Road Access to New Railway Settlements – A Genuine Planning Problem

There can sometimes be proposals for new settlements around existing or proposed rail stations that pose dilemmas in terms of access in that

  1. Its too poor – The road access can be very poor along country lanes – such as Tudely (Kent) or Elsenham (Essex);
  2. Its too good – near a motorway or trunk road and this could encourage car commuting – such as Dunston (Staffordshire).

I’m not one to suggest that we should never build roads, towns have always been built around roads even before the car and you will always need them for residual traffic. I also don’t hold to the other extreme that in the UK around 10% of commuter will use them, even that figure is equivalent to car growth over the design lifetime (30 years) of a new settlement and can eliminate congestion compared to the ‘do nothing’ scenario.

A ‘good’ site for a new railway based settlement is one where the distance to a major town is relatively short (10 miles or less) so that car trips are short and bus trips viable and strategic cycle corridors for commuting are practicable (such as the cycle corridors to the south of Cambridge). By maximizing walking, cycling and public transport and not making car use too easy it should be possible to reduce car modal share to less than 40% which is a viable figure for mitigation of impacts and achievement of zero carbon objectives.

Where a major road is close by ramp access control should be considered. Introducing a delay (or even charging) so that car based commuting is less attractive. Congestion is not always a bad thing if it is managed, not excessive and helps shift to more carbon friendly modes.

Lets look at an example. The New Worcester Parkway station is about a mile and a half SE of Worcester at the intersection of two main line railways. It is possibly the best site for a rail based Garden Community in England. It is accessed off the B4084 the old road to Evesham which is good improved single lane B road. You wouldn’t want to widen this to dual so if growth were above a certain level you would need a second access road the south as you would not want traffic passing through the village of Norton or the expansion area of Brockhill Village – several bus routes pas through both.

Brockhill Village had the fundamental urban design mistake of designing the whole scheme either side of a collector road, meaning further growth to the SE of Worcester all passes straight through it. So you would probably need to widen a dead end land to create a new link road to the A440 which acts as the Worcester South bypass, as well as a bypass to Norton linking to the Parkway station.

Such solutions are never easy and require many trade off and much study. There are genuine alternatives which development plans should consult on. Spreading around several accessible locations can reduce requirements for new roads but this might not be so sustainable.

Planning is hard. A cynical attitude that no solutions are possible, developers are conspiring, and that therefore resistance should be the default is far more harmful that straight Nimbyism. This is why plan consultations should lead on access issues for potential sites and be transparent on the problems and be exploratory on solutions.

I should add uniquely South Worcestershire has 4 potential locations for railway station based strategic growth locations. It is much better in these circumstances that infrastructure bids are made for all options, saying nothing is decided and dropped options at submission wont be pursued. Again this undermines the cynicism that the infrastructure tail is wagging the planning dog.

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