It was reported on Tuesday (see Worcester News article) that traffic congestion is the major complaint of residents within Worcester. As anyone who has driven or cycled in Worcester would know, this was an unsurprising conclusion. I can often get about the city on my bike far quicker than I could if I was driving or using public transport.
Talking of public transport, the poor bus service to and from Worcester and within the city itself is clearly a major factor in our current problem. Bus services have taken some of the biggest cuts over the past few years, with the result that what was never a very good service in the first place has got far worse.
Coupled with this, we have a huge multi-storey car park built by Asda, which draws many more cars into the city centre and particularly around City Walls Road, which is regularly gridlocked. The knock-on effect of this is that the City Council were forced to lower their car parking charges as people were parking at Asda rather than at council run car parks. The result is even more cars coming into the centre of Worcester, clogging up the roads and increasing pollution.
There clearly needs to be a rethink into how traffic in Worcester is managed. If you look at how other similar towns and cities have tried to fix these problems, there is a clear approach that I believe Worcester needs to follow. Building more car parks will make matters worse. We need to keep more cars out of the city centre, whilst still allow people to easily access the shops and businesses within Worcester. If you look at Oxford, for example, the contrast is evident. There is a very efficient and relatively inexpensive bus service, there are five park and ride sites, parking in the city centre is expensive and cycling is widely promoted and popular.
The city and county councils will need to work together to make something like this a reality in Worcester.