York A1237 northern by pass improvements update

City of York Council’s Executive will receive an update on the improvements to York’s Outer Ring Road (YORR) at next week’s Executive including funding bids to dual sections of the ring road.

Due to challenges with acquisition of land through negotiation, the report requests that the Executive approve, in principle, that the council could pursue Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) to acquire the necessary land to deliver the Monks Cross Junction improvements, although negotiations with land owners will continue in the meantime to try and avoid this.

It will also recommend that the Council borrows £5 million to enable the delivery of the upgraded Clifton Moor Roundabout with a future proofed design to provide access and a pedestrian/ cycle underpass to a proposed new housing development within the Draft Local Plan.  It recommends that officers identify opportunities to reduce the CYC contribution through external funding (HIF, developer contributions etc.) which if successful will reduce overall CYC borrowing.

The report, if approved, will request officers to undertake a study of how the benefits of any dualling of the ring road can enable greater sustainable transport options across the city as travel around the ring road becomes easier.

The outer ring road roundabout upgrade scheme will see a total of seven roundabouts upgraded as part of the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund scheme.

It is hoped that increasing the capacity of the city’s outer ring road will help to redistribute traffic in and around the city, enabling residents and visitors to move around more sustainably and positively benefit city centre air quality

The York Outer Ring Road improvements programme is being funded through the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund, and the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion package of Government investment through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.

Cost of recharging point project increases from £700,000 to £2.2m

The electric vehicle “hyper hub” vehicle rapid recharging points planned to be installed at Poppleton and Monks Cross have trebled.

Solar canopy

In March a report quoted the cost at £700,000. The scheme envisaged the use of a solar canopy with battery storage facilities. The scheme was to have been funded entirely from central government grants.

Existing Council owned charging points, although criticised for poor maintenance standards,  have usage rates of over 1500 sessions per month, and have also been a catalyst for the use of electric buses on the Park&Ride network. York is an air quality management area with regular exceedances of NO2 levels in urban highly populated areas due principally to transport emissions resulting in air pollution.

High power charging brings challenges for the UK local grids in providing short term peak power capacity and reducing the carbon intensity of fuels from a national grid perspective. The Hyper Hubs aims to resolve both of these issues by reducing the peak power demand on the grid and prioritising renewable energy supply through the supply of low carbon energy generated on site.

The plans envisage 8 recharging points at each site. The electric vehicle infrastructure element of the project is to purchase and install the DC ‘hyper’ charging points (faster than current ‘rapid’ charge speed points at 50kW) which will supply the energy to the vehicles. These will be installed in a Hub of eight car bays which can supply up to 150kW power output per car, with a typical charging session taking 10-20 minutes. By way of comparison, a typical home charging point takes around eight hours to charge an electric vehicle.

charging work

A typically electric vehicle will have between 30kWh and 100kWh of battery capacity. Most vehicles will be able to travel 4~5 miles per kWh. A typical charging session on a 150kW charger would give ~200 miles range in 20 minutes depending on the battery pack’s initial state of charge.

Earlier in the year the project was criticised for prioritising out of town locations for the chargers. It was pointed out that the terraced streets which are generally located towards the City centre did not have easy access to rapid chargers and that a more conventional approach to power supply might there have greater results. (The Council have abolished ResPark charging discounts for other than ULEVs).

That controversy may reappear now with the cost per recharging point having soared to £138,000 each. It means that the Council will not be able to fund alternatives either in the form of better cycling facilities (better road repairs) or many more rapid charging units at a cost of less than £30,000 per unit.

The cost of installing 50 on street chargers (of which a government subsidy would be available) would be in the region of £250,000.

York taxpayers are being asked to contribute around £400,000 to the costs of the hyper hubs.

It is unclear what fees will be payable by users of the chargers

The Council says that the reliability of its existing charging hub network is improving.

“In 2013 City of York Council led the way in encouraging low emission vehicle usage by installing a range of APT (brand) public charging infrastructure sites for electric vehicles around the City. However, being an early adopter has meant that much of the estate is now life expired, unreliable and some of the charge points have 3 pin sockets which no longer meet The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017”.

Whilst the ambition to install EV was positive and the outcome was good at the time, this was not supported by a wider strategy associated with the installations in terms of the overall management, support and maintenance.

In response to this, the assets have now been moved in terms of responsibility and an audit of the current estate has been undertaken.

 At the time of the audit around 44% of the chargers were operational.

Full Council approved £25k to invest in the short-term repair and maintenance of the assets.

 The Transport Systems team is now in the process of commissioning the work to put in place the repairs to the assets and 84% of the charging units are now functional

Blocked paths – report them now

Following an exchange of views on social media we have received several more complaints about obstructions on foot and cycle paths.

In the main this is caused by overgrown hedges but in some cases low hanging tree branches are to blame while the, still out of control, infestation of hazardous weeds like nettles and brambles remains a problem.

Most of the overgrowing vegetation is the York Councils responsibility to cut back.

We urge residents to Report any issues. (Just don’t expect to get any feedback from the Council!)

If no action is taken then escalate the issue to your local Councillor.

We think getting problems like these sorted out should be a top priority for the Council as such obstacles represent an increased hazard as nightfall creeps ever earlier.

Several obstructions on the York Cycle network

Blitz on weeds starts in York

We are told that a new round of weed spraying has started.

The Council will also send an “in house” team out to deal with problem locations such as traffic islands.

The news comes after 3 months of complaints. Many parts of the city had become overgrown.

Earlier this week an official admitted that several key entrance roads into the City – including the A59 – had been omitted from the contract specification

The councils spaying contractor is understood to have taken on new staff in an attempt to improve quality standards.

The weeds should start to die back after a few days. Councillors are being asked to report any areas which might be missed. Residents should therefore highlight issues to their local representative.

In the mean time we have reported several new problem locations

Blocked gully in Queenswood Grove
Chesney Field snicket choked with cans and weeds. Vegetation needs cutting back
Weed growth and poor sweeping in St Pauls Square
Weeds overwhelming Baildon Close
Weeds in Otterwood Lane and nearby snicket
Tithe Close snicket needs a good clean
Several back lanes in the Milner Street/Severus Street area are obstructed by overgrown hedges

Plan to grit 11 miles of York’s cycle network

New off road vehicles are set to be used to grit 11miles (18km) of York’s cycle network this winter.

If successful, the pilot could be extended across the city to help keep cyclists safer in winter conditions.

A report detailing the pilot will be taken to a public meeting on Thursday 19 September, for approval to start during the winter season between November and March.

The pilot includes using two different vehicles to grit 11miles (18km) of cycle network, using small all-terrain vehicles including a quad bike and a gator type machine.

The trial is welcome but rather distracts attention from other more pressing issues facing cyclists.

Many cycle paths in the City are obstructed

Many cycle paths are currently obstructed by overhanging hedge and tree branches. Unchecked weed growth has also reduced path widths as has the failure of the Council to systematically “edge” verges.

Perhaps the most pressing issue though is potholes. These affect some cycle lanes and many inner sections of carriageways – the surfaces most used by cyclists.

It is now 10 years since the last major programme of cycle margin maintenance works took place in the City.

The Council says that, “Popular cycle routes have been chosen for the de-icing trial, including the new Scarborough Bridge and other off road bridges too.

The introduction of the new smaller vehicles will ensure the networks are effectively gritted.  Off road cycle networks are often difficult to grit or salt because cycles don’t have the same weight or action as a vehicle tyre. Effective gritting works by vehicles driving over the grit with their tyres which beds the grit into the snow and ice.

Whilst cars or heavy vehicles generally follow the same tyre path. Cycle tyres are much thinner and therefore these typical treatments are less effective.

For the pilot, the council will hire the vehicles and if, following the pilot, the council decides to roll this scheme out across York, it will look to purchase new vehicles to the council’s fleet.

The cost of the pilot is estimated to be £42k. This will be met by the current winter maintenance budget which is £401k.

By its nature the winter maintenance budget is not predictable, in 2018/19 there was an underspend of £61k. Should this not occur in 2019/20 there is a winter maintenance contingency available of £258k, in addition to the annual budget, which could be utilised.

This pilot will not formally be part of the council’s Winter Service Plan, but will run alongside this a pilot.  After the winter the pilot will be assessed and considered for formally incorporating into the Winter Service Plan”.

Preparing for the winter season:

The council has stockpiled 3,000 tonnes of grit, which is stored in its grit barn at Hazel Court depot.

On average, crews spread around 4,500 tonnes of grit per season, over 75 road treatments (gritter runs).

Each season, crews treat eight routes across the highway, covering 365km of York’s road network, including 22km of priority footpaths and, when recourses allow, 58km of cycle network.

The decision session takes place on Thursday 19 September at West Offices from 2pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch later online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

A copy of the report can be read by clicking here

Switched On event planned for “iTravel Savvy” month

Electric Fat Bike - Special Edition - Regal Electric Bikes

A variety of electric cars and bikes will be showcased at a Switched On event being staged by City of York Council’s iTravel team as part of a month-long programme of activities aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of sustainable forms of transport.

Switched On will take place at Monks Cross Shopping Centre on Saturday 14 September, from 10am to 4pm. Everyone is welcome to go along for free, independent advice and information.

The council’s Executive Member for Transport, Cllr Andy D’Agorne, said: “There will be a wide a selection of plug-in cars and electric bicycles on display, as well as free, independent advice on all things electric vehicle-related, courtesy of the iTravel team.

“If you like the idea of switching to electric and would like to find out more, do go along and chat to the team and take a look at some of the cars and bikes on display.

The Switched On event is just one of a series of activities planned for September as part of the team’s latest iTravel Savvy campaign. They will also be visiting workplaces across York with their sustainable travel message, asking commuters ‘are you travelling savvy’, as well as organising a series of volunteer-led, clean-up events to tidy up the city’s key walking and cycling routes.

This year, the iTravel team has linked up with the online platform Love To Ride and is encouraging York cyclists to register at www.lovetoride.net for the chance to win lots of great prizes. Those who do register can log details of their cycling journeys around the city, set goals for themselves, and encourage friends and family members to get involved, as well as further cementing York’s proud reputation as a cycling city by contributing to the number of miles clocked up by the city’s cyclists compared with those in other areas of the country.

In mid-August, 16 workplaces from across the city were represented at a free networking breakfast event at City Screen, where they were able to access information and advice on promoting sustainable travel to and from the workplace. A number of guest speakers shared their own inspiring ideas and examples of how employees can be encouraged to ditch their cars in favour of sustainable forms of transport, such as buses, bicycles and walking.

Among the guest speakers was Sarah Murdoch, senior environmental consultant at TSP Projects Ltd, a York-based business that has been particularly proactive in promoting sustainable travel to its workforce.

Sarah explained: “There’s so much free help, support and advice available through the council’s iTravel team; I’d definitely encourage other employers to make full use of it.

“Here at TSP Projects, we are lucky that our office location is just around the corner from the train station and numerous bus stops. We actively encourage staff to cycle where possible and over 40 staff already do this on a regular basis. We are currently working on a business travel plan to explore new ways in which we can introduce sustainable travel. It’s an initiative that is under constant review as new opportunities arise.”

 iTravel Savvy month aims to highlight the many benefits to the individual of adopting sustainable forms of transport, which include saving money and improving their health and well-being, as well as the benefits to the wider community and the environment, which include reducing congestion and improving air quality.

For more information about iTravel Savvy, visit www.itravelyork.info or email itravel@york.gov.uk.

More talks about UBER

York’s licensing committee will again consider the vexed question of UBER private hire vehicles operating in York when they meet next week.

A decision on what, if any, action should be taken is due to be taken by the Councils Executive on 26th September.

The Council has now published a formal legal opinion on whether UBER vehicles, registered with other local authorities can legally accept bookings in York. The council’s position is that, provided the three licences required in relation to a private hire vehicle (operator, driver and vehicle) have all been issued by the same authority, then the private hire vehicle can undertake journeys anywhere in England and Wales. This opinion can be read by clicking here

 An alternative opinion was provided via the local trade association

The meeting report reveals that national legislation is planned which will aim to clear up the confusion about what private hire vehicles can and can’t do and where.

In the meantime, officials are recommending that there is no change to the Councils existing policies.

We have sympathy for both sides in this argument. The local trade may be partly motivated by protectionism. But passenger safety is of paramount importance and standards do appear to vary across the region.

This seems to us like a suitable case on which the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (which includes York) could take a lead.

On the other hand, in a modern world, being able to summon a private hire vehicle using a smartphone app seems like a “no brainer”. If the App tells you what the vehicle will be, when it will arrive, who will be driving it and how much the journey will cost, then all to the good.

The York licencing department does need to crack down on unlawful pick-ups and prevent private hire vehicles (from all companies) from “lurking” near taxi ranks and in busy areas.

That would be the best use of resources and Council officials time.

Changes to tendered bus services in York

Bellhouse Way will lose its early evening service

The York Council has finally caught up with social media and confirmed which bus operators will provide which subsidised services from next week.

The Council says, “following a decision made by City of York Council’s Executive last month, arrangements have now been made for the continued operation of tendered bus services when the current contracts expire next Saturday 31 August”.

“Commercial interest from bus operators First York and Reliance means that some of the routes that previously required financial support from the council now need a reduced level of support or, in some cases, none at all”.

Timetables will be available at www.itravelyork.info from early next week, and the new service arrangements are as follows:

Service 10: First York will operate the evening service commercially (with no financial support from the council) from Monday 2 September. Journey times will be very similar to those currently provided by Transdev.

Service 11: First York will continue to operate the evening service, with financial support from the council.

Service 12: First York will operate the daytime service commercially from Monday 2 September. First York will also operate a commercial evening service between Acomb Park, Moor Lane and the city centre until approximately 9.30pm from Monday to Saturday.

Service 14: Transdev will operate an evening service, with financial support from the council, from Monday 2 September. This will include hourly journeys between Haxby (West Nooks) and the city centre all evening, extending to Woodthorpe and Foxwood after First York’s commercial service finishes at around 9.30pm. This means that the bus service along Alness Drive, Acomb Wood Drive and Bellhouse Way will not operate until late evening.

Service 19: Reliance will operate the weekday service commercially from Monday 2 September, with the exception of one morning peak-time journey, which will require support from the council. Transdev will operate the Saturday service, with financial support from the council. Journey times will be similar to those provided currently.

Service 20: Transdev will continue to operate the service, with financial support from the council.

Service 21: York Pullman will operate this service with financial support from the council, starting from Saturday 31 August. Journey times will be very similar to those provided currently by the Connexionsbuses service but, to improve reliability, all trips will terminate and start in the city centre, rather than at the Morrisons store off Foss Island Road.

Services 24, 25 and 26 will all be operated by Transdev, with financial support from the council, from Saturday 31 August. Journey times will be very similar to those currently offered by Arriva. Transdev will also operate the Friday and Saturday late evening service 26.

Cycling to be allowed on High Petergate?

It looks like the York Council will reintroduce cycling access on High Petergate. The street which links through Bootham Bar was pedestrianised many years ago.

This did make cyclists traveling north to south dismount or take a more circuitous route.

Shared pedestrian/cycle space can work and is popular in some continental City’s such as Bruges.

However, in York, there are some cyclists who travel too fast in shared spaces like that around the Minster and the narrow streets around Bootham Bar are often packed with tourists who may be unaware of local conventions.

So we hope that any trial will include advice for cyclists to give way to pedestrians.

A decision on the plan is expected to be taken at a meeting being held on 24th October.

NB. Any cycle routes will permit cycling in High Petergate in a southerly direction (i.e. from Bootham Bar to Duncombe Place ) only at all times. The street would remain one way. There are no plans to allow cycling in other footstreets.