Efficient, Affordable Public Transport Benefits Everyone
In February 2019 the Local Government Association warned that thousands of bus routes were ‘at risk’ of being scrapped because of an ‘unsustainable’ funding gap of £652 million in the free bus pass scheme.
Since the lockdown, public transport passenger numbers have plummeted further and are yet to recover. But even before then, rural public transport had suffered death by a thousand cuts.
Bus services are vital for our communities and are a lifeline for many of our most vulnerable residents. But they shouldn’t just be for people who don’t have a choice – in cities across the country, public transport is the preferred option for many. But the continuous cutting of routes and lack of investment have made public transport unviable for most journeys – whether commuting to nearby towns (not just Norwich), going to the shops or heading for a night out.
Already here in Norfolk, the Park and Ride has proven to be a popular option for motorists trying to avoid traffic gridlock and parking charges in the city.
What if we could re-imagine rural public transport so it met the needs of more people, and could take them in the right direction, at the right time? That’s why, as Liberal Democrats, if elected we will start a public transport revolution with a major investment in a hub and spoke transport model.
The long-term solution lies in re-thinking our approach to public transport, and building a sustainable transport approach across the county that combines public transport, rail, walking and cycling.
Our hub and spoke network works by putting park and ride-style car parks in out of town locations across the county.
Then, rather than people driving all the way to the outskirts of the city, they’d only need to drive the first few miles to the nearest hub.
They’d also be able to get clean, comfortable, modern buses to other towns too – not just Norwich.
And this networked approach would make it easier to send small electric shuttle buses around the villages to collect non-drivers and bring them to the same hubs too – and we’ll expand demand responsive and community car schemes, as part of our ‘hub and spoke’ model.
Resolving the Western Link
Liberal Democrats have steadfastly criticised the half-baked plan of only building part of the road around the North of Norwich, the NDR. Our views on the last section – the “Western Link” - have concentrated on completing the road to solve the problem of rat-running and congestion encouraged by the gap between the current end of the A1270 and the A47, while at the same time respecting the needs of the natural environment in the Wensum valley.
The delays in building the western end of the “Broadland Northway” have caused substantial, and unacceptable, problems for the residents of Costessey, Taverham, other villages and North-Western Norwich. Something must be done to address the transport, environmental, safety, economic, wellbeing and health challenges these communities are suffering. The least-worst solution is the new Western Link, including its preferred route which we support.
The impact of the Western Link on the sensitive Wensum valley, with its unique and critical ecosystems, and its residents, human and others, cannot be ignored. We will seek to minimise this in the road's design, construction, and operation. This must include reducing the impact on wildlife through the provision of animal bridges etc.
Completion of the Link will also improve access to North Norfolk from the A47 and A11, allowing an area that suffers from significant issues of rural poverty and seasonal unemployment to benefit economically, and support its role as a centre for offshore wind-power generation, an essential part of our response to the current climate emergency.
Liberal Democrats also will try to solve the effects of short-sighted cost-cutting on the existing parts of the Broadland Northway by ensuring proper safety works are undertaken via a ringfenced budget.
We remain supportive of completing the dualling of the A47, which will be funded by government and not take any local council tax away from vital local services, and other road improvement schemes where justified by their return on investment, and their merits.
At the same time, conscious that unnecessary use of private transport should be discouraged, Liberal Democrats are committed to seeking to improve the public transport infrastructure across the County.