Last week, the managing director of South West Trains told me that the plans for the forecourt of the Fleet, Hampshire train station were not yet finalised – see Reckless Cycling at Fleet Station.
So, earlier this week I asked a construction site manager at the station what the current state of affairs was. He kindly referred me to the appropriate engineer in charge at head office; who has just responded to my queries with a plan of the forecourt dated simply “July 2014” and marked “preliminary”. In other words the plan is not yet approved and most likely will change, although it seemed quite well advanced, especially given that there is work going on in the forecourt now.
MORE CAR PARKING
The draft plan for the forecourt has a heavy focus on motor vehicles: 74 new parking spaces for cars or taxis – including 30 “Premier” parking spaces – and an unstated number dedicated to motorcycles under the new car deck’s ramp. This is on top of the several hundred new spaces in the newly opened car deck.
The draft plan shows nothing added to what had already existed for bicycle use and parking, which is disappointing given that South West Trains received the “2013 Cycle-Rail Operator of the Year” award.
The secure bicycle storage area does seem to make a reappearance further down platform 2 in the draft plan (the original area was demolished at the start of the work on the new station building); and a few benches replace what was once planned as motorcycle parking beside the bus stop.
(see the UPDATES section below for info about the Council’s travel plan and funding given by Hants District Council for, in part, creating 48 additional cycle parking spaces)
REQUEST FROM HART COUNCIL
Way back on 4th January 2012 Robert Thain, Senior Planner at Hart District Council wrote to Network Rail:
“Hart would also kindly request that in light of the proposal there is no overall reduction in the number of bicycle spaces to be provided to customer.”
It appears to me that Hart Council is, on the one hand, happy to support hundreds of new parking spaces for motor vehicles in a car deck beside Fleet Pond, an area of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), yet only “requests” that existing bicycle parking (2012 levels) not be decreased.
The Hart Council has a Local Strategic Partnership for 2008-2018 which states that local people and local businesses have stated their priority is for “an environmentally conscious community and a sustainable district” with a “sustainable and accessible transport system”.
Furthermore, the Hart council’s Traffic Management Procedure states that it assesses schemes against the key objectives of: improving road safety, reducing congestion, improving accessibility and improving air quality.
I asked Hart Council and Councillor Sharyn Wheeler what has been done to follow-up on the council’s original request about cycle parking; and whether the council has considered the forecourt plan with regard to the hundreds of people who arrive and leave the station by bicycle.
UPDATE: Daryl Phillips, Joint Chief Executive of Hart District Council replied to me:
I understand that the works at Fleet Station are not yet complete and that a number of issues, including cycle parking are yet to be provided.
This is not a Council project. South West Trains/Network Rail are doing it under their own powers. They don’t need our input or approval.
That last bit is not accurate, as best I can figure it:
Network Rail claimed that their works fall under Class A of Part 11, Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order but because their proposed works included “the erection, construction, alteration of any building, bridge, etc” that it was required to get approval from the council.
I note, too that approval is also required if there is “formation, layout out or alteration of a means of access to any highway used by vehicular traffic”, which there is in this case.
In a later note from the councillor he said:
“I not aware of on going discussions or detailed designs being submitted to the District Council for comment. There were correspondence in the past with Hampshire County Council but nothing that I am aware of for over a year.”
Yet just this week South West Trains assured me that:
“We have been liaising closely with Hart DC and HCC as well as our station management to ensure the new forecourt layout works for all.”
(see the UPDATES section below for further correspondence)
NO SPACE FOR CYCLING
If South West Trains wants to fulfill Hart council’s Local Strategic Partnership plan’s priority and the criteria of “Reducing Congestion” then the travel scheme must be designed for “encouraging walking [and] cycling”.
The draft plan for the forecourt does very little to support that, and indeed may put people who cycle in danger’s way by making them cycle around moving buses, taxis and people pulling into or out of car parking spaces.
In short, there is no proper, segregated space for cycling in this draft plan.
Given all this, I asked Network Rail and South West Trains,
- “What route do you want the hundreds of people who cycle to the station to take?”, and,
- “What route for those hundreds to take when leaving the station?”
A project manager engineer replied,
“you have touched upon a few of the outstanding items that require resolution”
So there is hope yet!
Front Page News!
The front page of the Fleet News & Mail newspaper carried the story of the lack of space for cycling and bicycle parking in South West Train’s forecourt plans.
£300,000 from Hart District Council
20 Aug 2014: The minutes of the 6th December 2012 Hart District Council cabinet state that £300,000 is to be allocated by the council to support improvements at Fleet Railway Station. The minutes referred to “Paper I” which stated that the “partnership funding” would help towards:
- “improved forecourt”
- “Additional and improved cycle facilities to increase capacity by 48 spaces.”
I have queried Hart District Council what follow-up it has done regarding the spending of its money.
Fleet Station Travel Plan
20 August 2014: Daryl Phillips, Joint Chief Executive of Hart District Council, kindly referred me to the Hampshire County Council’s “Fleet Station Travel Plan” dated November 2012. It states in part that Hampshire Council was to fund 6 towns, one being Fleet, with these aims:
- Reduced congestion at peak times on local roads as a result of fewer
car trips per household.
- Reduced carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, helping address the
contribution of local transport to climate change, and to improve air
- Improved health and general wellbeing as a result of more people
building in physical activity into their daily travel routines.
The travel plan states clearly that:
“experience suggests that small improvements making it easier to use these [cycling or walking] modes are effective at encouraging people to leave their car at home.”
The travel plan references Hampshire’s Local Transport Plan 3, 2011-2031 (LTP3) which includes this policy objective:
- Invest in sustainable transport measures, including walking and cycling infrastructure, principally in urban areas, to provide a healthy alternative to the car for local short journeys to work, local services or schools; and work with health authorities to ensure that transport policy supports local ambitions for health and well-being.
Furthermore, it references the county’s Town Access Plan for Fleet which includes these two key actions:
- Upgrade the station forecourt to improve accessibility and interchange with buses. The preferred layout includes additional cycle parking, improved provision for buses and measure to assist with access to the rail station for pedestrians and cyclists.(RL3)
- Introduce additional cycle parking at the station. Identify new spaces for cycle parking in well-lit areas with natural surveillance provided by passing people or traffic (RL4)
Aside: the document confirms that a secure cycle parking compound was installed in 2011 with funding from the DfT. Use was free but required a £25 refundable deposit for the swipecard that let you into the area.