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Created; < 2009, changed; 23/05/2012, 06/02/2013

Transport Entitlement for Canterbury Citizens in the 21st. Century

Will you share the vision? We are all aware that public transport measures will play a fundamental role in the transport revolution which will take us into the next century. Whilst walking and cycling will have a role to play in terms of short range mobility, these do not address the problems of quality transport over intermediate distances--especially for the disabled, those with pushchairs, and those of us who prefer to take our cycles with us on longer journeys or indeed not battle our way on longer journeys on rain-lashed wintry mornings. This paper explores the notion of “low energy mobility for all” into the next century where we will expect quality of service as well as convenience and low impact on our environment. Such provision will have to progressively turn its back on fossil fuels and the use of many farmed fuels such as soya oil and alcohol. It will become increasingly clear that agricultural land is finite and we must either choose to grow fuel or eat food. Let us assume we choose food and that every ounce of energy efficiency we can win--by public transport--is vital. Let us further suppose that as a sort of “Bill of Rights” we make the following declaration: In travelling within, to and from Canterbury, citizens should have the opportunity to use a public transport system which : · is fundamentally of low energy type; · enables easy and convenient access to able bodied, disabled, pushchair users, cyclists; · makes zero local emissions of “greenhouse gases” or diesel particulates; · enables energy sources elsewhere to be used, and that these sources should have the capability to be solar (sustainable) or fusion sourced; · is safe; · is of predictable route ; · is comfortable; · is quiet; · can utilise existing transport routeways; · is of pleasing appearance. Currently the only off-the-shelf technology that can deliver this kind of performance is low-floor light rail and tram. This kind of provision is being progressively accepted as a solution to traffic problems in much of Europe. But of course it is expensive. However, with a planet-sized price tag hanging over current levels of unsustainable behaviour, such as the promotion of traffic-inducing Park and Ride, then this is purely relative. The limits are not financial. The real limits to human achievement are governed by open-mindedness and imagination. In the UK, Manchester Metrolink is an expanding and very successful model of light rail/tram that removes millions of car journeys from the city streets. Studies of Manchester Metrolink have shown that this version of light rail/ tram is successful in that it combines all the speed of rapid suburban running on former standard rail tracks, with direct access to the city centre via tram lines on city streets. But of course this particular system is expensive. But there is another way. In Karlsruhe (1), Germany, a bi-modal pattern of use has been established whereby trams use existing ordinary heavy rail tracks outside the city for rapid access to the suburbs and beyond, and share these routes with standard trains, but deviate on tram lines within the city itself. Such a system cuts down dramatically on infrastructure costs and intensifies use of the long-term sustainable heavy rail transport resource. Could not the same approach work for Canterbury? Let us take the A28 corridor for example. Here we have a massive flow of traffic through the city between Thanet and Ashford. No doubt there are construction companies out there salivating at the thought of yet another (traffic-inducing) by-pass to “solve” city traffic problems, just as the A2 by-pass did--or hadn’t you noticed? Let us suppose that a forward thinking City Council, with environmentally-aware Members, acted on the government advice of Policy Planning Guidance 12 and 13 (2) to safeguard old rail routes and possible new ones, for future use by light rail and tram. Let us suppose that they adopted the Karlsruhe model for bi-modal transport measures utilising heavy and light rail. What might such as system look like? Let us further suppose that Ashford and Thanet opt for similar systems, thus compounding the access and environmental benefits. To travel from Ashford, to Canterbury, you board the tram--maybe with your cycle-- in an Ashford suburb. The service stops frequently in town, but accelerates quickly out of Ashford using the standard heavy rail line. On the approach to Canterbury the tram deviates to street-run through Thanington, passing over the crumbling A2 to skirt Wincheap through the intensively-used hi-tech industrial estate and arrives adjacent to the East Station. This is a major interchange providing access on heavy rail to Dover and Faversham, and on light rail to the University and Whitstable. There are frequent tramstops. Beyond the East Station there are a number of alternative routes that could be used to enable the trams to re-join the heavy rail route near Sturry and continue onwards to the Thanet Metro. These could include street-running through the new Whitefriars development, thoughtfully designed to accommodate transport measures beyond road transport as we currently know it. Or the route could join the rail line to Dover for a short distance, deviating near the New Dover Road to skirt and give access to the FE college, Spring Lane, Canterbury Christ Church College, City Council Offices and the Law Courts before yet again re-joining the heavy rail system. And let us not forget the regeneration of that old rail track bed to Whitstable. Heading south from Whitstable, this could be part re-used to give access to the University and then re-unite with the tracks at the West Station and briefly head along the heavy rail route towards Ashford before joining the ring road and swinging round to the East Station Interchange. Electric buses of various sizes complete the picture serving outlying villages. What do you think? Are we to be continually at the mercy of “predict and provide” policies pandering to ever-more road traffic or do we want to play a part in shaping a sustainable future? Do we want for example an attractive, quiet, fume-free, intensively used city centre along the lines described by Richard Rogers (3) which will help reverse the trend towards dispersed car-led unsustainable rural settlement and “out-of-town” thinking? Armed with Local Agenda 21, let the debate truly begin..........
 
References:
 1 HMSO Policy Planning Guidance 12 and 13, London: HMSO
2. http://www/iclei.org/epis/egpc-026.html - link not avaliable.
3. Rogers,.R. (1995) “Looking towards Compact City” The Independent 20th Feb.
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