Posted by Matt | Posted in Transport, Worcester Politics | Posted on 07-06-2014
Tags: congestion, cuts, pollution, public transport, sustainable
On the same day that the Worcester News reported that Worcester has the third worst traffic congestion in the country, I was taking part in a County Council scrutiny committee looking at proposals to stop or reduce numerous bus services in the county. This list of services being scrapped included the Perdiswell Park and Ride.
At a time of huge pressure on the County Council budget due to massive cuts from central government, we all understand the pressure to maintain services. The fact that over the past years the Cabinet has refused to increase council tax to try to lessen the severity of the cuts has not helped.
With regard to public transport the situation in Worcestershire is pretty dire. It was only due to the backlash from bus users to the consultation that more money was found to lessen the size of the bus subsidy cuts. However, the fact that the Park and Ride is one of the services to be lost speaks volumes about the current administration’s idea of a sustainable transport policy. Basically, they don’t have one!
The rationale for removing the Park and Ride, despite it having the second highest number of passenger journeys, was that most of those that use the service travel by car, so they could drive to their destination. Hundreds of extra cars will now be driving into Worcester adding to the already terrible congestion.
Congestion is the number one concern for residents in Worcester, yet the County Council are actively ignoring their concerns by making the situation worse. Congestion creates more pollution, which is known to be a major cause of premature deaths in this country – around 29,000 per year. As a result of the cut to the Park and Ride and other services, Worcestershire County Council is sentencing more people to a shortened live-span. The fact that the Council is directly responsible for Public Health is being completely ignored. Saving a small amount of money from the transport budget, will lead to increased costs to Public Health and the NHS.
With the City Council battling over who can cut parking charges and allowing ASDA to built a multi-storey car park in the centre of town at which you only have to pay £1, the congestion has been getting worse and worse. And with more house building planned on the outskirts of town, there appears no chance of it improving. The only solution offered by the County Council is to expand the existing road network, for instance the southern link road. The huge cost of this compared to the much smaller cost of maintaining a decent public transport network is quite apparent.
As a County Councillor I will do what I can to prevent the loss or reduction of services, particularly those in my area. The most heavily used service in the County (the 31A/31C) goes through my division on the Bilford Road and is to be reduced drastically. The Blanquettes Estate service is being axed. Plus, the Park and Ride is on the edge of my division. However, this is more than just an issue of fighting for my constituents, this is a broader issue of the County Council having no transport vision for Worcester or Worcestershire. I’ve written previously about what we can learn from Oxford and Oxfordshire, yet we seem to be ignoring this best practice and are actively going in the opposite direction and promoting car use, when we should be trying to get people out of their cars.