Transport Report for FoBRA Committee November 2020
1. Following the special FoBRA Committee meeting on 8 October, I submitted the agreed FoBRA response to the Councils' consultation on Liveable Neighbourhoods on 9 October. It is on the FoBRA website at http://www.bathresidents.org.uk/cms/uploads/fobra-website-fobra-response-to-ln-consultation.pdf
2. B&NES Council has announced that the Bath Clean Air Zone (CAZ) will come into force on 15 March 2021. The Clean Air Plan is aimed at achieving compliance with the legal limit on nitrogen dioxide pollution. It is not a traffic reduction plan. The Class C CAZ will have a limited, and diminishing, effect on traffic volumes as it does not cover private cars, and the number of non-compliant vehicles will reduce over time. It remains to be seen whether it is sufficient to ensure legal compliance on air quality or whether a Class D CAZ (including cars) and/or other measures will be required.
3. The bus gate at Milsom Street using ANPR cameras went live on 23 October.
4. As advised separately, B&NES Council is proposing to introduce a 20 mph limit on a number of streets in the city - https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/streets-and-highway-maintenance/roadworks/permanent-traffic-order-notices/20-005-various As these are proposals for specific roads we will not be making a FoBRA response. For those members who wish to respond individually to the consultation, the closing date for comments is 5 November.
5. A WECA e-scooter trial was launched in Bath on 29 October. 50 scooters will be parked at sites around the central area of Bath. Anyone with a driving licence (including a provisional licence) can register with the rental company Voi using their licence and will be given a code to activate a scooter. Registration provides the rider with comprehensive insurance. Helmets are not mandatory. E-scooters are permitted to travel up to 15.5 mph but initially the top speed will be limited to 10mph. To minimise potential conflict with pedestrians, B&NES Council has set No Go and Go Slow (5mph limit) zones within the trial area. The scooters are fitted with GPS, which will slow or stop them to comply with the zones. Privately owned e-scooters remain unlawful to use in public. See: https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/bristol-bath-e-scooter-trial-4647634
6. And now, a tale of three bridges: the new Destructor Bridge was finally opened (to northbound traffic) in early October; the Bath Quays footbridge is expected to be installed in November; and at Planning Committee on 21 October B&NES Council at last succeeded in getting Listed Buildings consent for repairs to enable unrestricted use of Cleveland Bridge by HGVs to resume. Work is currently planned to start in Spring 2021.
7. Wera Hobhouse MP has written to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, urging that there should be a permanent 18 tonne weight limit on Cleveland Bridge and inviting him to discuss upgrading the A350, removing the A36/A46 from the Strategic Road Network, and directing A4 Bristol-bound traffic to the A420. While this is welcome, she and B&NES Council will have little or no leverage once the repair work is in hand. It was argued by some objectors that the proposed works go beyond what would be required to maintain the bridge with the current 18 tonne limit, but are designed to reinstate the 40 tonne load capacity. B&NES has taken the view that it has no choice given that the bridge is part of the Primary Road Network (PRN). According to the DfT guidance on the PRN, B&NES in fact
has the primary responsibility for the bridge (although it has a duty to consult neighbouring highway authorities including the Highways Agency, and the Secretary of State for Transport has the right to intervene). Robin Kerr (as new leader of the Bath Alliance for Transport and Public Realm) and I suggested to Wera Hobhouse that B&NES should consider exercising that responsibility by putting the repair work 'on hold', and commencing the discussion with DfT about detrunking etc. with a stronger negotiating position. We await developments.
8. This will be my last transport report as I will be standing down as FoBRA Transport Lead at the end of November, and I trust that a few valedictory remarks will be in order. The role was originally created, and I was appointed, by the FoBRA Committee in 2008 to support B&NES Council's Bath Transport Package, since the only voices then being heard were of those opposed to it. Prior to that I had been informally taking a lead on transport matters for some years. The principal elements of the Strategy were enlarging the three existing park and rides, a new P&R east of Bath, and a rapid transit route into the centre from the Newbridge P&R on a disused railway track. The last two components were particularly controversial. The rapid transit was dropped from the package. We continued to support the case for better P&R services and an Eastern P&R and still do.
9. I represented FoBRA on the Bath Transport Commission which acted as a stakeholder advisory group to the Council as it produced the Bath Transport Strategy in 2014. This was a very positive experience. The involvement of city stakeholders resulted in a better outcome, and it is a pity that the present Council does not want a similar role for stakeholders as it produces its Bath Transport Delivery Plan to implement the Strategy. We have strongly supported the Council on the Bath Transport Strategy and the excellent Public Realm and Movement Strategy; they both now need to be implemented.
10. For many years we urged Councils of both political persuasions to address the serious problem of air pollution and the harm it does to residents and others. I discussed these issues with the Council's scientific officers and have provided annual updates on the data for FoBRA members. B&NES Council took action only when instructed by the Government, which in turn had been directed by the High Court to ensure compliance with the legal limits on air pollution. I believe that I played some part in ensuring that Bath was added to the list of non-compliant cities by bringing the extent of the air pollution in Bath to the notice of DEFRA, and I discussed our problems with the then Secretary of State Liz Truss MP when she visited Bath. It is gratifying that we will finally be getting a Clean Air Zone early next year (but see above).
11. Other important transport issues have included parking strategy, coach strategy, Cleveland Bridge, the proposed Rec car park, and the need for a traffic movement strategy. We have responded to the draft B&NES Local Plan and West of England plans including the Joint Local Transport Plan and recently the WECA bus strategy. I was a founder member of the Bath Alliance for Transport and Public Realm, which now has a membership of 21 key leading Bath stakeholders, and will continue as a member of its steering group.
12. I feel privileged and proud to have served the members of FoBRA as Transport Lead. However, it now is time to move on.
Patrick Rotheram, Transport Lead 30 October 2020