What next for Peterborough’s transport network? Senior politicians have their say...
Ahead of local elections on May 6, which will see 23 seats on Peterborough City Council being contested, the Peterborough Telegraph is offering party leaders the chance to have their say on some of the biggest issues. This week we asked them to outline their visions for transport in the city...
In part one of this feature The Conservatives and The Green Party outline what they would like to see next for the city’s transport plans (Labour and the Lib Dems will feature in part 2).
Julie Howell (Green Party):
Peterborough has in place a transport hierarchy that prioritises pedestrians and cyclists, but with so many cars, vans and lorries on our streets it’s easy to forget this.
Recent lockdowns gave us a glimpse of a world with less traffic on our roads. The challenge now is to discover how we can retain cleaner air and safer streets while keeping the city moving.
During the pandemic the Government released ‘Emergency Active Travel Funding’ to enable councils to increase cycle routes and infrastructure. Unfortunately, Peterborough’s Conservative MP lobbied against the creation of cycle routes on some city centre streets which meant Peterborough didn’t fully benefit from this unique opportunity to discover what our city could be like if cycles were given priority.
A cycle lane on Crescent Bridge proved popular, enabling people to cycle into the city without having to negotiate heavy traffic. It’s a shame short-sighted politicians didn’t do more to develop cyclists’ confidence when presented with a golden opportunity (and funding!).
Green Cllr Nicola Day has attended a number of critical mass cycle rides through the city centre to highlight the pressing need for better cycling infrastructure.
She found the experience quite frightening at times, especially when she was squeezed to the edge of the road by a bus and when a car door opened in her path, almost hitting her.
More cycling will reduce carbon emissions and will improve health and wellbeing. As Peterborough establishes a university the need for safe cycling routes for students will become obvious. Visit Cambridge to see how students prefer cycling to any other mode of transport.
Peterborough’s Green Wheel was created to provide cycleways around Peterborough, but this has been neglected and doesn’t offer fast routes into city centre locations, meaning many cyclists prefer to cycle on the road, merely for convenience.
It’s time to re-think the city’s cycling strategy. Earlier this year the council unanimously passed a Green Party motion to adopt the LTN 1/20 Government guidelines for cycling infrastructure. This includes ‘inclusive cycling’ so people of all ages and abilities are considered.
The Green Party has other ideas about how to encourage more Green travel around the city. A ‘car parking levy’ could raise money for a Greener (electric or hydrogen) bus service. An increase in orbital bus routes between townships would mean fewer trips into the city just to change buses. Some more rural areas, such as Wittering, that have no buses services at all would benefit greatly if these were introduced.
A number of schools across the city are benefiting from the ‘School Street’ scheme where roads around schools are temporarily closed to traffic at the start and end of the school day, making them much safer for pedestrians. In Orton Goldhay, the scheme at St John’s School has proven very popular with staff and parents.
We must be bold in our ambitions for walking and cycling and ensure our public transport system provides more opportunities for people to travel around our city in cleaner and Greener ways.
Wayne Fitzgerald (Conservative Party):
I have often been asked about sustainable transport and how it applies to Peterborough. The term can mean different things to different people but, generally, I imagine most will consider it to describe the transport they use now to get from A to B around our city and how we, as a local transport authority, are managing the investment to ensure that our transport infrastructure is maintained to be fit for purpose, realistically improved where needed and planning sustainability for the future travel needs of our residents and visitors.
The last 10 years have seen Peterborough growing successfully. We are currently the fifth fastest growing city in the UK and, despite currently benefiting from the fastest commute time in the UK, our transport systems have to manage that growth.
For our transport methodology to be sustainable it needs a solid foundation and to this effect our Conservative administration has created successive Local Travel Plans for the future demands of our citizens. Our administration has embedded environmental considerations into our LTP hierarchy and promoted cycling, walking and public transport as essential for improving the health of the residents of our city.
The latest LTP, prepared by the combined authority in January 2020, continues that passion for Peterborough’s environment and the wellbeing of its residents.
Of course, the car is still important to many people, often essential for those living in more remote and rural areas. As new cars become much Greener and more environmentally-friendly they become less impactful on our air quality so, rather than the arbitrary car-demonising policies pursued by some political opposition groups, the reduction and minimising of congestion becomes a really important element of our climate improvement agenda.
Our Conservative administration has enabled the investment of many millions of pounds both maintaining and improving our road network via our award-winning highways service to reduce peak-time congestion and improve air quality for pedestrians and cyclists.
We’ve incorporated smart, synchronised traffic management systems to relieve traffic bottlenecks at our busiest junctions and successfully installed many major ‘capacity increase’ road schemes to help both commuters and our many public transport operators run efficient and punctual buses, coaches, and taxis.
Managing the future connectivity of our city will be challenging, certainly. Given our recent reduced London train travel time our station is sub-optimal for our future growth and we have a Station Quarter improvement scheme about to happen to address this.
I want to implement pedestrian and cycling innovations into and around our city centre to build on our successful electric bike trials and make it easier and safer for visitors and our residents to commute and get around on two wheels.
We have facilitated a strategically-placed electric car charging-point programme, to be expanded in future years to accommodate the growth of electric and hybrid car ownership, and I encourage our successful bus operators to adapt their current fleets and look to invest in the latest technology when renewing, because our city deserves the best and cleanest transport systems available.