Liberal Democrats Welcome Changes to Parking Charge Plans

Liberal Democrat councillors have welcomed proposed changes to Calderdale Council’s plans to increase car parking charges.

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr James Baker (Warley) told us: “The original plans for parking charges caused uproar when they were first announced in September. Liberal Democrat councillors pressed the Labour Cabinet to think again and it now looks as if they have come up with a scheme that will have more widespread support”.

“If a paper to be discussed by the Council’s Cabinet is approved next week, some increases in charges will be smaller than previously proposed and a free parking period will be allowed where new parking charges are introduced.”

“I’m also pleased that the Council is to agree to review these charges every two years, rather than waiting much longer and then proposing a large increase that upsets everyone”, said Cllr Baker.

The Cabinet will be discussing the issue of parking charges at its meeting on Monday 12th December.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority: HS2: Rebalancing Britain

Meeting with Sir David Higgins

A memorable meeting for a number of reasons: David Higgins seems to be a calm, bright and perceptive man and hugely influential (which proves the point about how important transport is for driving the economy). The little report: Rebalancing Britian: from HS2 toward a national transport strategy is a good read and understandable explanation. He started by explaining that HS2 is not stand-alone but has an important role in the rest of the network and transport system. The budget is in place for Phase One (to Birmingham). At the moment they are working on where the “hubs” will go on the “Y” to Manchester and Leeds, looking at Crewe (and then coming into Manchester via the airport which he described as “the international airport for the north”) and somewhere around Derby/Nottingham for the East Midlands. Question about Sheffield (Meadowhall ?) and the station at Leeds. Taking decisions on this will take about a year. HS2 will be a spine connecting into the east and west coats lines, with 3 dedicated spurs to connect the 3 cities. My comments were about the importance of electrification across the north and good rolling stock – so that the quality of our rail system is at least equal to that in the south.

And then he talked about HS3 (and bigger than that – up to Newcastle), and freight as well as passenger. Questions were asked about improving the M62 (but I’d place the emphasis on rail).

He emphasised the importance of a Transport Strategy: We need a Grand Plan – roads and railways last for 50yrs and more. Transport for the North is a good opportunity to speak with one voice and therefore have more influence, otherwise we lose focus. He likened it to Council Highways Engineers deciding in the 1930’s that this country needed motorways (and the M1 was built 30 yrs later !).

The HS2 Regeneration company is being set up. The Independent Transport Commission report is coming out this week. This will study the impact of High Speed rail on economic development and the need for transport infrastructure (hence the need for a Strategy)

At the same time, there are negotiations between the Combined Authority and government about the form that devolution will take for the Region. Developing and significantly improving the transport system is an important component in this.

Cllr Janet Battye

LibDem rep on WY Combined Authority

Slow down around the valley!

 Concerns are growing that Calderdale Council’s plans for 20mph being the speed limit in “residential areas” across the whole of Calderdale are not going to be “fit for purpose” in the Upper Calder Valley.

“At last we’ve seen the proposals for Calder Valley”, says Cllr Janet Battye. “While there are some positive aspects to it: extending the 20mph zone in Hebden Bridge; sorting it out in Heptonstall so that it covers the whole of the village; including Pecket Well and Old Town, and clearly signing the 30mph areas, and including the Carr House estate and Kilnhurst in Todmorden, as well as the town centre, there’s a lot that it doesn’t do.

“Officers say that the first criterion for 20mph areas is where there have been casualties, the second is improvement in air quality and therefore general health and wellbeing. This being the case, I’m surprised that they haven’t included Lee Bottom Road in Todmorden and Heptonstall Road. I’ve asked for both of these to be looked at.

“Most of all, we’ve been campaigning for speed reduction work to be done on the A646 between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden where there have been some serious accidents over the years. On the face of it, the Council just seems to be saying that it’s too difficult to do anything about it. That can’t be the case, so I am pressing for a closer look at the problems and possible solutions.

“I’ve also asked the Council to look at Blackshawhead where work was done a few years ago to put traffic calming in through the middle of the village to make it safer for cars rat-running to Burnley, and Lee Bottom Road.

“The principle of a blanket 20mph speed limit – 20 is plenty – is a good one and it has to be about quality of life as well as casualty reduction. In the Calder Valley there are many stretches of housing where people could walk straight out of their front door onto the road. The 20mph limit should give us a chance to do something about this everywhere!”

Campaign against speeding on Moor End Rd results in action.

We are delighted that Calderdale Council will be taking action to tackle problems with speeding that have been affecting residents on Moor End Rd in Warley ward. Evidence collected by the Council’s Speed Indicator Device (SID) show that there are consistently high volumes of speeding traffic along this stretch of road.  Residents on live on the road have had their parked cars smashed into, resulting in soaring insurance costs. In addition there was a tragic accident on this stretch of the road that resulted in a fatality.

Liberal Democrat Councillors Ashley Evans and James Baker have been campaigning for the Council to take action on this issue. This campaign has been covered in the local Courier newspaper, and reported in our local Focus newsletters, and websites.  As a result of this campaign Council officers have been working hard to think up some changes that would help to tackle the problem.

Commenting on the scheme Councillor Evans said: “This’ good news, and should make a useful, relatively low cost, contribution to safety on the road.”

A copy of the plans they have drawn up can be downloaded below. As you can see the proposed hatchings would narrow the road, and make it clear the corner  before the bus stop has to be taken at a slower speed. We hope the work is carried out quickly, and we will ensure that traffic speeds are continually monitored to asses what impact the changes have made.

Download the plans – MoorEnd Road-Woodlesford

Twenty is plenty – but is it practical?

At Calderdale Council Cabinet’s meeting on 7th October, Cllr Ashley Evans  welcomed the proposal to consult the public about the introduction of a 20mph speed limit in residential areas across Calderdale but questioned how and whether it would work.

“I’ve been campaigning to reduce the speed of traffic in my ward, especially on Roils Head Road and Moor End Road” he said “but even where a 20mph speed zone has been introduced, the Speed Indicator Device (SID) shows that many people are still doing more than 30mph. Some drivers just ignore the existing speed limits, so just changing the limit is not going to tackle those really dangerous drivers who put lives at risk.”

“I’m firmly of the view that it’s not enough just to say that we’re going to do this as a blanket measure across Calderdale, it’s got to be part of a much bigger campaign, with real enforcement” said Cllr Evans.

A trip around Hebden Bridge on local buses

A trip around Hebden Bridge on local buses: Friday 6 September 2013

Councillor Janet Battye and Michael Smith sat on board a bus smiling

Councillor Janet Smith and Michael Smith on one of Hebden Bridge’s local busses

Given the concerns about how well the service is working and what improvements need to be made, Mike Smith (a member of the local bus action group) and I decided to sample the local bus service around Hebden Bridge on Friday 6 September.

We started with the first B bus of the day which left the railway station at 8,58, Waiting for it to arrive, we saw 4 or 5 different buses move around the terminus at the railway station, demonstrating that this does act as public transport interchange and, indeed, this first bus waited a few more minutes as a train arrived into the station.

We were not the only people doing this sort of survey: ours was just a “dip sample” because I’d worked out a timetable for us so that we could travel on each of the local bus routes. We came across a Metro Official, an Inspector, who has spent the week doing the same thing to properly collect data (which he offered to share with us).

8.58 B bus to Dodd Naze: we were the only ones on it as it went up the hill. A woman got on it from the houses at the front of the estate (the neighbour of an acquaintance of ours) and another woman part-way down Birchcliffe.

All the people we spoke to using the buses during the day spoke positively and enthusiastically about the bus service: they all said that it has improved but there are still occasions when they don’t turn up. We had some positive proposals to improve the service and make it more effective in meeting local people’s needs.

This bus became the 9.17 A bus to Old Town. During the morning, we didn’t pick up any passengers from the railway station (although we did later on the buses from New Road) but this is an important terminus, interchange and turnaround place in Hebden Bridge.

This route was one of the reasons we wanted to conduct this experiment. People queried the route of this bus, describing it going up to Crimsworth to turn round and going through Pecket Well, and we couldn’t picture what they meant. It does go up through Pecket Well, turns into Old Town, goes back through Pecket Well, up the Keighley Road to Crimsworth, back into Old Town and then along to Mount Skip and down through Dodd Naze into Hebden Bridge.

Our first passengers on this journey were picked up in Old Town. One woman uses the bus to get into work in Leeds by linking with the train. This works going out but not coming back because of the timings at the end of the day: a vital link is missing at about 6.30 when there’s a gap in the timings. A younger woman also got on the bus and two older women in Dodd Naze (the bus is something of a lifeline for them). Most passengers got off in the middle of Hebden Bridge.

And then it became the 10.08 E bus to Heptonstall and Blackshawhead. (so we got to know the driver quite well: he was friendly and informative !). We picked up one passenger on New Road (the cook in the cafe in Heptonstall on his way to work). We met a double-decker Halifax bus coming down to Hebden Bridge. Two Parish Councillors got on the bus in Heptonstall specifically to talk with me about the consequences of the work on Lee Wood Road (a sort of mobile surgery !). The bus became quite busy with people coming and going. A father with his two young children were going into Hebden bridge for the morning: they had just got back from holiday, his wife had got back to work (as a Teacher in Burnley) and they were going to see their grandparents. He was interesting because he works for Metro and talked about some of the planning work he’s involved with.

We got off the bus in Hebden Bridge to have a cup of coffee in the Town Hall cafe.

11.25 F bus to Fairfield and Eaves: I could see the little blue minibus parked on the marina waiting to set off. The bus stops on New Road were busy with a double-decker waiting to set off for Heptonstall (we counted 14 people downstairs). The information on the “realtime” display board was confusing: the 11.25 disappeared off the screen just before it came, looking as though it wasn’t going to run. But it did. The minibus had 12 seats (and another friendly driver). Two women went with us up to Fairfield. But on both routes (up New Road, and up into Eaves) even this minibus struggled to get past parked cars. Back into Hebden Bridge, and up to Eaves. The elderly man who travelled down with us regularly travels on this service:he questions the assertion that Eaves Road isn’t suitable for buses because the waste collection lorry manages to get up-and-down. But it was a struggle, including the turning circle because it’s partly blocked by builders vehicles working on a house up there.

What did we learn ? We travelled on all the local buses during the morning – a comment (by email) from a resident of Dodd Naze was that we should conduct the same exercise at the end of the day because there are some continuing problems with buses not turning up then. We’ll try to do that !

Obviously it’s most important that the buses turn up and don’t let local people down. A gap in the timetable was highlighted to us – buses back at the end of the day. The Old Town route doesn’t seem to make sense – does it need to go up to Crimsworth ? Can the Keighley bus pick those people up (and how many of them use the bus ?). Equally there seems to be duplication for Heptonstall between the E route and the Halifax bus.

This was a Friday in early September, after the children have gone back to school. While most of the passengers were older people, there were some younger people using the buses to get around. All spoke positively about the buses and clearly value them.

What next ? We’re putting this account of our trips on our website and passing it to Hebden Bridge Times, the local bus action group and Metro.

At my ward surgery, a member of the local bus Action group and resident of the Nest estate in Mytholmroyd asked if we’d do the same thing there, and Mike is arranging to do that. The particular concerns there are about buses simply not turning up, and parked cars making it difficult for the bus to get through.

We are continuing to encourage people to respond to Metro’s consultation – and to attend the feedback sessions being organised for Tues 24 Sept: 5 to 8pm (presumably in HB Town Hall)

Cllr Janet Battye