, including inside the station where people can clearly see what buses are due at stops outside the station.
Government funding for these was withheld because ESCC had received millions of pounds for the Link Road. ESCC are going to provide the signs eventually but there is confusion over how many, and where they’ll be. We heard recently that they would not be provided at Hastings Station/Bus Interchange. Clearly, at that location they would be welcome. Inside hospital foyers and the FE colleges in Bexhill and Hastings, and the university would be other obvious locations. Then ideally there would be displays at bus stops over the wider area, including Battle and Rye (and Heathfield and Hailsham). At present, there is no information about information. Public transport works better with clear and prominent information displays but the installation of the displays mentioned has got off to a disastrous start in East Sussex coastal towns. This, plus open talk of cuts to come, does nothing for public confidence in the bus service, and relegates the status of the bus. It’s a subliminal advert for the car.
Glyne Gap Station/Packed and Inadequate Trains
We wait, and wait, for a decision from the Planning Inspectorate on the controversial proposal from Rother District and East Sussex County Council to remove a plan for new station at Glyne Gap (Ravenside) from Rother District Plan and the County’s Local Transport Plan 3. We objected to the local authorities’ proposal and campaigned hard for its retention and funded a study which showed that the proposals to ‘delete’ the station plan and the £30,000 report on which it was based were flawed. The station would serve the large traffic generating retail park at Ravenside on the A259, the FE college nearby and local residents. We need a new station. We need more trains!
MAKING THE IMPACT OF THE LINK ROAD LESS WORSE
One condition placed on funding approval for ESCC’s Link Road was a requirement to enhance a habitat in the ‘Brede Hastings area’ to offset loss of habitat in Combe Haven. The work will cost £250,000.
The habitat is ‘wet woodland and grassland’. It may well be a pathetic attempt to make up for the wreckage in Decoy Stream valley – completely ruined now – and set to be further degraded when the traffic roars through what was a beautiful, tranquil, intimate, steep sided valley. If an intention is that those who rue its loss may experience something in the area of Brede/Hastings to make up for it – which is very doubtful and more likely impossible – then accessibility is an issue. It should be equally accessible to the ‘sacrificed site’, and accessible to all.
Where is it? How may people get there? It won’t be easily walkable from Bexhill/Hastings and if there is a bus there’ll be a cost. Even if there’s a bus now, current plans to cut services may remove the service. (See below).
ESCC won’t give us a grid reference or accessibility information (requested twice). Worryingly, according to Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson, MP, offsetting is acceptable if the offset site is ‘up to an hour’s car drive away’. That’s both dismissive and ignorant.
PROPOSED CUTS TO SUPPORTED BUS SERVICES.
An ESCC consultation on proposed cuts is about to be launched (July 7th). It will run for 12 weeks which unhelpfully coincides with school holidays – and summer holidays for all. The report to Cabinet – including proposed cuts (last three pages) is available via this link: Item 6 (opens new window)
The consultation can be accessed via the link below:
In due course we will comment on the proposals on this website and already, others have raised concerns too. Here is a link to ‘Travelman’ website with appropriate comments and useful information. www.travelloglewes.co.uk
Hastings – including links to the Conquest Hospital – is particularly badly hit by the cuts on weekdays, and on Sundays, for those wishing to access some of the best walking country in the south-east, there may be no buses at all. The ‘honeypot’ of Bodiam Castle will be inaccessible by public transport, along with the adjacent heritage railway.
BELOW: HASTINGS – BODIAM – HAWKHURST SUNDAY SERVICES MAY BE SCRAPPED. Currently there are four buses each way on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Hastings Country Park, Fairlight, Winchelsea Beach, Rye and Northiam could lose their Sunday buses too. We note that the National Trust is Committed to reducing the impact of traffic on its properties and the countryside in general, and maximising access by public transport, walking and cycling. The cuts won’t help.
If you wish to make comments on the proposed cuts directly to CBT East Sussex, feel free to do so by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org I will incorporate comments in a response. If you have time to submit a response that would be great.
FURTHER MULTI-MILLION POUND ROAD PLANS
The funds for the ‘low to medium value for money’ (according to the Department for Transport) Link Road and associated schemes will run to £150m or more, while the East Sussex bus support grant of £1.7m is apparently unaffordable. But ESCC is chasing many more millions of public funds to spend on grand road schemes along the coast without – as with the Link Road – considering sustainable, healthy alternatives that do not spawn sprawling and unhealthy car based developments. Health professionals warn us now of the impending crisis that will accompany obesity and consequent Type 2 diabetes caused by poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. A serious and urgent investment in alternative, healthy transport would help to avoid the worst of this: the last thing we need is more road building, its accompanying car dependency and its wasting of land. The costs imposed on the NHS through a failure to meet and beat the obesity challenge would, they warn, threaten the survival of the NHS.
INVEST IN CYCLING – DOUBLE DIGIT VALUE FOR MONEY
20’S PLENTY CAMPAIGN AND BELOW, POPULAR CYCLEWAY ON LEWES ROAD, BRIGHTON
A great example of popular cycle infrastructure investment is the Lewes Road cycleway, Brighton, opened late last year. Measures to support cycling such as this typically repay every pound of investment with up to £20 – in some cases the figure is even higher – of benefits in health improvement, better air quality, reduced CO2 and pollution, less noise and less parking space required. Accompanied by 20mph zones to encourage cycling in all residential areas, such schemes promote strong growth in walking and cycling. Kings Drive, Eastbourne and St Helens Road, Hastings might be given the same treatment, while a route parallel to the railway line to Ore might also be successful.
It is clear that a strong commitment and major shift to investment in sustainable transport, rather than a car-based future with its accompanying health disbenefits and environmental degradation, both rural and urban, is a way forward to improve public health – physical and mental.
For up to date information on the threats posed by authorities promoting major and very costly road building along the south coast, see the website of newly formed South Coast Alliance on Transport and the Environment (SCATE):