Transport Questions for Prospective MP 2017

Transition Bath Interviews Parliamentary Candidates on the subject of ‘Transport’

After the withdrawal of the transport hustings from all the candidates, Transition Bath, Transition Larkhall and Cycle Bath requested a one to one interview with all candidates. They obliged. During the interviews we gave each candidate the chance to air their views on some of the main issues in Bath and what their plans were to tackle them.

Below is a summary of our discussions with each candidate, and a full audio recording of each interview. Answers to the short questions we posed can be found here on this page (transcript and short q’s).

In order of interview…

Wera Hobhouse (Liberal Democrats)

Click here for audio recording of the interview (then click on top right play button)

On the A46-A36 Link road.

  • Strongly against the link road.
  • Agrees that the road, whilst diverting some heavy good traffic, will not (as previous studies have shown) reduce traffic on the London Road
  • Firmly believes that building more roads only serves to encourage more car traffic.
  • Unsure of suitability of A36 to take more HGV traffic.

On the Park and Ride.

  • Also firmly against, not only the sites B and F, but also the concept of Park and Rides.
  • Agrees with recent studies that show that Park and Rides do not work in reducing traffic and improving air quality, but do in fact create a greater net movement of cars.
  • Park and Rides are an out-dated solution of the 70s and 80s.

On Public Transport

  • Wants to work with bus companies to lower fees.
  • Doesn’t see renationalising bus services as a viable short-term solution.
  • Believes that more funding needs to be freed so that buses can be made more frequent and more reliable as an alternative to cars.
  • Electrification of rail and more rail routes and networks.

On Air Pollution

  • Would push for initiatives to tackle the problem of overuse of cars.
  • Not afraid to implement legislation that would tax use of diesel vehicles, and travel into the city centre, but is also wary of making people feel victimised.
  • Wants to find alternative ways to approach the recent research that shows the huge impact that the ‘school run’ is having on parts of Bath.
  • Local authorities should have control on enforcing moving traffic offences to restrict polluting cars.
  • Would enforce previously agreed EU limits and targets.

On Cycling and active transport

  • A keen cyclist with a history of prompting increased cycling in other areas she has lived in.
  • Wants to see a greater emphasis on encouraging people on to bikes and walking.
  • Demonstrated openness to working with groups like Transition and Cycle Bath, to implement and lobby for stronger initiatives and incentives.
  • Wants to create networks of cycling away from main traffic.

On Transport Strategy and Society Change

  • A strong, considered approach targeting working with local communities at the core.
  • Would look to be more proactive with schools to educate children to move away from the reliance on cars.
  • Believes that looking at an integrated approach throughout the whole of Bath is the key to change, where the emphasis is on the bike and walking where possible.

Interviewer’s comments

I felt a strong sincerity in her words when she talked about shifts from a car based transport system to one that looks to public and active transport. Wera came across as understanding the huge importance of needing to educate the young, and work with communities to create a societal change. However, like all the other candidates, Wera would have to work with a Conservative led council, metro mayor and possible government, that appear to have differing views on transport and how we should tackle air pollution.  Her views were perhaps not as radical as Joe or Eleanor, but there was a strong sense of environment first.

Ben Howlett (Conservative Party)

Click here for audio recording of the interview (then click on top right play button)

(please note that Ben and I did not have as much time as planned due to his engagement elsewhere, and as a consequence not all of our conversation was as in depth as both of us would have liked)

On the A46-A36 Link road.

  • Has obtained the government backing for a feasibility study into the viability of a link road, despite the findings of the Bristol/ Bath South Coast study of 2004 (Bristol/Bath South Coast Study)
  • Believes that this is part of an overall holistic approach to solving Bath’s transport issues.
  • Has the support of local councils and the metro mayor to deliver this.
  • Ben is the only candidate who would like to see the link road. 

On the Park and Ride.

  • Thinks the Park and Ride on site B should go ahead and, like the link road, will help to solve Bath’s transport issues.
  • Wants to link the Park and Ride to new railway stations.
  • Believes that it will be integrated with other transport options like trains.
  • Justified by the need for access to the city, whilst wanting to reduce cars in the city centre.
  • Uses the popularity of other Park and Rides in Bath as an example.

On Public Transport

  • Sees the current Bus Bill going through parliament as opportunity to work closer with local bus services to provide more routes.
  • Bus Bill will allow for economies of scale within the franchises to deliver more routes and subsidised services.
  • Wants to see cleaner buses and an oyster card system.
  • Smart car ticketing to make journeys more seamless.

On Air Pollution

  • Would implement a Clean Air Zone
  • Increased parking costs in city centre to encourage more bus use
  • Electrification process of rail and buses
  • More cycle lanes
  • Would tackle school run by making safe walking routes.

On Cycling and active transport

  • Will implement more cycle routes and safe walking zones
  • Working to implement cycle racks on the front of buses to help encourage bike use
  • Improvements to the Bristol/Bath cycle path, with more accessibility to more people and new developments in Bath.
  • Accessing government’s funds to improve the region.

On Transport Strategy and Society Change

  • Is not willing to commit to wanting to create a culture that strongly pulls away from the car.
  • More electric car charging points throughout the city
  • Mixture of legislation and working with the grass routes
  • Encouraging people to make the decisions themselves

Interviewer’s comments

Ben comes across assured and with a strong sense of how things work and how to get the job done. Where his political will lies, I do believe he will push through. However, I felt a tendency to tell me the things he thought I wanted to hear, and I find his empathy towards cycling and walking were designed to be a counter balance to justify his stronger desire for a link road and the Park and Ride, rather than a strong commitment to actually moving away from the car. That said, it was encouraging to hear his support for clean air zones and low emissions charges, as well as reducing parking in the city centre.

Joe Rayment (Labour Party)

Click here for audio recording of the interview (then click on top right play button)

On the A46-A36 Link road.

  • Does not believe that the link road is economically nor environmentally viable.
  • Believes it would have minimal impact on traffic flow or air pollution in Bath.
  • Does not believe that moving vehicles from one place to another is the solution. People need to stop using the car as opposed to just placing them somewhere else.

On the Park and Ride.

  • Like above shifting traffic is not the answer.
  • Environmentally not sound due to the damage that it would do the meadows.
  • Money should be spent on the buses instead and helping to reduce fares, or even take the buses back in to public ownership.
  • Would withdraw local MP support for the project in the hope that it would help stop the process.

On Public Transport

  • Would like to see not-for-profit public transport systems.
  • Locally owned bus and rail companies that reinvests the money into the service to create more routes and subsidise others.
  • Buses in Bath are not good enough, and need investment to be improved.
  • Currently, popular routes should subsidise other bus routes.

On Air Pollution

  • Electrification of cars, buses and railways is a priority.
  • Is willing to look at low emissions zones and congestion charges, although hesitant to commit to pushing legislation through without looking at other methods to get people to reduce car use.
  • Again, believes that publicly owned buses would make a big difference here.

On Cycling and active transport

  • Like Ben, would like to see bike racks on the front of buses.
  • Segregated cycle lanes to make cycling safer to increase accessibility for all.
  • Prioritise walking, cycling and buses above the use of car.

On Transport Strategy and Society Change

  • Wants to shift away from the use of cars.
  • Publicly owned transport is key.
  • Research and development into electric vehicles and bikes.
  • Make other options more convenient for more people to use.
  • Wants people to move away from cars without the need for legislation.

Interviewer’s comments

Living labour ideals, he was very strong on his desire to take the railways and buses into public ownership, and this seemed to form a key part of his transport focus. Joe’s experience as a councillor seems to have educated him well in working in local politics, and he demonstrated a refreshing willingness to learn to work with opposing forces to achieve the greater good. However, I did feel he perhaps was not strong enough on the methods needed to change the city’s approach to transport. Whilst agreeing with the need to be more progressive, too strong a reliance on public transport, and not enough emphasis on grass root changes in community thinking left me wanting to hear a more developed, holistic approach.

Eleanor Field (Green Party)

Click here for audio recording of the interview (then click on top right play button)

On the A46-A36 Link road.

  • Studies show it will not work, and she will follow that evidence.
  • Looks like a waste of money.
  • Perhaps we should be looking at rail freight as it’s cheaper and cleaner for providing goods into Bath.

On the Park and Ride.

  • Park and Ride is a non-starter, both environmentally and as a solution to congestion and air pollution.
  • It will not tackle the school run on the east of Bath and therefore will only contribute to more traffic and congestion.

On Public Transport

  • Renationalise the rail service would be a great way to make transport affordable and give people another option than cars.
  • The bus bill presents an opportunity to make bus services publically funded again.
  • Would support not-for-profit bus companies to help bring down the cost of bus travel.
  • More subsides and support for all bus routes making them more frequent, accessible and desirable.

On Air Pollution

  • Segregated cycle lanes, with parking as an extra barrier that can significantly reduce the affect of NOx
  • Would look to put in traffic free days – approximately 1 day per month, in the city centre.
  • Engage more people in understanding the problem, and that it exists in Bath and needs to be tackled
  • Clean air zones, low emissions zones would be implemented
  • Congestion charge for vehicles that do not begin their journey in Bath
  • Buses and taxis should be looking to be electrified
  • Environmental protection act to look after EU legislation

On Cycling and active transport

  • Safer roads for pedestrians and cyclists, including segregated cycle lanes.
  • Walking buses for children on their way to school.
  • Less cars will encourage more active travel, so it has to be key to reduce car use.
  • Wants to encourage more e-bikes in Bath.

On Transport Strategy and Society Change

  • Must support the way that people need to use the city, enabling people of all ages and abilities.
  • Regional transport solutions, using the new powers of the metro mayor.
  • Use of rivers.
  • More shared spaces and better use of them.
  • Work with the council to help taxies convert to LPG.
  • Working with other groups like Transition and Cycle Bath.

Interviewer’s comments

Eleanor was passionate and well versed on the problems with air pollution and local transport issues. Her answers came across well conceived, thought out and evidence based. I wonder how she would fit in to the context of Bath? I feel her strong alternative views on transport fit in well with those proffered in various articles by Transition and Cycle Bath, but will be challenging to implement and garner political will. She would need to call on the support of similar organisation to help affect much positive change, and I feel her biggest wins if elected would be away from the political arena and working with communities and community groups.

Conclusions

There were some big differences between candidates and some similarities. All accept there is a problem with air quality and congestion in Bath, and all want to encourage more walking and cycling, whilst trying to make public transport more affordable. All candidates apart from Ben seem to agree that more roads and car centric schemes are not the answer. Joe and Eleanor both see an opportunity to take rail and buses back into public ownership, at least at a local level, and Joe strongly made this the centrepiece of his plan. Wera looks strongly to working within communities to instigate change through movement away from the car, and Ben wants to put the emphasis on reducing traffic in Bath by diverting it where possible on alternate routes. Please take the time to listen to the interviews yourselves and hopefully this will help you make the choice you feel will best serve the city, and our future.

Posted in Transport.