Wednesday 13 December

TRANSPORT GROUP ACTION PLAN: JUNE 2007

Section 1 - Public Transport

1.  Better bus services, particularly in evenings and at weekends

     (81% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

Despite the critical importance of regular scheduled bus services for residents of the villages surrounding Petersfield, especially those without access to a car such as poorer families, housewives and young, elderland disabled people and the current pressure to reduce car travel and pollution, both Hampshire County Counciland West Sussex County Council are continuing to cut support for bus services.   It has therefore been difficult to  persuade them to award new four-year contracts for the two town bus routes (94 & 95) and services 54 to Chichester and 91/92/93 to Midhurst, together with non-school journeys on route 72 to Alton.

Hampshire County Council have accepted the need to change their criteria for supporting bus services from a rigid “passengers per £” formula to one which does more to recognise local needs and the consequences - both financially and in social and rural accessibility terms -  of reducing public transport availability.   I believe that they are now also more aware of the need for full consultation when considering subsidy and service changes.

     Most  local villages have a bus link to Petersfield every one or two hours during weekdays from about 8am to

     5.30pm, but there are no evening services, or journeys on Sundays/Bank Holidays apart from a West Sussex

     supported route to Midhurst.  Local residents can visit Midhurst, Chichester, Portsmouth, Winchester and Alton

     by bus.   Fares are high and deter motorists from using buses , but residents over 60 can now travel free.

     Action:   In the absence of additional Government “ring-fenced” grants or a change of County policy, there

     seems little chance of  evening or Sunday/Bank Holiday buses, but we will continue to make the case for

     scheduled bus  services and try -  as a minimum - to keep the present network intact.

     Costs:  In view of the County Councils’ statutory responsibility for public transport, it would seem unwise for the

     local Councils or Petersfield Tomorrow to offer any general financial support, but at some future date finance  

     might be provided for some extra local bus route or to provide free travel.  Support for bus services is often

     seen as a subsidy for private bus operators, but they only act as contractors and will otherwise withdraw non-

     profitable routes.

     Timetable:   Ongoing.

2   Increased availability of transport information, with timetables at all bus shelters and stops:

     (89% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

     Hampshire County Council produce a comprehensive local bus and rail timetable booklet, with maps, twice a

     year.   This is no longer distributed to each household, but is readily available at the Tourist Information Centre

     and elsewhere.   Bus operators produce individual timetables covering changes introduced between issues,

     and  these are also available from the TIC.   Bus and rail travel information is available by telephone and on the

     internet, but this may not be easy to obtain or up-to-date.   “Real time” information on bus running (similar to

     that at South West Trains stations) is increasingly used for bus services in large urban areas, but I doubt if it

     would be justified on routes serving Petersfield.   However, more realistic running times (as introduced by SWT),

     could reduce late running on Route 38 from Portsmouth and sometimes on Route 67 from Winchester, and bus

     drivers do not always seem aware of the importance of keeping to the timetable. 

     The bus shelters at Petersfield Station, The Square, Dragon Street and Tesco include some timetable frames,

     but the timetables included in the frames are often difficult to read and incomplete.   Hampshire County Council

     no longer proposes to provide or maintain bus shelters and, as EHDC  is not prepared to look after them either,

     Petersfield Town Council has agreed to take some of them over and clean and maintain them: it has also put

     up two shelters in The Causeway by Petersfield School.   I have persuaded HCC to provide plates giving route

     numbers and destinations on the two shelters in The Square, but they have not yet done so.   Route numbers

     are provided on the shelters at the station and at Tesco.

     Action:  A comprehensive survey of existing shelters and bus stops is needed so that any necessary additions

     and improvements can be identified.    The bus operators are responsible for providing timetables for shelters

     and stops, but are often reluctant to do so, and a constant watch is needed to ensure that they are aware of any

     missing information.   Buses should display accurate destination and route number information, and this too

     needs constant monitoring.  It may not be necessary to provide shelters or timetables at every local stop, but

     priority needs to be given to points where more passengers have to wait in exposed locations and places where

     non-regular bus users may need timetable information.

      Costs:   If the survey identifies the need for additional or improved shelters and stops and funding is not made

      available by operators or the local authorities, Petersfield Tomorow might agree to contribute, but it is too early

      to provide estimates.

      Timetable:   It should be possible to complete the survey of shelters and stops by the end of 2007.   Monitoring

      timetable and on-bus displays is ongoing.

3.   Improved co-ordination of transport provision

     (87% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

      The only specific local rail-bus co-ordination at present is the Liphook - Bordon Rail-Link Bus, which connects

      at Liphook Station with trains in both directions and where rail tickets can be purchased on the bus.   There is

      normally a half-hourly off-peak train service from Petersfield to Waterloo stopping intermediately only at

      Haslemere, Guildford and Woking and an hourly service stopping at Liss, Liphook, etc., with three trains each

      hour to Havant and Portsmouth.  The town bus route 94 is half-hourly (with gaps) and other routes operate on

      a fairly regular hourly or two-hourly timetable.   Most buses serve Petersfield Station and any rail passengers on

      them may wish to travel towards London or towards Portsmouth.   As some of them will need time to buy rail

      tickets it is not generally possible to alter bus times to give minimum, but adequate, connecting times for those

      arriving and departing by train in both directions.

      One bus service which could be reviewed is the 38 from Portsmouth to Liss, which is scheduled to arrive at

      Petersfield Station from the Waterlooville/Clanfield direction at 52 minutes past each hour, 4 minutes after a

      fast train towards London, and departs towards Portsmouth at 23 minutes past each hour, 22 minutes after a

      fast train from London.   Timekeeping  on Route 38 is often badly affected by traffic congestion south of

      Cosham.  We will discuss this service with Stagecoach, but any changes will depend on the needs of the

      majority of passengers, who are most likely not rail passengers.

      Gwil Williams and I are keen to look at a possible fast bus link between the Waterlooville/Clanfield area and

      Petersfield to connect with peak-hour trains to and from London for the many commuters who use Petersfield

      as their railhead.    Because the last buses from Petersfield to all surrounding villages leave at about 5.40pm,

      nearly all rail commuters towards London park their cars at or near Petersfield Station.   There may be too few

      rail commuters to justify evening bus journeys to most surrounding places, but the large residential area south

      of Petersfield may be an exception.   A rail-link bus service might be run by Stagecoach using conventional

      buses, or use smaller vehicles, perhaps on a pre-booked basis such as the former Petersfield Taxi-Buses.

      Some respondents thought that smaller buses should be used on scheduled services outside school and other

      busy times,  but operators would not want to purchase a second “off-peak” bus fleet when their existing assets

      can be used, and the main costs are the drivers’ wages.  New Government legislation may enable more use to

      be made of community transport to serve very small villages and other rural areas, but a more professional

      approach will have to be adopted if they are to run regular services using paid drivers.   “Demand-responsive”

      services such as “Dial a Bus” already run into Petersfield from Hawkley, Linford and Headley, mainly as one

      journey a day on one day each week to permit shopping trips, but requires a controller to take bookings

     Action:   Gwil Williams and I to discuss with Stagecoach and South West Trains a revision to the Route 38 time-

     table to give better rail/bus connections, and the possibility of a rail-link bus service from the Waterlooville and

     Clanfield areas to Petersfield.

     Costs:   If a rail-bus link from south of Petersfield is not commercially viable, Hampshire County Council could

     be asked for a grant.   If this is not forthcoming,  Petersfield Tomorrow might consider a special grant in view of

     the reduced pressure on car parking at Petersfield Station and in surrounding streets.   These costs cannot be

     assessed at this stage.   Continued monitoring of other bus/rail  connections would have no significant cost.

     Timetable:   Discussions with SWT and Stagecoach should be completed by the end of 2007.

4.   More public transport to key facilities, e.g. hospitals, schools, entertainment

      (87% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

      A frequent and regular train service provides links for many school journeys and, with evening journeys up to

     11.30pm or later, gives opportunities to visit entertainments in Portsmouth, Guildford and elsewhere, together

      with connections to Heathrow, Gatwick and Southampton airports.   Many bus services cater for local school

      transport, often with special school journeys, although the absence of evening buses means that there is no

      public transport for children staying late at school, and no opportunities for anyone to use buses to or from

      Petersfield in the evenings.   Such services could not be operated on a commercial basis and local authority

      support would very costly because demand would be thinly spread throughout the evening.  Some communitytransport or car/taxi sharing journeys might be feasible if sufficient demand can be demonstrated locally.

     Every day there are many car and non-emergency ambulance  journeys between Petersfield and the Queen

     Alexandra and St. Mary’ hospitals in Portsmouth.   The 38 bus provides an hourly link to QA, but the 45-minute

     journey time and absence of low-floor fully-accessible buses , together with the difficult road crossing and uphill

     walk to reach the hospital, deter many potential users.  A frequent bus link from Petersfield to the two hospitals

     using appropriate vehicles could considerably reduce road traffic and car parking problems at the hospitals, as    

     well as cutting Health Authority costs.

     Action:   The Health Authority will be asked for their comments on a direct hospital service.  

     Costs:    None identified at present.

     Timetable:   Discussions should be completed by late autumn.

5   Accessible public transport

     (85% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

     Government legislation now requires all new buses to conform to Accessibility Regulations which include wheel-

     chair access and space, priority seats, step heights and widths, handrails, “bus stopping” signs and other

     features to help disabled passengers.   These rules apply to all new buses delivered from the end of 2000, but

     vehicles used before that date can still remain in service until 2015-2017.   Operators have tended to use their

     newest fully-accessible buses on their busiest and most profitable commercial routes or where the local council

     contract specifies accessible vehicles.

     Neither Hampshire or West Sussex County Councils at present automatically require the use of fully-accessible

     buses because of the extra cost, although Hampshire have now agreed to require their use if the additional cost

     is not too great.  As second hand low-floor buses are now becoming available the cost differences will decrease.

     HCC have recently awarded new contracts to Countryliner for the use of low-floor buses on local routes 94 and

     95.  These buses provide easier, safer and quicker access for many elderly and disabled passengers, and are

     also very well used by parents with children in pushchairs who can board and alight without unloading their child

     and folding the buggy.   Regrettably, WSCC did not accept Countryliner’s higher tender for low-floor buses on

     Route 54 (to Chichester) and 91/92/93 (to Midhurst), thus continuing to make travel more difficult for the many

     elderly users and impossible for those in wheelchairs.  

     All trains in the area are now wheelchair accessible, with portable ramps on each platform so that staff can help

     users on and off, although this really needs prior notification to the train operator.   Wheelchair users no longer

     have to travel in the guard’s van!   Wider doors enable children in pushchairs to put or off the train, but the gap

     between train and platform - especially on the down platform at Petersfield  - make it difficult and potentially

     dangerous for many disabled and elderly passengers to alight.

     There appears to be a trend for more taxis to be larger vehicles, some with sliding doors, but most Petersfield

      taxis are still basic private cars which can be difficult for elderly and disabled  people to use, especially as some

      of the drivers seem reluctant to offer any help.  All London taxis are now wheelchair-accessible, but there are

      none in Petersfield.  EHDC may be able to ensure that at least some of them can be used by people in

      wheelchairs, although the absence of a centralised booking point or used taxi rank other than at Petersfield

      Station might still make it difficult to find one.

      Action;    To press bus operators and County Councils to ensure that all local buses are fully accessible long

      before the legal deadline in 2015-7, and ask EHDC to specify at least some local wheelchair accessible taxis,

      together compulsory disability-awareness training for taxi drivers.

     Costs:   Minimal, unless Petersfield Tomorrow decided to cover the operators’ extra costs for low-floor buses.

     Timetable:   Ongoing.

6    Transport Group Membership

      At least five bus users have agreed to join a reconstituted Transport Group, and Gwil Williams and Chris

      Paterson from the District Council have kindly offered to help.   Representatives from transport operators

      and local authorities would be invited to discuss specific issues, although correspondence might be enough

      in some cases.

Section 2 - Car Parking

7.   Review car parking and discourage use of cars in the town centre

      (70% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

     Car Parks

     Although 70% of the questionnaire answers supported a review, the 131 specific comments received showed

     that the respondents had very different views of what the review should achieve, some supporting more car park

     spaces and others suggesting that people should be encouraged to leave their cars at home.

     EHDC own and manage the central car park  between Barham Road and the High Street and smaller car parks

     behind the Town Hall, between Lavant Street and Swan Street, and in Castle Gardens south of Swan Street.

     Parking charges reflect the period parked, with longer-term parking and season ticket holders encouraged to

     use  spaces further from the main shopping streets.  Although charges are considered to be high the car parks

     are well used, with some shortage of spaces at busy shopping  times. Some respondents suggested that the

     central car park could be converted to two storeys.

     South West Trains have two car parks at Petersfield Station which, despite recent price increases, are generally

     full with commuters’ cars by the end of the Monday-Friday peak period, leaving no spaces for off-peak rail

     passengers.   One or both of these could possibly be converted to two storeys, but this would encourage the

     use of cars in the town centre.

     Limited free on-street parking is available in the High Street, The Square, Lavant Street and other shopping

     areas, and seems popular with drivers unwilling to pay for parking.   There is a noticeable increase in illegal

     waiting  in the town centre when the traffic warden is not about, and some respondents called for better parking

     enforcement.  More spaces were sought for disabled badge holders.

     Parking in residential streets

     This was the main concern for many residents around the town centre and the station.   Most of it appears to be

     by staff employed in the town centre, many of whom claim that they cannot afford to pay to park their car , and

     by railway passengers who want to avoid parking charges or who cannot find a space in the station car parks.

     It is not clear, therefore, whether the high cost of increasing the number of town or station car parking spaces

    (e.g. by adding additional storeys) would by itself significantly decrease on-street parking, and residents’ parking

     permit schemes or double yellow lines may be necessary if parking in residential streets is to be reduced.   This

     is most important in the few roads where residents have no off-road parking space.

     Local bus services are available for some off-peak rail passengers and part-time shop staff, but the absence of

     buses after about 5.30pm rules them out for later travel.   As stated in Section 1 (para.3) a special peak-hour

     rail-bus link from the Waterlooville/Clanfield area to and from Petersfield Station might lead to a reduction in car

     parking at the station and in surrounding streets.    Some respondents suggested a “park & ride” scheme, but

     it is doubtful whether there would be sufficient demand in the near future to justify the cost of providing the

     parking area on the outskirts of the town and a bus link which operated frequently enough to encourage use.

     As motorists approach Petersfield from all  directions, it would also be difficult to find a suitable location.

     Action:   Discuss car parking policy with EHDC and HCC Highways Department, and a possible rail-link bus

     service from the south with Stagecoach and South West Trains;

     Costs:   Subject to a possible contribution to a rail-bus link (Sec. 1(3)) above, no significant costs.

     Timetable:   Discussions should be completed by end of 2007.

8   Transport Group Membership

     If, as seems likely, it is not possible to find enough members to cover all aspects of the Transport Group’s

     remit, a sub-group including  one or two residents together with GwilWilliams and Chris Paterson of the EHDC

     and Councillor Hilary Ayer could explore the above proposals further.

       

Section 3 - Roads and pavements

9.   Improved pedestrian and cycling routes into and around the town centre

      (79% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

      Cyclists:     Some respondents to the questionnaire asked for more cycle lanes and completion of the existing

      ones.  Since then the cycle route from Penns Place through the town centre to the railway station has mainly

      been completed.   Others suggested that there should be no more cycle paths, which some considered a waste

      of money and dangerous.

      Although stating that cycling and walking should be encouraged, concern was raised about the danger of

      increased cycling on pavements, particularly when pedestrians do not hear a cyclist approaching them from

      behind and can be run into if they suddenly changed direction.

      Pedestrians:    Respondents were concerned about the dangerous condition of many pavements, with paving

      slabs broken by vehicles parking on the pavements.   A fall caused by broken or uneven surfaces can be

      particularly serious for elderly pedestrians, and they are therefore discouraged from walking if surfaces are

      uneven.   A pedestrian crossing was requested in Station Road at Tilmore Road.   The  xtra “dropped kerbs”

      recently installed at the Charles Street/Lavant Street junction and elsewhere will be a help to wheelchair users.

      The “courtesy” crossings in the High Street and Chapel Street were considered dangerous for pedestrians.

      Many local drivers now ignore pedestrians waiting to cross, and the lack of distinctive road surfaces or colours,

      or clearly marked bollards or other signs, make it very difficult for visiting drivers to see the crossings,

      particularly when they are hidden by parked cars.   It is quite common to see five or six people waiting on both

      sides of the road at the end of Rams Walk while vehicles pass without any attempt to slow down or stop.

      Action:   The recent extension to the cycle lane from Penns Place to the railway station and the extra “dropped

      kerbs” have met some of the respondents’ concerns.   The dangerous pavements and courtesy crossings will

      be  mentioned in discussions with the Highway Authorities in conjunction with those on a possible scheme for

      pedestrianisation ( para. 12 below).

      Costs:   No significant costs identified for Petersfield Tomorrow.

      Timetable:   Preliminary discussions completed before end of 2007.

10.  Congestion from delivery vehicles reduced by co-ordinating delivery times

       (87% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

      Most of the respondents who supported co-ordinated deliveries suggested that this would be best achieved

      by restricting  them to specific times (such as before 10am or after 6pm), but many believed that co-ordination

      would be too difficult to organise in a small town like Petersfield.   Others wanted large lorries banned from the

      town centre, some referring to the large lorries unloading outside Tesco Express in Charles Street.

      Reference was also made to congestion in the High Street, with suggestions that a one-way system would

      give more space for deliveries in the town centre.

      Action:   The support for a delivery ban during normal shopping hours will be considered at the same time as

      a possible pedestrianisation scheme (para. 12 below).

      Costs:  No identifiable costs for Petersfield Tomorrow.

     Timetable:   Preliminary discussions completed before end of 2007.

11. Increased range of activities in The Square

      (79% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

     39 of the 58 respondents who added specific comments agreed that more use should be made of The Square,

     18 of them suggesting cafes and 4 wanted more benches and trees.  References were made to a “continental

      atmosphere”.

 

      A few did not want any car parking in The Square, while others thought that cars should be allowed to park

      there.

        Action:   The Town Design Statement work group has agreed to add  the comments on the activities in The

        Square to their work.   The references to car parking will be added to the pedestrianisation scheme review

        (para. 12  below).

        Costs:   None for Transport Group.

       Timetable:   Preliminary discussions completed before end of 2007.

12.  Experiment with a pedestrianisation scheme for the High Street

       (73% “strongly agreed” or “agreed”)

      This subject resulted in 180 specific comments, compared with 131 about car parking and less than 100 for all

      the other questionnaire subjects.   84 of these comments were in favour of pedestrianisation, with 19 of them

      suggesting the addition of The Square, Chapel Street and/or Lavant Street, but 20 proposed that closure

      should be limited to certain days or certain hours.   Some were concerned about access for disabled people,

      especially to the Post Office and the library.   15 suggested a one-way system instead.

      54 of the 180 specific comments were against a pedestrianisation scheme for a wide variety of reasons

      including loss of trade or loss of “vitality”, unruly behaviour in the evenings, delivery difficulties, access

      problems for elderly and disabled people, and the displacement of traffic to residential streets

     Some of those in favour appeared to support a completely  pedestrian area for the whole of the High Street, but

     an alternative limited to closure to traffic at certain times and on certain days (e.g. shopping days between 10am

     and 4pm) would go some way to alleviate the fears of some shopkeepers and others that there would be a loss

     of trade and delivery problems.  The current proposal is for an experiment only.

     Over the last 20 to 30 years many schemes to reduce traffic movement and parking in shopping streets were

     opposed by some local shopkeepers who genuinely feared loss of trade, but many of them found in fact that

     their trade actually increased.   Respondents who would like to be able to walk along and across the High Street

     without  the danger, noise and fumes of moving vehicles (and to see across the road to other shops when there

     are no parked vehicles)  believe that a reduction or ban on traffic and  parking would improve the shopping

     environment and help local traders.

     Options for an experimental scheme could include, inter alia:

             Measures to reduce or remove through traffic (which could use Station Road and the one-way system);

             Better enforcement of existing parking and loading restrictions;

            “Traffic Calming” measures to reduce speeds;

             Clearer marking of “courtesy” crossings;

             A one-way traffic flow;

             Signs or temporary gates or bollards at one end to provide access but stop through traffic;

            “No Entry” signs at one or both ends,  with exceptions for buses, taxis and (possibly) access.

             A complete ban on all traffic.

      Examples of these options can be found in traditional shopping streets in Chichester, Guildford and Winchester,

      and smaller market towns such as Sherborne and Totnes.

      Action:   The first step is to discuss with the highway authorities and police the extent to which experimental

      road closures or traffic restrictions can be introduced with minimum cost and delay, and to obtain their

      professional views on the above options.   A recommended scheme can then be drawn up for further public

      consultation.   Respondents views on the condition of pavements (para.9), vehicle delivery times (para.10) and

      car parking in The Square (para. 11) can be discussed at the same time.

      Costs:  No significant costs at this stage.

      Timetable:   Preliminary discussions completed before end of 2007.

13.  Transport Group Membership

       It is still proving very difficult to find new members for the Transport Group who are interested in these Roads

       and Pavements subjects but there seems no reason to delay preliminary discussions any longer as the replies

       to the questionnaire provide a good range of local residents’ views.

       Tony Shaw:  June 2007