Bridgwater Town Council launched a series of Public Forum meetings based around key themes in a progressive move to engage Councillors, Service Providers and Users and Pressure groups. One of these Forums is the Transport Forum under the guidance of newly elected Councillor for Eastover Tony Heywood. With the advent of the latest phase in the nuclear industry in and around our town and with the pressures on our infrastructure that this brings, the Transport Forum met to look at some of the key issues.
The meeting first looked at the state of the Railways. Lewis Ward of GWR had submitted a report which summed up several key developments.
Forecourt work ;-“Design is on-going and Network Rail have issued their technical queries as part of the GRIP 3 (Option Selection and Approval in Principle stage) review. Our design consultants have responded with clarifications meaning we’re close to completing this stage – it has taken longer than planned, but we’re getting there!.Once the in principle design has been agreed by Network Rail, we will be meeting with Council Officers, relevant portfolio holders and local members at SCC and SDC to present that design, agree the programme, and seek their support to continue through to detailed design/construction.”
An accessible station;– “Since the issue of stepping height was emphasised, we’ve asked the Department for Transport and Network Rail whether consideration can be given to installing further ‘Harrington Humps’ (modular raised platform sections) at our stations. They’re basically short modular humps fixed to the platform designed to allow access to certain doors on the train – it’s normally done where raising the whole platform is unfeasible. In the past, these improvements have been funded under the ‘Access for All’ programme where government agrees to provide a certain amount of money to Network Rail to improve access to stations; traditionally this is invested in lifts and ramps but early conversations with DfT suggest we can once again consider Harrington Humps in the forthcoming 5 year programme of railway investment work (Control Period 6). This sounds promising, however, the Harrington Humps were a novel approach intended for lightly used rural stations, often on designated community rail lines; there were a number of technical issues that remain outstanding particularly for use on higher speed lines – something for Network Rail and GWR to work on together to resolve. There’s an internal GWR/NR meeting coming up this month to start scoping that programme and agree the best way to assess need and prioritise funding across the region. We’ll update you on progress.”
Upgrading the train fleet;-“The process of introducing cascaded trains is ongoing. The Class 166 ‘Turbo’ trains are being introduced on services calling at Bridgwater, they provide extra seating capacity and are a newer train with extra comfort. The Turbo fleet requires modifications before going into traffic so we can expect to see more of these over the coming weeks which will certainly help providing the right length trains to avoid crowding. As the new IETs enter service many of our HSTs are now being moved to Scotland for their new life. However, some of the HSTs are being retained by GWR and heavily modified for use on regional train services as a high quality alternative to the diesel multiple units normally used on some of the longer routes. The slam doors have been replaced with push button sliding doors, the toilets refurbished, new customer information systems within the saloons and a refurbished seating throughout. We have one in traffic at the moment and more will follow as they leave the works.”
Glen Burrows (Senior Citizens Forum) said she was concerned ” GWR has not been straight with us and their promises regarding extended hours for the ticket office were not genuine. It is clearly not part of their plan so this was in-genuine. It would appear that we have been gravely mislead. The same was the case for the ‘access for all’ bid which they hadn’t supported. Bridgwater was clearly a low priority by GWR and would continue to be while they maintained inadequate staffing levels. Bridgwater is being under resourced while at the same time the town was growing. We are of course aware that increased ticket office opening hours entails hiring additional staff , but we are also aware that GWR is operating a service that the travelling public is paying handsomely for. We are asking that , in return, Bridgwater receives the service it needs and deserves”
Glen Burrows had written a letter expressing this to John Lanchester the Interim Regional Station manager and had invited him to a Friends of Bridgwater Station meeting on 23rd July.
Cllr Tony Heywood said “We should urge them to reconsider their strategy and put Bridgwater higher up their list of priorities”
On the Buses.
Bridgwater resident Ken Hammersley said there were problems with people at the bus station not knowing when busses were coming due to the layout of the road and the bays and proposed introduction of a mirror system. Cllr Tony Heywood suggested instead that we urge the installation of electronic departure boards. “Almost everywhere else can do this so why can’t they do it in Bridgwater.” Cllr Dave Loveridge said he believed “..they would argue that with all the roadworks in Bridgwater you couldn’t guarantee timings of anything” but he would take this up with the station manager .He was urged to also take this up with Somerset County Council.
Glen Burrows said the ‘Bus Pass Group’ were preparing to launch a campaign promoting the 10th anniversary of the scheme and at the same time also promoting the use of buses. Lee Robbins (Friends of Bridgwater Station) pointed to the ‘Use the Bus’ campaign which would be launched between 2nd-8th July.
The Forum agreed it was vital to promote greater use of the buses and the chairman Cllr Heywood agreed to contact John Perret of Somerset County Council to discuss ways which we could mutually promote the buses.
Cllr Leigh Redman said the EDF mitigation package for increased lorry movements was being introduced to help people who lived along the 2 main supply corridors in and through the town from the motorway junctions. This included double glazing, upgrades to ventilation, sound insulation and so on.
Cllr Redman said a major infrastructure project was the Colley Lane relief road and this was finally being launched this week with people due on site at any moment. There would be an 18 month build out and some reconstruction along the canal towpath plus closure of a swingbridge over the canal.
Cllr Loveridge said a major area of concern in the East of Bridgwater was the closure of Frederick Road which was causing rat runs and other issues. Cllr Redman said that he was in the process of co-ordinating meetings with local councillors and residents to address concerns.
Cllr Heywood said that the Town Council had been campaigning alongside residents for a 20 MPH zoning around schools and in some specific areas, notably the Polden street/ Wellington road sector. A submission known as an SIS was being considered by Somerset CC but was still in the phase of awaiting the outcome He had been in touch with Alan Jones at SCC and had been told the decision would be end of April.
Mike Slade (Inland Waterways) said there was an issue around the Northgate school with blocked drains and water on the roads . Cllr Redman said there were many blocked drains in the area at the moment and this had been exacerbated by the bad weather but SCC were getting round to doing them all.
On yer Bike
Cllr Redman said the Hamp Greenway had been having problems recently as the local youths had discovered the fragile nature of some of the infrastructure and were damaging it. He reminded the Forum also that there was an ongoing plan for cycleways through Bridgwater (TBW-The Bridgwater Way) which was designed to encourage behaviour change in people and support this with improved access and links into the transport network for cyclists
Mike Slade (Inland Waterways) said he had been urging the Canal and River Trust and SCC to work together on the future of the docks including addressing the issue of the Bascule bridge. He felt really this needed additional signage to redesignate it as a 6’6 roadway to deter the HGVs most of which wee wrongly being sent that way by satnavs. Cllr Redman said he ‘could’ put in a SIS bid but this was unlikely to be successful.
Mike Slade also said his volunteers had trimmed back the trees on the canal from the docks to the Malt Shovel and it was looking a lot better now. Also they had been dealing with waterborne rubbish in the dock and canal with some success.
Cllr Brian Smedley (Town Council Leader) said there would be a speaker from the Environment Agency giving an update on the Tidal Barrier at the next full Bridgwater Town Council meeting on Thursday April 12 (7.30 Town Hall). This was open to the public. Cllr Smedley said “Bridgwater needs to re-face itself onto it’s waterways as they’re a major asset. The docks, the river, the canal, the nearby coastal path. the Tidal Barrier, we have a rich maritime past and why not a future.”
Towards a County Wide Forum
The Group repeated its desired policy for a County Wide Transport Forum. Glen Burrows said “Only Bridgwater has one and whilst County says they are still ‘devising a transport strategy’ it’s clear that they are not interested, yet it’s them that bear the responsibility for the appalling state of transport in this county. They rejected this by offering to send their reps to our meetings and listen to what we had to say but they simply haven’t done this.”
Chairman Tony Heywood said that he would take up all these issues with the providers “It is clear that our group is dedicated to encouraging better use of public transport. We feel that an honest and constructive relationship with providers is vital to our campaigning for the benefit of everybody.”