(Some) council leaders brand single-option consultation a sham

“The leaders of Adur and Worthing councils have called for a ‘sham’ A27 improvements consultation to be halted and re-run with further options.

Highways England has put forward just one £69million proposal to tweak six key junctions between Worthing and Lancing. But councillor Neil Parkin and councillor Dan Humphreys have joined forces to campaign for a rethink. Mr Parkin, Adur District Council leader, said: “Highways England say they want to consult with us but we say this is a sham.”

“By not allowing the public to weigh up options and see full costings how are we to make any kind of decision? “All I do know is the current scheme on the table is barely worth the disruption and certainly not worth spending £69million on.” Modest improvements to six junctions between Durrington Hill and the Lancing Manor roundabout are proposed which would cut three minutes from journey times but, according to Highways England’s own scoring system, would deliver no ‘significant benefits’.

In its consultation document the agency alludes to more expensive and radical solutions, such as underpasses and flyovers but dismisses them as too expensive without further explanation.

Mr Humphreys, Worthing Borough Council leader, said: “The more I listened to officials explaining the scheme at the launch of the consultation the more angry I became. “Highways England do not seem to be taking us seriously. Our questions were met with an ‘experts know best’ response while there was no explanation about why other options hadn’t been explored,” said.

“The current consultation should be halted and a proper one, involving other options and explanations started afresh. The agency must have those plans and calculations so let’s seem them.” The leaders insisted it is not for the councils to submit plans but for Highways England to give local residents, businesses and politicians real choice and real consultation.

Consultation ends on September 12 with two years of construction expected to start in 2020 if the scheme is approved.

Article originally appeared on Worthing Herald”

https://www.consultationinstitute.org/consultation-news/council-leaders-brand-single-option-consultation-a-sham/

Government ripping us off – again

From The Times (pay wall). It’s going to make commuting by rail to Exeter from Axminster, Honiton, Feniton, Whimple and Cranbrook a very expensive way of getting there – so more cars will be clogging up more roads in “Greater Exeter”.

“Nobody likes being ripped off. And there is something particularly distasteful about being fleeced by your own government.

But that is precisely what is happening. Rail fares are set to rise at a much faster rate than employee earnings, with annual season tickets of over £5,000 an increasingly common sight. And interest charges on student loans in England will rise to 6.1 per cent from the autumn.

From students to commuters, the cost of living in the UK is on the rise. And some of the biggest cost increases are in areas where the government sets the terms.

Both rail fares and student loans are linked, under government policy, to the retail price index measure of inflation, long ago discarded by economists as a flawed measure of price growth. It is widely known that RPI consistently overstates inflation in the UK, and that the alternative measures of inflation, consumer prices index (CPI) and CPIH (which includes owner-occupiers’ housing costs) are a far better reflection of what is actually going on.

Indeed, in the June 2010 budget George Osborne announced that, partly for these reasons, the government would start using CPI for the uprating of benefits and public sector pensions. The same budget mentioned “reviewing how CPI can be used for the indexation of taxes and duties while protecting revenues”, yet there has been near-silence on this issue ever since.”

Are Cranbrook’s streets too narrow?

The fire service has already said so:
http://www.devonlive.com/service-issue-warning-inconsiderate-cranbrook/story-29053868-detail/story.html

and a highly critical report mentioned the problem of cars parked in streets – one which has not gone away:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/09/14/what-mainstream-media-isnt-telling-you-about-that-dcc-cranbrook-report/

Now the bus company with the near monopoly in Devon, and which sends only single-decker buses through the town, issues a warning:

“Residents on newly built housing estates are being cut off from the bus network because developers are failing to construct wide enough roads, according to public transport bosses.

One of Britain’s biggest operators warned that buses were being forced to avoid many estates amid concerns over narrow roads, sharp bends, overzealous traffic calming and parked cars.

Stagecoach said that high-density developments were being built with roads only 6m wide, when operators needed 6.5m to allow two buses to pass without clipping wing mirrors.

It blamed planning rules that have cut road widths or pushed the layout of sharp bends to keep car speeds down.

The company also said that national guidelines introduced by Labour 17 years ago intended to clear roads of cars by providing less off-street parking had backfired, with many motorists leaving vehicles on the street.

Stagecoach has issued its own guidance to councils, urging them to build roads at least 6.5m wide, with sweeping bends and off-street parking provided.

It also said that “shared space” schemes that seek to declutter streets by stripping out kerbs, road markings and traffic signs should be redesigned to “avoid buses straying into areas intended mainly for pedestrians”.

Nick Small, Stagecoach’s head of strategic development for the south, said examples included the Shilton Park estate in Carterton, Oxfordshire, where the company could not operate a full-size bus, and the Kingsway development, Gloucester, which had areas “impenetrable by buses”.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, a senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Bad design will lock our towns and countryside into toxic congestion and car dependency for decades.”

Martin Tett, housing and transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “We will be looking closely at this blueprint and continuing to work hard to deliver places where our communities can thrive.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Seaton and Beer risk being cut off from Exeter by proposed bus service reduction

Press release:

“At Devon County Council yesterday, Seaton & Colyton’s Independent East Devon Alliance councillor, Martin Shaw, asked Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member for Transportation, if the Council would support peak services on the X52 bus service from Seaton and Beer to Exeter, which are threatened with closure by First Wessex.

First Wessex proposes to run only two off-peak buses a day in each direction from September. While better than nothing, these are inadequate for people in Seaton and Beer who want to work or study in Exeter or get to appointments at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Relying just on these services, people would barely be able to spend an hour in Exeter before having to get the bus back.

This is the only service direct from Seaton and Beer to the RD&E and this narrow window will not enable people to get to appointments. Using other services, people in Beer who want to get to the hospital will have to change twice in Seaton and Exeter Bus Station and the journey which currently takes an hour will take more than two hours each way, making it arduous and impractical for many people.

Councillor Croad initially replied to suggest that people could use these alternative routes. In a supplementary question, Councillor Shaw suggested that since hospital services are increasingly being centralised in the RD&E, the withdrawal of direct bus services discriminates against people without cars in communities like Seaton and Beer which are on the periphery of Devon. ‘Seaton is further from the RD&E than any other town in Devon and has the oldest population profile of any town in Devon’, he said. ‘We need direct public transport links to the acute hospital in Exeter.’

Councillor Croad then said that if Councillor Shaw would meet him afterwards, he would discuss the issue. When they talked, Councillor Croad agreed to look further at the question. The supplementary question and the reply can be seen from 1:47:50 to 1:49:15 on https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/283676.”

Worries about London-Devon rail monopoly

If London Paddington via Tiverton and London Waterloo via Axminster owned by same company.

“Rail providers have been given five days to address competition concerns after a watchdog warning about higher fare prices.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned passengers could face higher fares and worse service following the decision to award the South West Trains (SWT) rail franchise to First Group.

The SWT franchise is currently operated by Stagecoach but will be taken over by First Group in partnership with Hong Kong-based company MTR on August 20.

CMA acting chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “The CMA believes that without its intervention, First Group may be able to increase fares for passengers between London and Exeter, as it will be the only rail operator running all services on this route.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-40499683

and:

“Rail passengers could face higher fares and worse service following the decision to award the South West Trains rail franchise to First Group, the competition watchdog has warned.

Concerns have been raised by the Competition and Markets Authority about the London-Exeter route as First Group already operates Great Western Railway, which runs the only other train service between the cities.

The SWT franchise is currently operated by Stagecoach but will be taken over by First Group in partnership with Hong Kong-based company MTR on August 20.

CMA acting chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “This is a crucial rail route to the South West, used by around half a million passengers a year. It’s therefore vital that passengers do not suffer as a result of reduced competition.

“The CMA believes that without its intervention, First Group may be able to increase fares for passengers between London and Exeter, as it will be the only rail operator running all services on this route.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-40499683

Local public transport: Stagecoach in financial trouble – will there be price hikes?

Owl says: Stagecoach Group plc has announced bad results for the past year and their shares are down 7.5% today. East Devon is heavily reliant on the company for rail services to London on its South West Trains franchise and for bus services throughout the district, where the company has a near monopoly on routes.

Will this be yet more price hikes for rural communities and commuters?

“Stagecoach was forced to take a hefty £84.1mln pre-tax charge on the joint venture with Virgin, as well as an additional £44.8mln write down on the value of the network – one that used to be profitable under public ownership.

The FTSE 250 group said it was in talks with the Department for Transport regarding the terms of the deal and hoped that, with some tweaks, the franchise will return to profitability in 2019. …”

http://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk/companies/news/179959/