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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