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New local transport plans could save over £100 million, say campaigners

Author: 
John Freeman
Organisations from North Lancashire have joined together to give their backing to a report and proposal for urgently needed transport improvements for the Lancaster and Morecambe district.

The proposals, which include a park and ride scheme and revisions to Lancaster's current one-way road system, are an alternative to the controversial Heysham M6 Link road plan which is at present on hold awaiting the outcome of the Government Spending Review in late October.

Other key elements of the proposals are a high quality spinal bus route between Heysham and the University of Lancaster, rail system upgrades and cycle infrastructure improvements.

Building on transport plans first put forward in 2008 by specialist transport consultants Faber Maunsell, the aim is to introduce measures which would address the district’s traffic congestion problems, and so aid regeneration and tourism, and improve access to Heysham.

The proposals have the backing of transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe, who prepared the report with contributions from the Lancaster, Morecambe & District Rail User Group, Dynamo (the Lancaster & District Cycle Campaign), Transition City Lancaster and Campaign to Protect Rural England, other  local groups supporting sustainable transport.

The groups backing the initiative argue there is a potential to save the public purse over £100 million by not building the Link road, with the estimated costs of their proposed transport improvements package is around £30 million.

Campaigners say that at £140 million, the Link Road scheme may prove unaffordable when the new Coalition government must reduce the budget deficit. As Lancashire’s top priority, it blocks the region’s other transport schemes.

Even the County Council's own plans for Park and Ride in Lancaster are dependent on it getting the go ahead, rather than being a separate project.

And £140 million isn’t the end of it: the scheme cannot go ahead without “complementary measures”, similar to those in this report, in the region of another £40 million.

The planned Link road, which is opposed by both Lancaster and Morecambe Councils, also doesn't meet government priorities of sustainable economic growth and carbon reduction as it  fails to tackle congestion, is ineffective in bringing jobs and helping tourism and its justification – reducing journey time to Heysham – is open to doubt.

"We shall be submitting the report to the relevant authorities including the Department for Transport, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council," says David Gate, chair of TSLM.

"We all need to be practical and realistic in these tough times. It seems pretty clear that the £139 million Link road will be deferred or even cancelled to help reduce the massive budget deficit.

"We believe that the Link is unaffordable, but there is a pressing need to urgently address the districts in town congestion problems.

"This report demonstrates that there are cheaper and more sustainable alternatives to the polluting and destructive Link road and we all hope that it will help the authorities to focus on tacking our major priority the local traffic congestion problems," he added.

View the report online
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