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Sunday 24 January

Transport Group Action Plan: June 2008 Update

Section 1 - Public Transport

I understand that Sarah Hobbs (Gwil Williams’ successor) will only be able to allocate a much smaller proportion of her time on transport matters. As soon as possible I will discuss with her the list of EHDC outstanding matters.

1. Better bus services

The first priority remains the retention of the scheduled services we already have. Stagecoach has been awarded the new HCC contract for route 67 (Petersfield - Winchester) with the full hourly timetable restored.

2. Improved transport information

The six bus shelters in the town owned and maintained by Petersfield Town Council, but some of the white lower end panels incorporating the council’s name and logo have been torn off. I will explore with Sarah Hobbs the possibility of new shelters in Lavant Street for the Chichester/Midhurst services (where the vandalised timetable panels are to be replaced by HCC) and in The Causeway (Southbound) near the Broadway Park entrance (where Petersfield Town Council may help), together with the addition of a stop post and boarding point at Broadway Park and a stop at Bedales School.

I have now recorded and photographed nearly 50 Petersfield bus stops, and hope to do the rest over the next few months. This information will enable me to keep a check on the accuracy of route number and timetable displays and respond to users’ suggestions for changes, and it may also be possible to draw up a programme to replace missing, damaged or inaccurate stop information. The database could be held by EHDC and/or HCC.

3. Improved transport co-ordination

The South West Trains hourly Waterlooville to Petersfield Rail-Link bus service introduced from 10th December is still lightly loaded, especially in off-peak periods. I am still awaiting a reply from SWT to my letter of 15th February (urged on 19th April), which suggested a number of improvements to the service publicity, and a possible diversion of off-peak journeys via The Square to improve loadings and provide extra bus links to Clanfield and Waterlooville. I understand that the completely inaccurate on-train announcements “Change at Petersfield for the rail/bus link to Stretton” are being corrected.

West Sussex County Council and Countryliner have agreed to delay the departure of the last 91 bus to Rogate and Midhurst until 18.10 to give a more reliable connection with the 18.03 train arrival from London.

I have urged replies from South West Trains to my letters about improved lighting on the station forecourt, especially at the bus stops, and from Network Rail about making the footbridge safer and clearing rubbish from the area adjacent to the footway between the up platform and Station Road.

4. Public transport to key facilities

EHDC Officers have obtained figures from the local Health Authority of hospital admissions from the Petersfield area, but details of hospital journeys between Petersfield and Portsmouth hospitals are needed to provide a basis for discussions about a possible regular bus link for hospital outpatients and visitors.

5. Accessible public transport

The two fully accessible low-floor buses on Routes 94 and 95 are popular with passengers, and I will continue to press the operators and the County Councils to introduce more of them in advance of the statutory deadline for all buses to be low floor. The speed humps at Penns Place and Broadway Park cause difficulties with low-floor buses and discomfort to users. This will be pursued further with EHDC and the Broadway Park owners.

I understand that EHDC are anxious to ensure that some Petersfield taxis are wheelchair-accessible taxis are arranging for disability awareness training for taxi drivers. The absence of a centralised taxi booking system in Petersfield significantly reduces the value of the local taxis.

Section 2 - Roads and Traffic

6. Car parks and street parking

Following the increase in Petersfield car parking charges I urged the District Council to take over from HCC responsibility for on-street parking control, which would “decriminalise” parking and allow them to introduce residential parking schemes and additional traffic warden hours. In response, the Leader of the District Council explained in a letter dated 20th March their concern about the cost of taking over “Decriminalized Parking Enforcement”, which could be higher than the income from enforcement. However, he said that the possibility was being discussed with neighbouring authorities, and a report might be submitted to the Council’s Cabinet. In reply I suggested that a limited increase in net costs might well be justified if it brought significant benefits to ratepayers, and referred to changes in legislation and the possibility of setting-up grant from HCC.

Section 3 - Roads and Pavements

7. Improved pedestrian and cycling routes

In a letter dated 19th March, Ben Clifton from the HCC Highways Department said that there were no funds available at present to carry out any work identified by a street audit, and suggested that we wait until they are in a position to commit time and resources. Although major expenditure may have to wait until after 2009 when the Town Access Plan is completed, I did not think it acceptable that nothing should be done in the short term to repair any identified local problems such as broken paving slabs, inadequately marked crossings or damaged signs.

Hilary Ayer therefore a meeting with Alan Todd from the local HCC Highways Department, Liza Smith and myself on 22nd May to see whether anything could be done to improve the conditions for pedestrians in the town centre. Alan explained that he had a very limited budget for maintenance work on pavements and could not initiate any new traffic calming or parking measures. During an inspection of Lavant Street, Chapel Street and the High Street we identified about a dozen broken paving slabs and a number of damaged or missing signs that needed to be replaced. It was agreed that it was difficult to distinguish the pedestrian “courtesy” crossings and other “gateway” markings on the carriageway, and that the absence of yellow lines and other statutory markings could encourage illegal parking. Alan said that he would consider whether anything could be done within his budget to highlight the “courtesy” crossings, possibly by making the bollards at the crossings more distinctive.

8. Vehicle delivery times

Action to restrict vehicle delivery times or a ban on heavy lorries, such as the Thornton’s articulated lorry which spends about a hour each Tuesday lunchtime in the High Street “loading” bay or the frequent deliveries by articulated lorries to the Tesco Express in Charles Street, seems unlikely before the introduction of a Town Access Plan (see 9 below).

9. Pedestrianisation experiment

At the meeting on 8th February, Ruth Olczyk and Ben Clifton said that the County Council Highways Department was embarking on the preparation of a series of Town Access Plans which, in conjunction with local bodies, would obtain details of traffic management schemes, public transport, walking and cycling and other issues affecting each town and draw up proposals for the next 5 years and up to 20-25 years. They hoped to start Petersfield and its immediate surroundings from April 2009, and would be able to incorporate Petersfield Tomorrow’s survey data. They hoped to produce a plan fairly quickly, but implementation would depend on the availability of funds.

Apart from the minor measures referred to in 7 above and improved control of car parking if EHDC agree to take over responsibility (see 5 above), I fear that, despite our consultation results, Petersfield will remain for some years as an attractive small town where crossing the road and “browsing” in the shops will continue to be discouraged.

Tony Shaw

Chairman Local Transport Group