Hinkley C: Beware the consequences of large infrastructure projects

Hinkley Point C brings London-level traffic to small Somerset town.

Air and noise pollution, traffic chaos and rising rents are blighting the Somerset town that has found itself the gateway for the marathon construction of the new Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power station, locals say.

Limits for air pollution have been exceeded on main roads on multiple occasions this year, while Highways England data shows truck numbers have increased by more than 20% since building work started in 2016.

On some roads, two heavy goods vehicles pass through every minute. Not all are delivering to Hinkley but, with no bypass built for the nuclear site, locals say it has made the town unnavigable at times.

Buses transporting 4,000 construction workers to the site add to the traffic – and the influx of workers is pushing up rents. Rat runs are in gridlock and a town that is home to just under 40,000 people is experiencing London-level traffic on some roads.

Friends of the Earth, which looked at the air quality data for 2018 and 2019 provided by the local Sedgemoor district council, said it was concerned about the high incidences of particle matter on some roads.

Data shows that particle matter measuring 10 micrometers (PM10) has exceeded safe limits on Quantock Road 16 times already this year, while on nearby Bristol Road those limits were exceeded 15 times.

The latest data for traffic shows the number of HGVs has increased from 470 a day in 2014 to 900 in 2018 on Quantock Road, the principal artery out of the town to Hinkley.

For nearby Horsey Level, the number of trucks a day is registered at almost 1,500, while on Taunton Road, the main road coming from the M5’s junction 24, residents have to endure 1,050 a day, making it difficult to cross the road and forcing many cyclists on to the paths for their own safety.

HPC says the number of HGVs travelling every day to and from the site is capped at 750.

… Hinkley agreed a fund to fit double-glazed windows on some of the busiest roads in Bridgwater. It says this is a goodwill gesture and not an admission of responsibility for the noise of HGVs.

“EDF have paid to replace all my windows, and it’s made no difference. On a summer’s night, I’m not able to sleep with the windows open at all,” said Balcombe. “I am woken up every morning at 5am from the noise of lorries. And when these lorries are empty the clatter they make is unbelievable with the metal bouncing round.”

HPC points out that the HGV movements will ease in the autumn when it switches supplies to the sea. The jetty is now complete and the permission it got for an extra 250 HGVs a day will expire.

For Bridgwater locals a bypass would have been the answer and helped relieve the town of its perennial traffic problem.

The former Labour councillor Mick Lerry, who was involved in the fight for a bypass, said the attempt was stymied because it was never part of the development consent order submitted by EDF. “As it was not part of the application, it could not be considered,” he said.

The government said it had considered the impact of HGVs on Bridgwater and was satisfied. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/14/hinkley-point-c-london-traffic-bridgwater-somerset?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

70% of UK rail companies and 50% of fishing quotas foreign-owned

In some cases owned by the NATIONAL rail companies of the foreign company! Madness!

https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/70-of-uk-rail-routes-now-owned-by-foreign-states/

“Richard Branson has said he is ‘devastated’ that Virgin Trains’ reign over the West Coast Main Line train route is coming to an end after 22 years.

The Department for Transport has awarded Aberdeen-based First Group and Trenitalia UK, an arm of Italy’s main train operator, the contract to run the London-to-Glasgow rail line from 8 December.

After the contract starts, more than 60 per cent of train journeys made on British railway lines will be made using services partly owned by foreign companies, analysis by the Press Association has revealed. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-7355993/Branson-devastated-Government-hands-Virgin-Trains-West-Coast-rail-contract-Trenitalia.html?ito=rss-flipboard

AND

50% of UK fishing quotas are owned by foreign companies:

Revealed: the millionaires hoarding UK fishing rights

Now even The Times is questioning (rail) privatisation …

… but blaming underinvestment – not the privatisation process which was supposed to lead to MORE investment:

“When Grant Shapps was appointed secretary of state for transport last month, he used social media to express his view of the railway network that had become his responsibility. “As a very frustrated 6 trains per day commuter for the past few years, I’m delighted to be appointed transport secretary,” he wrote. He used a screaming-face emoji to convey his horror of travelling by train from his constituency of Welwyn, which was hit by the Thameslink timetable chaos last year.

Mr Shapps’ dread of British trains will be shared by many who rely on the network. Trains in Britain are often extortionately priced, delayed and overcrowded. Compensation forms are too complex. By proportion of salary, British commuters pay five times as much for tickets as the rest of Europe. Little wonder then that passengers (including those who are old enough to remember a pitiful state-run railway industry) are coming out in favour of renationalisation. A poll last year showed that 64 per cent of the public favoured taking the network back into public hands.

Yesterday, the future of Britain’s rail system was cast into further doubt when the government scrapped a competition to run Southeastern, one of the country’s busiest commuter lines. Mr Shapps cancelled the process amid concerns over escalating costs and uncertainty that the operator would achieve benefits for passengers. His decision calls into question other contracts, including the forthcoming competition to run trains on HS2 and the west coast mainline.

Passengers frustrated with Britain’s second-rate railways crave a dramatic solution. In contrast to its constructive ambiguity over Brexit, Labour’s position on the railway network appears clear. If elected the party would bring rail franchises back into public ownership when they expired, if not before.

Yet nationalisation would not release the railways from the morass they find themselves in. The network was beset with problems when it was privatised under John Major’s government after years of underinvestment. To nationalise now would cost a fortune. Taxpayers already bear a large burden of the costs, given that Network Rail, which runs the country’s tracks and biggest stations, is publicly owned. To expect taxpayers to foot the whole bill would be unfair.

Instead, improvements must be made urgently to the system we already have. A review of the railways led by Keith Williams, the former chief executive of British Airways, is expected to be published this year. Mr Williams has previously proposed that a “Fat Controller-type” figure should oversee the day-to-day running of services. That is worth exploring, but he must offer ways to tackle two significant problems facing the rail industry right now.

First, the unsatisfactory relationship between tracks and trains. At present trains run on tracks that operators have no responsibility for. It is the passenger, ultimately, who pays for the lack of joined-up thinking. Second, the problem of dwindling competition. When companies were first allowed to bid for rail franchises they did so in their droves. Now, as few as two companies typically bid to run a franchise, leading to slipping standards. The Department for Transport issues detailed demands for operators, setting out the number of trains they must run per hour. Operators are being micromanaged. Yet overcrowding, disruption and high prices mean that growth in passenger numbers has slowed. The time has come to give them more freedom to innovate.

Mr Shapps should focus now not on cancelling other contests to run rail services, but on making the current system fit for purpose. The public’s faith in the country’s privatised rail network is waning. It is up to the government to remind passengers of why nationalisation is not the solution.”

Source:Times (pay wall)

EDDC Tory DMC Chairman uses his casting vote in controversial planning application

“Plans for 10 new homes in Axminster have been approved, despite fears children could be flattened by lorry drivers who wouldn’t notice them until ‘they heard the screams’.

East Devon District Council’s development management committee via the chairman’s casting vote gave the go-ahead last week for outline plans for 10 homes to be built on land adjacent to the co-op supermarket in Axminster.

Serious concerns about highways safety had been raised by councillors as the front doors of the houses would open almost onto the road delivery drivers heading to the Co-op use.

But the committee heard that Devon County Council’s highways department had no concerns over the plans and hadn’t objected, and committee chairman Cllr Mike Howe used his casting vote to approve the application, saying: “I have to vote in favour as I cannot see a reason for refusal that would stand up and would not cost this council money at an appeal.”

Cllr Paul Hayward had said that he was very concerned about the safety aspects of the plan. He said: “This is building family houses next to a car park and the front doors will open directly onto the path of a reversing HGV from the Co-op. The lorry driver would only be focused on reversing into his spot and he wouldn’t even notice if a child run out of the doors after a ball or a dog or if they saw a friend across the road.

“A child wouldn’t even be on the radar until he heard the screams. Safety is paramount and I cannot conceive a worse place to build family houses.”

Cllr Sarah Jackson added: “The development is situated opposite a car park and alongside the car park access road. Family properties are likely to be occupied by young children who lack road sense and can easily run out unexpectedly, particularly as they may not perceive this as a road in the traditional sense.

“Equally, articulated lorries have incredibly limited visibility and when turning may not see a child in time. The nearest playing field/recreation areas are at Foxhill and Jubilee field. Both would require children to cross several roads.

“It’s worth noting that the play park at Jubilee Field is currently out of action due to a legal dispute and it is unknown as to when this will be returned to proper use, so it is therefore likely that children will end up playing in the car park.

“I just question the logic of putting family homes right next to somewhere where lorries will be reversing in and out to make their deliveries.”

Cllr Tom Wright added his concerns about kids running out and being run over, and added: “I also have environmental concerns. Encouraging people to live in an area which is being heavily polluted and there will be lorries running with their diesel engines is unbelievable and an absolute nonsense.”

And Cllr Paul Arnott said the development was the kind of thing you may see in inner-city London, but that ‘even there it would be turned down on environmental grounds.”

Planning officers though had recommended that the scheme, which would consist of three blocks, be approved.

Six homes would be on a terrace row which fronts on to the car park, with two semi-detached properties situated adjacent to the supermarket building and two further properties fronting onto the proposed car park for the new three bedroom homes.

Development manager Chris Rose said: “The application seeks to address the two reasons for refusal on a previous application which related to the unsuitable access and conflict with the loading area to Co-op and the lack of affordable housing contribution.

“The development can be accommodated without harm in terms of amenity, highway safety, visual impact or loss of character. Although these types of development would usually result in an offsite contributions toward affordable housing, in this instance viability information has been submitted which has demonstrated that such a contribution would render the development unviable.

“The proposal adequately addresses the two previous reasons for refusal on the previous application and as such is considered to meet the social, economic and environmental and thus achieves sustainable development.

Cllr Helen Parr proposed that the application be approved in line with the recommendation, saying: “It is going to be difficult to refuse this on highways safety grounds as Devon County Council’s highways team are satisfied that there is appropriate separation. I don’t see how we can object on highways grounds if they won’t support us. The other reason why development was refused was on affordable housing but there is now evidence that it would be unviable.”

Cllr Eileen Wragg seconded the proposal to approve the plans, saying: “If we don’t, I think that this is one that we would fail to defend on appeal.”

The vote to approve the application saw seven councillors vote in favour and seven against, before Cllr Howe broke the deadlock with his casting vote in favour of approval.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/homes-approved-despite-fears-reversing-3111980

“More cuts to bus services would leave MILLIONS unable to travel to school or work”

“Millions would find it difficult getting to hospital, school, work or shops without bus services, research shows.

As cuts continue to result in routes being axed across the country, 83% of people think it would be hard to get to shops and town centres if bus services were not available.

Around 75% said the same about work, and hospitals or GP surgeries.

David Brown, chief executive of bus operator Go-Ahead which was behind the survey, said: “Without buses, it would be a tiresome daily struggle for many people simply to get to work or school.

“It’s essential the nation puts in place a meaningful strategy to ensure services can prosper.

“A single bus can take as many as 75 cars off the road, with obvious benefits in terms of relieving congestion and pollution. It’s time for politicians to sit up and take notice.

Buses need to be given greater priority in road design if we want to achieve the Government’s broader policy goals in improving air quality, combating loneliness and regenerating local communities.”

The poll of 2,000 people revealed 63% think schools would be hard to get to without a bus.

The research also showed the role of buses is underestimated.

Over half of those quizzed believe less than 40% of public transport journeys are by bus – in fact it is about 67%.

A cross-party group of 23 MPs last week backed calls for a National Bus Strategy, a key demand of the Campaign for Better Transport.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/more-cuts-bus-services-would-17535584

“There Are 8 Million Potholes On UK Roads Because Of Austerity, Says New Report”

“… Routine road maintenance budgets have fallen from £1.1 billion in 2009/10 to around £701 million in 2017/18, the LGA said.

This budget is used to fund expenses such as minor road repairs, cleaning drains and fixing street lighting.

The LGA estimated that the reduction could have covered the cost of repairing 7.8 million potholes. …”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/potholes-uk-roads_uk_5d2038b3e4b0f312568414d2?guccounter=1