Following an engaging Transition Tuesday in January, where we had a presentation on LTP4 from Herts County Council transport team, Transition Town Letchworth (TTL) have shared the following thoughts with the HCC Transport Team on what they would like to see addressed in LTP4 Supporting Documents

TTL believe that Letchworth should embrace the Transport User Hierarchy that is the centre piece of LTP4 putting in place a plan to become a Sustainable Travel Town. We are also keen to have good sustainable transport links to adjacent towns and to see high utilisation of public transport options. This note details our ideas for what needs to be covered in:

  • Letchworth’s Sustainable Travel Town Plan
  • North Central’s Growth and Transport Strategy
  • HCC’s Bus Strategy
  • HCC’s Rail Strategy
  • HCC’s Active Travel Strategy

Walking

There are a number of roads in Letchworth which can be hazardous for pedestrians and / or take a significant time to cross at peak traffic times. Many of these roads are on popular walking routes, including school routes. To ensure walking is a pleasant and safe experience Letchworth’Sustainable Transport Town Plan should include the identification of problem pedestrian road crossing points along with the most appropriate remedial action. Remedial action may take a number of forms, including, but in no way limited to, the introduction of a pedestrian crossing or preventing on-road parking where it forces pedestrians into the road to check for traffic.

Some examples of areas where road crossing issues need addressing are:

  • Onto Broadway Gardens,
  • Across Pixmore Way near the Nexus
  • Pixmore Way where it links to Gernon Way
  • Across Bridge Road,
  • Across Norton Way South (at Station Road end of Howard Gardens),
  • Across Icknield Road by Quadrant,
  • Across Broadway linking to the south side of Spring Road.
  • Across A505 at Greenway Crossings.
  • Southfields on the Grange,
  • From Jackman’s to Pixmore Way By St Paul’s Roundabout
  • Norton Road to St Nicholas School.
  • Under A1M

Letchworth’Sustainable Transport Town Plan should include improving the quality of footpaths. Improvements that may be necessary are:

  • Widening paths so they can be used by those with pushchairs or wheelchairs (e.g. Lytton Avenue, Souberie Avenue and A505 near Highfield)
  • Ensuring street lighting illuminates paths (not just roads).
  • Fixing uneven pavements.

Letchworth’Sustainable Transport Town Plan should address the provision of more direct walking routes. In the evening the closure of the Garden Square Shopping Centre and the Arcade extends walking routes as doesthe limited number of railway crossing points. Norton Common would benefit from an additional East West path.

Cycling

The piecemeal introduction of small segments of cycle track that have occurred in recent years has not delivered a modal shift to cycling. Letchworth’Sustainable Transport Town Plan should, therefore, include a comprehensive cycle network (which will include a mix of on and off-road elements) that provides safe and pleasant routes from homes to the town’s key destinations. Letchworth, along with Hitchin and Baldock, has been identified in LTP4 as a town that should benefit from cycle infrastructure improvements. TTL agree that there is plenty of potential to increase the levels of cycling and this will require improvements both within Letchworth and linking to nearby towns including those on the border of Bedfordshire.

TTL would like the revised HCC Active Travel Strategy to include:

  • delivery of a Hertfordshire Design Guide for Cycle Infrastructure which can be used by local communities to help them identify how best to achieve a safe and pleasant cycle network.
  • a county level campaign to educate drivers on how to improve their driving in relation to pedestrians and cyclists.

TTL consider it is important that any plans for improving the cycle network are developed in collaboration with the local community to get maximum buy-in to any proposals. Letchworth Cyclists, a group which TTL facilitates, has already produced a proposal for Cycle Network Plan for the Town. Letchworth Cyclists would be happy to see this work showcased in the North Central Growth and Transport Plan or Active Travel Strategy and would be happy to work with HCC piloting how this community work could be taken forward. The next steps are:

  • Identify the infrastructure requirements. These may range from none, road quietening, road improvements (e.g. redesign of linked mini-roundabouts along Icknield road, removal of speed bumps that encourage close passing of cyclists) through to building a segregated cycle track, for each element in the network,
  • Identify cycle network development phases. If cycling is the transport mode of choice for school it will set students up to cycle in their adult life, so TTL consider safe cycle routes to schools as an important focus for initial work.
  • Test the proposal with potential cycling converts to see if plan would encourage them to cycle.
  • Extend the network proposal to include links to adjacent towns. For example, with electric bikes increasing the distances people travel by bike, improving Route 12 to Stevenage would we believe support a modal shift in how some people travel to work.

Letchworth Public Transport Interchange

There is scope for improving Letchworth public transport connections. Bus stops are located at various locations round the town centre, with limited cover and seating for passengers waiting for a bus. TTL would like the North Central Growth and Transport Plan to include the redesign of the area outside the train station into a comprehensive public transport interchange. This would bring considerable benefit, reducing interchange times and making it easier for people to find the right service.

Public Transport: Buses

Fast reliable bus routes are required from Letchworth to Baldock, Hitchin and Luton. Links to Luton (which should not involve changing buses) need to connect with the Midlands Mainline and Luton Airport. Although there is a train service between Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock, the train stations are not all situated in the town centre and the need to change transport modes at the station or have an extended walk at each end of a journey deters people from using public transport. TTL therefore supportthe inclusion in the Core Bus Network of a link between Luton, Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock (LTP4 p67).

Although there is the option to travel by train between Stevenage and Letchworth, LTP4 identified this option as not well utilised. Taking the train to Stevenage is a much longer journey (in both time and distance) than a car journey between these towns, which would suggest that switching people from their car may be better achieved with an efficient direct bus service. If North Herts local plan is implemented there is an expectation that commuting levels between Baldock and Letchworth to Stevenage will increase. TTL would like the North Central Growth and Transport Plan to consider adding a bus link in the Core Bus Network from Baldock / Letchworth to Stevenage, with a connection to the Passenger Hub / Coachway planned at J8 of the A1M (LTP4 p104).

For people to switch to public transport for time critical journeys, they must be confident that a service will run and have space for them.TTL would like the Bus Strategy to include the introduction of ‘Bus Seat’ booking on buses from Letchworth to Luton Airport and Stevenage.

Afast, reliable public transport option needs to exist fromhousing estates to station, schools, retail areas and industrial areas to reduce the reliance on cars for local journeys. However, concerns have been expressed with bus services in North Herts. In particular they are:

  • Inadequate (particularly from the East of Town).
  • Infrequent and non-existent in the early morning or late at night.
  • Have long journey times.
  • Expensive.

For bus services to operate they need economic routes. Letchworth Sustainable Travel Town Plan should include piloting mechanisms to capture where there is current unmet demand which could be met through an economically viable bus service. For example, bookable seats could allow a better matching of vehicle size to passengers wanting to travel. Rail commuters may be a good target audience for a pilot project.

TTL hope HCC will utilise the Bus Services Act to get better leverage over the provision of services. TTL would like the Bus Strategy to include plans to move to Electric Buses.

Public Transport: Rail

Currently Letchworth has one station entrance on the south side of the town and station car parks are all on the south side of town. With only two roads in the town centre crossing the railway, Norton Way South and Bridge Road, Letchworth Sustainable Travel Town Plan should look to facilitate commuters parking on the north side of town. For example, if the Heath Centre and / or the Police Station relocate, this land could be used to provide parking. Recognising that increased parking may encourage commuters to use their cars rather than sustainable transport, the Letchworth Sustainable Travel Town Plan should counterbalance the additional station parking spaces by the removal of on-street parking options and ensure thatnew parking is provided in a way which incentivises car sharing, reduced car sizes and / or electric cars through pricing and / or parking slot availability.

Currently, there is a walking bridge over the railway line within the ticketed side of the station. Commuting times for those living on the north side of town (which is where much of the new housing is planned) could be reduced by making a station entrance on the north side (with cycle parking). The HCC Rail Strategy and Letchworth Sustainable Travel Town Plan should include a plan to redesign the station so the walking bridge is outside the ticketed area and the station has a north of railway entrance as well as south. This would bring the additional benefit of opening up a new walking route for pedestrians to the town centre.

Letchworth is fortunate to have a train station in the centre of the town. Its fast, reliable train service to London and Cambridge have been a significant attractor for people who commute to these locations. The HCC Rail Strategy should include the requirement for any future franchise operator to retain fast commuting services between Letchworth to London and Cambridge.

Train services to London are currently restricted at Welwyn, where there are only two tracks across the Welwyn Viaduct. TTL recognise that Network Rail plan to try to address the Welwyn Bottleneck through improved signalling, however, if this proves inadequate we believe HCC should push for new infrastructure to increase the capacity of the line at Welwyn which would improve public transport services in the region.

TTL support HCC in asking for an increase in the number of East Coast services which stop at Stevenage. To get maximum benefit from any additional East Coast mainline stopping services, the HCC Rail Strategy should identify that there must be appropriate connecting trains services from stations on the Cambridge Line, including Letchworth, to allow North Herts residents to connect with the East Coast mainline at Stevenage.

The new Oxford to Cambridge Line is planned to link to the East Coast Mainline at Sandy. This new line will provide connectivity to the West Coast Main Line at Milton Keynes, removing the need to go into London to access West Coast train services. Ideally TTL would like the new rail infrastructure to be delivered to support trains moving from the East Coast Mainline to the Oxford-Cambridge Line, but as a minimum there should be a quick passenger interchange at Sandy and we would like to see this issue addressed in HCC’s Rail Strategy.

The Rail Strategy should include plans to allow more bikes on trains to Cambridge and Stevenage as a mechanism for increasing the use of Public Transport for work journeys.

Effective demand management can only occur if public transport fares are competitive with car journey costs. The Bus and Rail Strategy needs to include, for popular routes, periodic analysis comparing public transport prices to car journey costs, with action being taken to ensure that public transport is a cost competitive option.

Technology now supports different working patterns, for example, working from home is becoming more common. Both the Bus and Rail Strategy need to address the fact that public transport ticketing and pricing should be adapted to suit different working patterns, e.g. part time working season tickets.

Demand Management

The level of car usage is a significant issue in Letchworth and, if no action is taken, will increase as houses are built to meet the local plan. Letchworth suffers from considerable on-road parking which causes safety issues, for pedestrians and cyclists, and congestion for vehicles. Some of this parking is residents parking, but a significant proportion is commuter parking. Commuter parking is likely to be influenced by two factors, the small size of the station car park (107 spaces) and the cost of parking (£6.40 a day). Garden Square multi-story car park is often cited as an alternative commuter car park but commuters pay £4.90 a day, have to park on floor 4 or above (increasing their walking times) and the opening times are not fully aligned with commuter times (it opens 7am to midnight and cannot be accessed outside these times).

Making car use and parking less convenient is a Demand Management measure (Policy 4 of LTP4). Possible solutions for Letchworth’s on-road parking problems which should be addressed in the North Central Growth and Transport Plan and Letchworth Sustainable Travel Town Plan are:

  • Putting in parking restrictions to ensure major routes into town (A505, Pixmore Way, Norton Way, Bedford Road, Icknield Way, Green Lane) are free of obstructions.
  • Introducing one way systems for cars through roads where parking has already made streets single lane (e.g. Cowslip Hill, Ridge Avenue).
  • Introducing inset parking bays which are only for residents / delivery vehicle use.
  • Introducing parking restrictions to encourage use of driveways and garages (challenging Heritage Foundation planning restrictions if they unnecessarily prevent owners of terraced housing from having any off-road parking).
  • Promotion of park on my drive schemes.
  • Introducing car clubs to reduce car ownership levels.

Road Infrastructure

The A1M between Welwyn and North Stevenage has 2 lanes which feed traffic to the A505 West, A507 North West, A1M (3 lanes northwards) and A505 North Eastwards. This two lane stretch of motorway is a bottleneck that affects Letchworth residents. Local residents have expressed concern that the plans for a SMART motorway will not address this issue on its own. TTL understand that Highways England are undertaking an A1 Strategic Study which may further inform us. However, if a SMART motorway is the limit to A1/M road development, TTL believe the North Central Growth and Transport Plan should include Demand Management schemes to address high traffic volumes on the A1/M. This could include:

  • A direct Bus route between North Herts towns and Stevenage.
  • The additional SMART lane being restricted to buses / vehicles with at least 2 occupants.
  • Park and share a ride schemes.

The North Central Growth and Transport Plan also should address:

  • Tailbacks on the A505 from Letchworth to the A1/M motorway at peak times.
  • Poor visibility departing the A1M from the South and turning into Letchworth which affects traffic flow and safety.

The A505 through Hitchin is a bottleneck making journeys to Luton unpredictable. TTL understand that as part of the work on Corridor 6, HCC will be conducting a study with other local authority partners to identify passenger transport and highway improvements to better connect Luton and Stevenage which we would support.

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