Hampshire County Council

Environment Policy Review Committee

17 September 2001

Blackwater Valley Bus Service 1 Priority Route

Report of the County Surveyor

Item 9

Contact: Peter Murnaghan, ext 6920

1. Summary

1.1 This report reviews the progress made on the main transport strategy scheme in the capital programme for the north-east of the county and seeks approval to implement Phase 1. Its purpose is to deal with the problems of traffic congestion by providing an attractive and reliable public transport alternative between the main towns. It is intended that construction of the first phase will commence in early 2002.

2. Review

2.1 The North East Hampshire Transportation Strategy Panel (NEHTS) has approved as its main capital scheme the commitment of £1.2 million over the period 2001-2004 on bus priority measures on the A325 and A30 corridors. These roads are served by the principal trunk bus route, the Blackwater Valley Service 1, running from Aldershot-Farnborough-Camberley-Yateley. The route is operated commercially by Stagecoach and runs through sections of Surrey and Bracknell Forest, despite its terminal points being in Hampshire.

2.2 A Quality Partnership has already been signed by Hampshire County Council and Stagecoach covering a number of services within the county, including Blackwater Valley Service 1. This partnership encompasses a number of targets for both parties to achieve. These include:

2.3 Whilst the bus operator is committed to these aims and the capital investment involved, the local authorities have agreed to provide a number of complementary measures. These include:

2.4 The capital expenditure from the Local Transport Plan, together with similar commitment from the neighbouring County Council and district councils, is being supplemented by financial contributions from private developers in the area. This combined effort is expected to achieve a noticeable improvement in the image of public transport and bring about an increase in bus use on the route. The bus route currently carries some 85,000 passengers per month and will have sufficient capacity to attract considerable numbers of car users when other integrated measures are implemented in the area. This should assist in meeting the headline target of reducing traffic growth by two-thirds in 20 years and increasing the use of public transport across the area by 25%.

2.5 The infrastructure improvements will provide a long term solution to traffic delays, help protect the local environment and make more efficient use of the road space for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, as well as buses. The scheme is being planned as a complete entity, but to assist with design and implementation is being progressed in three phases:

2.6 Concept proposals for the first two phases have been prepared and exhibited to the public. The exhibition for Phase 1 was seen by over 1,000 members of the public in March 2001 and the principle of improving public transport in the area was supported by 87% of all who responded. This level of support was reported to the NEHTS Panel on 27 July 2001, which endorsed the scheme for implementation. During the consultation a number of comments and concerns were raised which have resulted in certain modifications to the original proposals. Details of the consultation are set out in the attached appendix. Details of Phase 1 will be displayed at the meeting.

2.7 In order to mark the local partnership at an early stage in the development of this flagship scheme, it is intended to launch the proposals at a ceremony in November 2001. This will involve the County Council, Stagecoach, Rushmoor Borough Council and Hart District Council, together with Surrey County Council and Surrey Heath and Bracknell Forest Borough Councils. The ceremony will coincide with the introduction of low-floor buses and a number of improved bus stops and shelters. This will cement the relationship and provide a public statement of the authorities' commitment to improvements in public transport in the area, as supported by the majority of residents.

Recommendation

That it be a RECOMMENDATION to the Executive Member for Environment to approve Phase 1 of the Blackwater Valley Bus Service 1 Priority Route for implementation.

Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background papers

The following documents disclose facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and has been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report.

NB the list excludes:

1.

Published works.

2.

Documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.

TITLE

LOCATION

None.

6662/PJM

APPENDIX

Blackwater Valley Bus Route 1 - Consultation Report

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1. Introduction

1.1 Hampshire County Council, Surrey County Council, Rushmoor Borough Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council, Bracknell Forest Borough Council and Hart District Council are working towards a Quality Partnership with bus operator Stagecoach to improve bus services in the Blackwater Valley area. Bus Route 1, from Aldershot to Yateley via Farnborough, Camberley and Blackwater, has been identified as the first major route to benefit from this partnership. Improvements are proposed to be carried out along the route in three main phases:

2. Scope

2.1 The consultation report sets out the processes undertaken in carrying out the first phase of public consultation in March 2001. The report identifies feedback from the public exhibitions on Phase I in Farnborough and Phase II in Camberley and puts forward recommendations for further action by the Quality Partnership signatories.

3. Consultation Process

3.1 A series of public exhibitions was held in March 2001 to provide information on the proposed Phase I improvement measures and outline ideas for Phase II, and to obtain feedback on the proposals.

3.2 The exhibitions were widely advertised via local newspaper advertisements and individual letters to residents along the route. In addition, a leaflet drop to 10,500 properties in the wider Farnborough area (postcodes beginning GU14 6, 7 and 8) was arranged via The Star newspaper. The exhibitions were held at three locations - Farnborough (8-10 March), Camberley (9-10 March) and The Meadows (11 March) and were staffed by council officers.

3.3 The exhibitions were well attended with over 1,100 people visiting the locations (see table below). Feedback on the proposals was encouraged, with comments forms available at all venues for return via a centralised freepost address.

3.4 Immediately following the exhibition dates, a website was also created at www.bvbusrouteone.org.uk, containing project information and means to feedback comments via an electronic form.

4. Results of Consultation

4.1 Considerable feedback has been received from the exhibition indicating a high level of interest from the local community. A total of 285 written responses was received: 171 Phase I comments forms, 52 Phase II forms and 62 letters.

4.2 Analysis of the feedback for Phase I (Farnborough) indicates that improvements to public transport are well supported, although there were some concerns regarding the impact of bus priority measures on other traffic. The proposals through Farnborough received a good level of support, particularly the improvements proposed to pedestrian facilities, increased bus frequency, provision of new low-floor buses and improvements to bus stops and shelters. The proposals for bus lanes and bus priority signals received a more neutral response. Only one proposed element received any significant objection, centring around the proposed relocation of Farnborough Hill School access onto Highgate Lane. This element of objection however was predominantly from the residents in Highgate Lane and surrounding roads, who would be most directly affected.

4.3 Analysis of the Phase II (Camberley) responses confirms that there is widespread support for improvements to public transport in the Blackwater Valley, with priorities highlighted as more frequent and reliable services.

5. Phase I (Farnborough)

5.1 A total of 472 forms was distributed at the exhibition with 171 returned (36% return rate). Over 75% of the responses were from residents in the Farnborough area (postcode GU14). There was a good split between Bus Route 1 users, other bus users and non-bus users, with 41% using Bus Route 1, 19% using other bus services and 39% being non-bus users.

5.2 Of the 171 respondents 87% supported the idea of improving public transport services in the Blackwater Valley. This was supported by bus users and non-bus users alike.

5.3 Providing more reliable services and greater frequency were identified as the most important issues for improving public transport. The proposed improvement measures address both these issues.

5.4 There was good support for the principle of providing bus priority measures in Farnborough, both overall and among local Farnborough respondents.

5.5 With regard to the specific proposals in Farnborough, the overall level of support was good. An average score was calculated for each element, with `1' indicating strong agreement and `5' indicating disagreement.

5.6 The chart below indicates:

5.7 Feedback indicated that there is very high potential for increasing bus use. Of the 171 respondents, 73% felt that improvements to the bus service would encourage them to use the bus more often. Over half the non-bus users felt they would use the bus more often as a result of improvements.

 5.8 Around three-quarters of the Farnborough respondents also felt they would be encouraged to use the bus more often.

6. Phase II (Camberley, Frimley and The Meadows)

6.1 A total of 52 Phase II Comments Forms were received (271 forms were distributed; 19% return rate). 54% of respondents were Bus Route 1 users, with 44% being non-bus users. Around half of the respondents were Camberley residents.

6.2 Reliability of services and greater frequency were identified as the highest priorities to improve public transport. Lower fares and better information at bus stops were also felt to be important.

6.3 In terms of physical measures for the Blackwater Valley corridor, respondents to the Camberley Comments Form attached the highest priority to real-time information, improved ticketing and integration with rail.

7. Comments Raised

7.1 In addition to the Comments Forms, 62 letters were received. Around half of these were from residents in the Highgate Lane area, with concerns about the proposed relocation of Farnborough Hill school access in order to provide the maximum length of bus lane on Farnborough Road. The key issues raised were:

General Bus Priority Measures

Comment

Officer's Response

· Improvements to public transport are supported, provided they do not increase congestion or penalise car drivers. (16 comments)

Encouraging greater use of public transport is expected to decrease congestion in the long term by making more efficient use of the road space, but care is being taken to avoid extending queues for car drivers wherever possible.

· Bus lanes will cause congestion, exacerbating the situation for all traffic, including buses; they will not encourage people to use buses. (30)

Bus lanes are a key means of improving reliability of bus services, which was identified as a high priority. Traffic modelling has been carried out to ensure the proposed bus priority measures do not cause excessive congestion for general traffic, including buses.

· Bus lanes are not justified for the number of people/buses using them. (19)

Bus Route 1 currently carries more than 85,000 passengers a month; and 73% of questionnaire respondents felt that they would use the bus more often as a result of improvements.

· Bus lanes only provide a marginal improvement to the service; it would be better to improve other aspects of the bus service in order to encourage greater use. (8)

Improvements to other aspects of the service, such as increased frequency, new low-floor buses, better information and improved waiting facilities, are also being implemented as part of the quality partnership.

Specific Farnborough Issues

Comment

Officer's Response

· Reducing Farnborough Road to a single traffic lane will cause congestion and excessive queueing. (16)

The existing number of traffic lanes on Farnborough Road is generally being retained; as a result of the additional traffic modelling it is now proposed to reduce the traffic lanes only at Ham & Blackbird gyratory and across the railway bridge.

· Concern that bus lanes on Farnborough Road will cause congestion and encourage more traffic onto surrounding residential streets. (5)

Traffic modelling has been undertaken to ensure the proposals will not cause excessive congestion.

· Discontinuous bus lanes would be hazardous and provide little benefit. (9)

Short sections of bus lane in key locations, such as on the approach to junctions, can provide great benefit by allowing buses to bypass traffic queues; bus lanes are safe provided they are properly designed. Bus priority signals can also help buses to merge at the end of a bus lane. Ideally, longer bus lanes could be provided, but the proposals have been designed on the principle of remaining within the existing highway boundary wherever possible.

· A single traffic lane through Ham & Blackbird gyratory would cause congestion. (11)

Traffic modelling indicates that the proposed layout will not cause excessive queueing, since the two existing lanes are rarely used at the same time.

· Further traffic information is required and the results should be made available. (6)

Further traffic modelling has been undertaken and used to refine the proposals. The outcomes have resulted in some modifications to the scheme proposals, and will be reported to the NEHTS Panel.

Proposed Relocation of Farnborough Hill School Entrance

Comment

Officer's Response

· Traffic in Highgate Lane and surrounding streets is already a problem and the new school entrance would exacerbate the situation. (69)

The concern about current levels of traffic in the area is acknowledged.

Preliminary traffic modelling indicates that the additional traffic in Highgate Lane as a result of the proposed entry would be minor.

· The entrance should not be relocated as the school is in a conservation area; several mature trees would be lost. (27)

The proposed access would be designed to minimise the impact on existing trees and to be in keeping with the historic environment.

· Information about the proposed new school entry was not circulated widely enough. (16)

Letters were hand delivered to residents along Highgate Lane (from Farnborough Road to No. 59) highlighting the proposal. In addition, approximately 11,000 leaflets were delivered with the `Star' newspaper to residents in GU14 6, 7 & 8 postcode areas, inviting them to the exhibitions which showed the full proposals.

· Parking in Highgate Lane (and surrounding streets) is a problem. (17)

This issue is outside the scope of the Bus Route 1 corridor improvement scheme.

· Suggestions for alternative access arrangements. (33)

Alternative options were not pursued since it is recommended to retain the entrance in the existing location.

Other Issues

Comment

Officer's Response

· The bus route should go into Frimley Park Hospital, at least a few times each day. (6)

A separate Demand Study is currently being undertaken. The study will identify the scope for any changes in the route and will show if it would be viable to divert some journeys via Frimley Park Hospital.

· Fares need to be cheaper to encourage use. (22)

The fares are determined by the bus operator. They must charge enough to provide a reasonable rate of return on their investment. Generally, the more people use the bus, the cheaper fares would be.

· A more reliable bus service is important. (18)

Bus lanes and bus priority measures are a key means of improving reliability of bus services.

· Buses should be better integrated with trains and other bus services. (9)

Proposals to improve integration are being considered along the whole route, to be accompanied by increased bus frequency.

· Information about bus services and at stops needs to be more readily available. (7)

Timetable information will be displayed at every bus stop along the route. The new bus shelters will have the potential for provision of real-time information in the future.

7.2 A number of other issues outside the Bus Route 1 corridor improvement scheme were also raised, primarily suggested improvements to other bus services.

8. Conclusion

8.1 Improvements to public transport in the Blackwater Valley are strongly supported (87%). The proposed improvements in Farnborough are generally supported, although there was some concern about the impact of the bus priority measures on other traffic.

8.2 The most important areas for improving public transport were thought to be providing more reliable services and greater frequency. Better integration, up-to-the-minute information at bus stops and better information about bus services were also considered important.

8.3 The Phase I (Farnborough) proposals received a good level of support (66%), with the different elements receiving varying support:

8.4 The consultation indicated that there is a good level of support for the proposals in principle, and that there is great scope for increasing bus use in the Blackwater Valley. Feedback highlighted some concerns about the impact of bus lanes on general traffic flow and identified other areas where the bus service can be improved.

8.5 As a result of the consultation and additional traffic modelling, several modifications were made to the Phase I (Farnborough) scheme. Drawings 17/A325/48/031-034 show the proposed scheme and will be displayed at the meeting.

8.6 The provision of bus lanes and bus priority measures on this route, along with service improvements, is central to the provision of more frequent and reliable bus services. These aims received broad community support and the measures have the ability to meet agreed targets for traffic reduction and increased public transport use.