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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
See also East Sussex and Lewes based information on this useful website:
TRAVEL LOG LEWES – 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:
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:
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:
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:
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
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):
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 – 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
‘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.
CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER TRANSPORT – CURRENT CAMPAIGNS/CEO STEPHEN JOSEPH TO STEP DOWN THIS AUTUMN
Campaign For Better Transport: Campaigns
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
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