Agenda item

Update on the Preparation of the Staffordshire Local Transport Plan

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report of the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport updating them on the progress made in the preparation of a new Staffordshire Local Transport Plan (LTP4) (schedule 1 to the signed minutes).

 

The County Council were required to produce a Local Transport Plan under the Transport Act 2008 setting out the transport goals and objectives for their area with a view to maintaining and improving transportation for residents for the period until 2025.

 

At their meeting on 22 March 2023, the Committee learned of new draft Guidance for LTPs which had been published by Central Government. Whilst final Statutory Guidance was still awaited, recent announcements (eg cancellation of HS2 Phase 2 and delay in the ban of new petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles), indicated a shift in national transport policy. However, work was continuing on the preparation of a new Plan owing to its importance for the Authority’s Highway Maintenance and Integrated Block allocations, bids for external funding (eg Network North grants) and the need to give clarity to their approach to managing and maintaining the existing Highway network etc.

 

Members learned that an important aspect of producing LTP4 was an evaluation of the success of the policies included in the previous LTP3. Therefore, they noted the following objectives contained in this Plan together with the Cabinet Members’ assessment of the extent to which each objective had been met over the Plan period:-

 

(i) Improve Journey Time Reliability

 

Data from the Department for Transport indicated that there had been an overall increase in vehicle miles travelled from 5.63 billion in 2011 to 5.87 in 2022. Whilst various Highway Improvement schemes had sought to facilitate the expeditious movement of traffic data from the National Highway and Transport Satisfaction Survey indicated an 8% fall in the level of satisfaction in addressing congestion.

 

(ii) Improve Access to Employment

 

Improving access to existing and new employment sites in the County had been a primary for the Council. Although, employment levels were not directly linked to improvements in transportation, they had increased during the Plan period. In addition, the number of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training had seen significant reductions when compared to neighbouring Authorities.

 

(iii) Maintain Current Condition of the Highway Network

 

Maintaining the condition of the Highway network had been particularly challenging since 2011 owing to a reduction in funding by Central Government, increasing costs and higher volume of traffic. However, in March 2023 the County Council an extra £30m investment in Highway works during 2024/25 and 2025/26 in addition to their existing £50m annual spend on Highway maintenance.

 

(iv)  Increase Bus Patronage Levels

 

Bus patronage had shown a significant overall decline during LTP3’s plan period. There had been 22 million passenger journeys in 2009/10 whereas there had only been 5.9 million journeys in 2018/19. This trend had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which saw 9.1 million during 2021/22. However, certain routes in Tamworth and between South Staffordshire and the West Midlands conurbation had seen growth. In addition, there had been continued investment in bus transport infrastructure eg bus stops and passenger information displays during this time.

 

(v) Improve Access to Town Centres

 

The County Council had invested in several regeneration schemes including in Lichfield and Burton-on-Trent. Also, the Authority had worked to enhance Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre (and access to it) using a combination of public and developer funding.

 

(vi) Reduce Cost of Travel for the Young, Elderly and those with Disabilities

 

Schemes promoted by the County Council that have sought to reduce the cost of travel for young, elderly and those with disabilities, included the Concessionary Fare Scheme for people over 66 years, the Concessionary Fare Scheme for Disabled People, Staffordshire Young Persons’ Travel Card, and the Wheels 2 Work Scheme.

 

(v) Reduce the Number of Road Casualties

 

Staffordshire continued to perform well in reducing the number of Road casualties in the County, year on year.  Countywide programmes such as Safer Routes to School and Bikeability focused on children – one of the county’s main vulnerable road user groups. It was estimated that approximately 120,000 pupils had received Bikeability training since 2010. In addition, clusters of accidents had been addressed through local safety measures such as anti-skid surfacing, average speed cameras, junction modifications, traffic calming, speed limit reviews, gateways, signing and improved road markings.

 

(vi) Reduce Road Transport Co2 Emmisions

 

CO2 emissions from road transport on the local road network was estimated to have fallen from 1659.8 kilo tonnes in 2008 to 1173.7 kilo tonnes in 2020. This was mainly due to advances in vehicle and fuel technology but was also evidenced by a reduction in the number of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in the County from 17 to 6.

 

(vii) Maintain Levels of Recreational Cycling

 

Sustainable and active travel was an increasing priority for the County Council and Central Government and significant levels of funding had been made available to achieve LTP3’s objective. Investment had been made to improve sections of the National Cycle Network, including routes linking to Stafford and Newcastle-under Lyme, as well as cycle connections serving Uttoxeter, Burton-on-Trent and Staffordshire Moorlands.

 

In addition, they also learned of:- (i) the  proposed evidence base for LTP4; (ii) the two Guiding Principles for preparation of the Plan which had so far emerged (‘Provide a Transport System that Promotes High Quality, Prosperous Places and Puts People First” and “Reduce Dependency on Petrol and Diesel Vehicles); (iii) funding opportunities arising from Central Government’s Network North initiative following the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2; (iv) a one-day event planned for March 2024 to provide officers with an opportunity to identify and discuss ideas for short-term deliverable schemes within a five-year implementation plan together with their medium and long term ideas for delivery of the LTP4’s Vision and; (v) proposed governance arrangements including the establishment of an Internal Working Group, External Sounding Board and Project Board.

 

In the full and wide-ranging discussion which ensued Members gave detailed scrutiny to performance against LTP3’s various Objectives together with the progress made in preparing LTP4, asking questions, seeking clarification and raising areas of concern as necessary, including:- (i) measures aimed at seeking residents views on the draft document; (ii) how LTP4 would dovetail with other County Council key policy documents eg Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy; (iii) the need for robust cross boarder consultation arrangements with other Local Authorities; (iv) the role of taxis in providing access to public transport where bus services were either absent or infrequent; (v) the unique needs of Staffordshire’s rural areas; (vi) co-ordination with District/Borough and Parish Councils; (vii) the role of the ‘Lichfield South’ Development in improving access to existing and new employment sites and its inclusion into LTP4’s evidence base; (viii) the role of local Members in promoting alternative methods of transport eg cycling and the need to include relevant data on the use of cycleways into LTP4’s evidence base and; (iv) the need for innovative solutions and a renewed partnership approach to maintain the reductions in road accident casualty statistics which had been achieved.

 

In conclusion, Members welcomed the significant progress which had been made towards achieving many of LTP3’s objectives. However, they were disappointed to hear that bus patronage levels had also declined in the County, in line with national trends. They spoke of the need for greater clarity from Central Government regarding national policy and looked forward to the publication of statutory guidance. However, they supported the assumptions which had been made by the Cabinet Member in the interim, having regard to the importance of LTP4 to the Authority’s Highway Maintenance and Integrated Transport Block funding allocations.

 

They were also reassured that the proposed evidence base for preparation of LTP4 was comprehensive.

 

RESOLVED – (a) That the report be received and noted.

 

(b) That the significant progress which had been made in achieving many of LTP3’s objectives be welcomed.

 

(c) That the early progress which had been made in the preparation of LTP4 be welcomed. 

 

(b) That further scrutiny be given to LTP4’s progress, particularly having regard to the absence of Statutory Guidance, at the appropriate time, as necessary.

Supporting documents: