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Houses could bring bus services to a standstill warn transport chiefs

Wellesbourne Airfield
Wellesbourne Airfield

Meanwhile representatives from Johnsons Coach and Bus Travel said that unless there was more joined up thinking about the town’s infrastructure they didn’t know how people would get in and out of Stratford in five years’ time.

The concerns come during the same week that Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi announced that a public consultation will be held this Friday 22nd at Stratford ArtsHouse regarding traffic proposals for Birmingham Road.

Announcing the consultation last Wednesday, Mr Zahawi said: “Tackling the problem of traffic in Stratford has been one of my top priorities since first being elected, and was once again a key promise last May. This consultation is the next step towards delivering that promise.

We have to get this right. Congestion has damaged the image of the town, and interfered with the lives of my constituents for too long already. Finding the right solution and implementing it in a lasting way can’t be done overnight, but I’m excited that we have progress in the form of this consultation on the proposals, and that local people will get to have their say. I look forward to a good turnout of constituents on the 22nd January, looking at the solutions that have been proposed, and letting Warwickshire County Council know what option they think is the best.”

The ongoing traffic nightmare in Stratford was once again thrown into the spotlight following a representation by travel firm Stagecoach over the core strategy and in particular 3,500 new homes at Long Marston.

Stagecoach has admitted that it might have to reduce or even change certain bus routes if the homes are granted.

At times blunt but also lucid the representation by Stagecoach can be summed up in just a few words; more houses means more cars and more congestion. And at a time when people are being encouraged to be less car dependent, the coach and bus operator says it cannot absolutely guarantee that some routes and journey times, particularly those to Long Marston and Meon Vale, won’t be seriously affected if the new homes get the green light.

Perhaps the most telling part of the representation from Stagecoach is the following: “The current level of congestion already seriously undermines our ability to provide a reliable service, to the standards that we achieve elsewhere. Offering journey times that are attractive compared with personal car use is also vital if bus patronage is to increase. If this situation is to further worsen, as the evidence supporting the plan indicates will be the case, even with proposed mitigations in place, the overall viability of our wider local network, which serves Stratford as the principal service centre, risks being seriously undermined.”

Steve Burd managing Director of Stage Coach Midlands explained: “There is always a problem with traffic congestion across major towns that we serve but it’s worse in Stratford. It’s particularly bad in the spring and summer as one would expect because of the tourist season. Our difficulty is to run a service on time and there are times when we simply cannot run additional resources so we have to shorten the route. The congestion in Stratford town centre can particularly affect our Stratford to Coventry service and all linking routes, and while we try to remain competitive with car journey times, these hold-ups can literally add over 15 minutes or more to our service times. The Long Marston homes proposal is going to mean more homes and inevitably more cars on local roads which generates more congestion because families are car dependent. What we should be doing is trying to get more people to use public transport.”

Stagecoach says it understands the need for new homes, it just doesn’t believe the Long Marston site is the most viable option from a traffic and operational point of view particularly when the knock-on effect is taken into consideration. Stagecoach believes sites south east of Stratford, west of Wellesbourne, and west of Southam would make considerably more “sustainable and economically deliverable developments” than Long Marston.

John Johnson commercial director of Johnsons Coach and Bus Travel shared the concerns expressed by many about Stratford’s congestion problems and in particular the Birmingham Road, which is now the subject of a public consultation next Friday from 5pm to 7pm.

“I can only see things getting worse and in five years’ time I wonder how people will be getting into Stratford. The congestion on the Birmingham Road affects Park and Ride and our X20 and S20 services to Birmingham and Solihull also suffer from delays. What’s really needed is some joined up thinking between central government, local government, property developers and transport chiefs so we can create a proper infrastructure. Regardless of where housing development is placed there’s always going to be a problem with congestion,” Mr Johnson said.

“Ideally we could really use a protected bus route into town which would be better than sitting in traffic. Busses have to be part of the solution to Stratford’s traffic problems.”

*Ironically, a proposed reduction of the existing 50 mph speed limit to 30mph on the Birmingham Road next to Bishopton traffic island was discussed at Stratford Town Council on Tuesday evening.

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