Congestion “Commission” was an expensive gimmick

Although there has been no official statement from the new coalition rulers at the York Council, it seems likely that plans to establish a “congestion commission” will be scrapped when it holds its first Executive meeting on 25th June.

The Council leadership are right to get some of the detritus that it inherited, from the last administration, out of the way quickly.

Similar statements of intent would be welcome on issues such as the future of the Guildhall, the Knights rugby club, Coppergate fines. Oliver House etc.

Coppergate - Time to move on

Coppergate – Time to move on

The “Commission” idea was floated by a discredited administration which was desperately trying to recover from the Lendal Bridge shambles. Rather than face the criticism that is usually attached to taking any decision about transport in the City, Labour hoped to deflect the odium onto third parties. Hence the establishment of a Commission which would no doubt have agonised again about congestion charging and the like.

The debates would have been at a huge cost to taxpayers – £135,000 was quoted.

The Council already has a transport plan. It was agreed in 2011 and offers a balance of initiatives aimed at reducing congestion. It needs updating, not least because the decision to bring a trial cross river access restriction forward from 2025 to 2013 has seriously damaged its credibility.

But any transport strategy has to be affordable. With dualling of the northern by pass still elusively outside the resources of even the “combined authority”, talk of trams, tubes, extra river bridges and river buses would be just that – talk.

A1237 dualling still illusive

A1237 dualling still illusive

Any updated transport plan needs to build on what has been successful over the past decade when congestion levels have remained more or less stable.

There has been some modal shift to cycles and walking. Buses were becoming more popular until Labour made the grand gesture of evicting the ftr without having anything half as attractive to passengers to substitute, while new roundabouts on the A1237 have eased bottlenecks.

Now Labour have played an old – and discredited card – when claiming that “80 people a year” die in York as a result of poor air quality. This was the favourite claim of former transport chief Dave Merrett who – after much pressing – admitted that the figure was simply a local extrapolation of national respiratory death statistics.

No one knows how many local deaths, through respiratory diseases, are caused by the pollutants emitted by vehicles (or industry for that matter) but most would, no doubt,  support verifiable actions to address locations where pollution levels are sometimes high (mainly narrow terraced streets like Gillygate).

New electric bus fleet launched last week

New electric bus fleet launched last week

So some marks should be awarded to the last Council for beginning the roll out of the type of electric buses first trialled in the City in 2010.

More of this kind of thinking – making the best use of advancing technologies – will take the city forward in a measured and affordable way and with a reasonable chance of carrying the local population with it.

i-Travel York on Acomb doorsteps

More than 6,000 homes in the Acomb and Poppleton areas of York will be able to benefit from free travel advice when a team of i-Travel York travel advisors continues one of the biggest door-to-door exercises undertaken in York.

Over 8,000 homes in the city have already befitted from the personal travel planning scheme throughout 2013/14. During this time nearly 30,000 individual resource items and 6,000 personal travel challenges were issued to residents.

From Tuesday 19 May, i-Travel York advisers will be visiting households, beginning in Poppleton, to encourage even more residents to consider using more sustainable and active modes of transport including walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing.

As part of the exercise, advisers will provide information such as bus and cycle maps, and offer personal ‘challenges’ for individuals to try out a new form of sustainable transport.  Participants will also receive incentives such as a free All-York bus taster ticket, a pedometer or a bike health check to help them on their way.

York looking a lot different this morning

Residents who went to bed last night knowing only the General Election outcome, will blink when they read the York Council poll results this morning

Labour have had their worst election result since the unitary authority was formed in 1997.

end behind closed door

Half the Labour Cabinet have lost their seats including the prime architects of the “behind closed doors” decision making processes introduced 4 years ago. Cllrs Tracey Simpson Laing, Dave Merrett and Lindsey Cunningham have followed James Alexander out of the door.

The new Council is well and truly balanced with Labour scraping back with 15 seats to the Tories 14 and LibDem 12. There are also 4 Greens and 2 Independents on the Council. Significantly the Tories got the largest number of votes (but not by many) while the LibDems share, at 24%, was three time the national average achieved by the party

The new Council needs to take time to make sure that it comes up with a decision making structure that is open, considered and sensitive to resident’s views.

The Council will have to decide how much time to spend calling the previous, secretive, Council to account. Labour and their allies halted plans for an inquiry into the Lendal Bridge/Coppergate shambles, secrecy still prevails on failed social care projects, delays to major schemes like the community stadium were never properly explained, while the £185,000 loss on the “Grand Departy” was swept under the carpet.

The Council will need to consider carefully how much time to spend looking under dirty floor-coverings.

“Labour” is a toxic term for many residents when used in the local government context in York. The three Labour Councillors who left that Group, in protest at the mismanagement, all lost their seats yesterday. They will have the consolation that fewer errors were made by the Council in the period since last October when they took their courageous step.

New personalities are needed to lead the Council.

The Council will also need to review its senior officer team in the light of the decision of the Chief Executive to accept a new post elsewhere.

While many may feel that something like the old committee system would satisfy these objectives, there will be opposition to what they may term “turning back the clocks”.

It will be the first test for the newly elected Councillors.

Consensus government does by definition require compromise.

Six to fix May 2015

York Council to spend £5.8 million on transport improvements over next 12 months

No ring road improvements scheduled. Little being spent on reducing congestion

The Councils transport investment programme has been published. As usual the devil will be in the detail and the programme could be scrapped if there are major changes in the make-up of the Council at the May 7th polls.

Bus Services

Around £775,000 is to be spent on improvements to bus services.  £250,000 of this will go on the delays Rougier Street bus shelter while £200,000 will address “pinch point improvements”. Once again sub-urban areas fare badly in the allocations (separately on the agenda for the same meeting a £20,000 plan to improve facilities in Rawcliffe is recommended for rejection)

Traffic congestion

Proposed extra lane for A19 pinch point

Proposed extra lane for A19 pinch point

£2 million is being spent easing the “pinch point” on the A19 near the Designer Outlet. Much less is being spent elsewhere in the £2.4 million budget although the modernisation of variable message boards – which have been increasingly unreliable – is welcome.

Cycling/Pedestrian schemes

£468,000 is being spent on a range of small schemes. The biggest is the provision of a cycle link at Scarborough Bridge. This is mostly being covered by central government grant.

Road Safety

Wetherby Road VAS

Wetherby Road VAS

This is only being allocated £450,000 in the programme which is still driven by Labour priorities.  School safety schemes, school crossing warning signs, “speed management” and the renewal of the vehicle activated signs (VAS), like those on Wetherby Road and Green Lane, will all get a boost.

Money is also asset aside to develop future improvements and to continue maintenance of the City Walls. The alleygating programme will also continue.

No expenditure on improvements to the northern by pass is expected over the next 12 months despite promises from the Labour Council leadership that this was now one of their priorities.

Latest “behind closed doors” decisions by York Council

Behind closed doors logoHolgate Road cycle lane

Parking is to be removed and cycle lanes installed on the uphills section of Holgate Road between Poppleton Road and Watson Street.

Some currently unrestricted carriageway will become Respark spaces.

Click here for diagram showing the proposals

Osbaldwick Lane – extension of 20 mph zone with traffic calming

Click here for map of (revised at annex B) plans

Millthorpe Secondary School – School Keep Clear

Making an Order will allow enforcement of the existing School Keep Clear zig-zag markings, to prevent dangerous parking by the entrance at school times and therefore improve safety for pupils.

Click here for a copy of the plan

Archbishop Holgate’s School – Proposed School Keep Clear and No Waiting At Any Time Traffic Regulation Orders

Click here for copy of plan (annex B)

Pinch Point Scheme, A19 South Transport Corridor – Phase 1 (Designer Outlet/Fulford area)

Click  here for proposed revised layout


Find out more about the major refurbishment of Scarborough rail bridge

Residents, businesses and passengers can find out more about the refurbishment of Scarborough rail bridge (York) this week, as the team behind the work holds an open day.

Scarborough Railway Bridge

Scarborough Railway Bridge

On Thursday, 4 December, between 10am and 7pm, at the site offices in Marygate car park, Frederic Street (YO30 7DT), anyone who is interested in the work is encouraged to come along, ask questions and find out more. Attendees can speak to the people running this major project about the plans, the work being undertaken and how long it’s going to take.

The £6m investment is the most significant since the bridge was built in 1875 and, once complete, will mean that the bridge is fit for another 120 years’ service. Work will involve replacing bridge decks, track and installing a new walkway for railway workers. The project is due to complete in April 2015.

Huntington Road chicanes on way back?

Huntington Road proposals click to access

Huntington Road proposals click to access

City of York Council is proposing to reinstate chicanes (traffic calming measures) on Huntington Road, near the former Sessions printers, which were temporarily removed during the development of new homes in the area.

There was a requirement to remove the existing priority give-way measures (chicanes) during the development as they would have caused problems for construction traffic and access onto Huntington Road.

Temporary speed cushions were installed prior to the work commencing, as required under the planning conditions. However, in the long term it was always understood that the chicanes would be restored when most of the construction work was completed and suitable new positions had been agreed.

To help identify where the replacement chicanes would be best positioned, the new street layout was assessed and the proposals were put forward for local consultation with local residents, parish councillors, local businesses, relevant ward councillors and relevant road user organisations.

Following this consultation, it is recommended that the council reinstates the chicanes and cost of installing these will be met by the developer Ben Bailey Ltd.

Local Liberal Democrats have criticised the limited public consultationon plans to reinstate chicanes on Huntington Road.

The plans, which were announced today and are due to be decided on next week, would reinstate chicanes on Huntington Road, near the former Sessions printers. The chicanes were removed during the development of new homes in the area. However, only a limited public consultation took place on the plans despite the number of cars which use the road. Liberal Democrat councillors had requested that consultation letters be sent out to a much wider area than just those properties adjacent to the scheme.

Cllr Keith Orrell, Councillor for Huntington and New Earswick, commented: (more…)

Walk to School Week

School pupils around York are getting ready to take Walk to School Week in their stride when it takes place from 13-17 October.

Twenty nine schools and 8,700 pupils across the city are taking part in this year’s campaign to encourage even more children to walk, cycle or scoot to school.walking bus 2


The school that gets the highest number of pupils walking, cycling or scooting throughout the week will win the coveted Jack Archer award and £400, partly funded by Age UK.

‘Scoot to School’ day will also take place on Wednesday 15. To encourage students to scoot the school with the most pupils who scoot to school on that day will win a Scooter Pod worth £300 donated by CyclePod.

It is recommended that children aged five to sixteen do at least sixty minutes of physical activity that gets their heart beating faster than usual and they need to do it everyday to burn off calories and prevent them storing up excess fat in the body.

Regular activity is also important for adults and it is recommended that adults make sure they’re active for just 30 minutes each day, or 150 minutes a week.

The scheme is also targeted at families who normally take the car, and encourages them to consider walking or cycling to school instead.

Residents can find out more about changing the way they travel in York at: (more…)

Crunch vote tomorrow on future of two Labour Councillors

The Labour councillors responsible for the botched Lendal Bridge trial will formally face calls to resign at tomorrow night’s meeting of York’s Full Council.


Council Leader James Alexander and Cllr Dave Merrett, the Cabinet Member responsible for the trial, will both face a vote to decide whether they keep their jobs.

The move is part of a Liberal Democrat motion which also calls for the 60,000 motorists fined for crossing Lendal Bridge to be repaid automatically without having to apply for a refund.

So far Labour has only said York Council will reimburse people who apply for a repayment.

The motion follows the embarrassing U-Turn last week when Labour announced that it would drop its appeal against a Government Traffic Adjudicator ruling which said the Lendal Bridge closure was unlawful.

In April Cllr Merrett said that if the trial was proved to be unlawful he would resign, telling BBC Radio York: “Yes, I accept that at the end of the day that if we’ve got it wrong to that extent that I’d have to resign”.

In April Cllr Merrett lost responsibility for Transport, but kept his Cabinet post taking control of Environmental Services.


Park & Pedal initiative commended at national awards

City of York Council’s Park & Pedal scheme, which was the first of its kind in the UK, has been commended at the 2014 British Parking Awards in the cycle parking category.

The scheme which was launched eleven months ago in partnership with McArthurGlen York Designer Outlet, TSYS (Total System Services Inc) and First Bus Park & Ride, aims to encourage commuters to park their cars free of charge at the Park and Ride and use their cycles to ride into York.