BBC website,Tuesday 1 June 2010
Dunstable needs transport improvements now
Victoria Harvey, Coordinator SBFoE
Central Bedfordshire Council have gained the support of South Beds Friends of the Earth for the Luton-Dunstable Busway as part of a package of transport improvements in Dunstable for bus information, and cycling and access to the hospital.
The transport problems in Dunstable are seriously affecting business, shops and employment (1) The shortage of safe cycling routes and of bus information, let alone buses in some areas, means that many people do not have an alternative to using the car within Dunstable , and those without cars can suffer severe problems especially young people wishing to access skills training. There are also serious issues with parking at the hospital.
South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth have historically opposed the guided busway as, like Luton Friends of the Earth, as they believe that a light rail or tram solution would be far more effective. However, they are aware that plans for this railway do not exist in any of the forward plans for the railways for the next twenty years. (2)
In light of this and in light of the urgency of climate change South Beds FoE have come to the decision that it is crucial to work with Central Bedfordshire to gain improvements now to public transport and cycling rather than wait for something in the future even if it is not the solution that they have campaigned for.
The transport situation in Dunstable is urgent, and we need improvements now. Shops are closing down, congestion is getting worse, many people are very isolated due to lack of public transport, Young people have difficulty accessing skills training. I am worried that we could wait years for a railway, so following discussions with our new Central Bedfordshire Council, we will support the Busway as part of a package of measures to improve transport in the town.
We need to make it easy and attractive to travel within Dunstable and Luton by cycling and by bus, yet there is not a direct and safe cycle route to Luton and at many bus stops there is not even basic information. Many people have serious problems accessing the hospital due to lack of good bus services or available car parking. Central Bedfordshire have committed to bus and cycling improvements this year and the Busway will provide the opportunity for a whole network of buses from Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis, and north of Luton and Dunstable to join the Busway and have a direct congestion free route into Luton and to Luton railway station and will seriously reduce journey times.
It will increase access to Central Bedfordshire College which is really important for young people. Therefore we support this scheme and are very keen to work with Central Bedfordshire to maximise its benefit for the whole urban area.
We also fear that if the Luton Dunstable Busway does not go ahead we might loose the route corridor and it might be built on.
We believe the commitment from Central Bedfordshire and as the Council's Head of Transport Strategy, Paul Cook has an excellent track record from Cambridge in improving bus services and Cllr Tom Nicols has stressed his support for a first class public transport system for the area and has committed to actions to improve bus information and cycling this year.
Following discussions between Central Bedfordshire Council, and South Beds Friends of the Earth, Central Bedfordshire will commit to:
A further sum of money in excess of £400,000 has been set aside for further cycling improvements to be carried out in the coming year. This is for the all of Central Bedfordshire and represents an increase on spending from last year (at a time when budgets are being cut). We will work with Luton and Dunstable Cycle Forum and Dunstable Friends of the Earth, to identify schemes to be delivered this year within the context of the strategic cycle network.
Central Bedfordshire Council will greatly improve public transport information provision in the Dunstable and Houghton Regis area and will identify LTP funding up to £200,000 to fund this.
They are also exploring the possibility of introducing real time passenger information into the area and will look to roll this out as and when opportunity arises.
Central Bedfordshire Council is looking at ways to improve the efficiency of how they deliver bus services so that they can deliver more bus services at no extra cost to the tax payer.
The council is talking to the hospital to find ways of improving access to the hospital by bus and cycling. This also means that there will be more car parking spaces available for those who do not have an attractive alternative to car use.
Central Bedfordshire Council has committed to promote the shops and market in Dunstable by putting up display boards with information and promotion on the market and local shops.
Alternatives to Luton Northern Bypass
Central Bedfordshire and Luton Borough Council have committed to actively pursuing funding for the improvements to public transport and cycling in the area recommended by the work on a sustainable low carbon alternative to the Luton Northern bypass.
South Beds FoE is keen to work with Central Bedfordshire Council to support the Luton Dunstable Busway and to make sure that the maximum benefits are gained for all of the conurbation. South Beds FoE believe that it can form the basis to a first class integrated bus network that provides a realistic and attractive alternative to car use and transforms the lives of those without a car. It will help young people access Central Bedfordshire College. Buses from Leighton Buzzard and Houghton Regis can join the Busway for a swift and direct route into Luton and Luton railway station. The journey time between Luton and Dunstable will be halved. There will also be a cycle track alongside the route which will make a real difference to cyclists travelling between Luton and Dunstable.
1. The Dunstable Northern Bypass will remove through traffic but will not deal with internal traffic in Dunstable. A new report from the Highways Agency has shown that road building often does not reduce traffic as expected.
This means that even with the bypass there could be considerable congestion unless, real alternatives to car use are provided. http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/media/Jan10-roads-are-billion-pound-gamble
2. The Western section of East West rail between Bletchley and Bicester, which would link Bedford to Oxford with a spur to Aylesbury, has been in all the rail plans and regional plans for many years and is supported by all the councils, and has an existing track bed, and yet there is no hope if it being built until 2017 at the earliest.