mksm Partnership

mksm Transport Strategy
Connecting the mksm sub-region

July 2009


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy
Connecting the mksm sub-region

Project No: 16096 July 2009 10 Eastbourne Terrace, London, W2 6LG Telephone: 020 7053 1300 Fax: 020 7053 1301 Email :

Prepared by: ____________________________________________ Atholl Noon/David Quarmby Status: Final Issue no: 5

Approved by: ____________________________________________ David Quarmby Date: 14 July 2009

16096-01-1 mksm final report v12 290709 .doc
(C) Copyright Colin Buchanan and Partners Limited. All rights reserved. This report has been prepared for the exclusive use of the commissioning party and unless otherwise agreed in writing by Colin Buchanan and Partners Limited, no other party may copy, reproduce, distribute, make use of, or rely on the contents of the report. No liability is accepted by Colin Buchanan and Partners Limited for any use of this report, other than for the purposes for which it was originally prepared and provided. Opinions and information provided in this report are on the basis of Colin Buchanan and Partners Limited using due skill, care and diligence in the preparation of the same and no explicit warranty is provided as to their accuracy. It should be noted and is expressly stated that no independent verification of any of the documents or information supplied to Colin Buchanan and Partners Limited has been made

mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

Executive Summary
Milton Keynes/South Midlands – mksm – will see a 25% growth in population to 2 million by 2021 and 200,000 more jobs. Sitting astride the M1, A14 and two strategic rail corridors, mksm has strong connectivity with London and other cities, and with ports and airports, which have helped to fuel its growth and will continue to do so. But mksm faces challenges: it depends heavily on the national networks (road and rail) for movement within the sub-region as well as to and from it, and any congestion and overcrowding, and measures taken to prioritise the needs of longer-distance movement will be to mksm’s disadvantage. Second, mksm sits at the intersection of three administrative regions, which complicates the strategic planning, funding and advocacy processes. So mksm – a clutch of major towns and their hinterlands linked by a common destiny of growth – need to develop their own views of what is required in transport terms to enable and sustain their growth. The task is to ensure that the ambitious growth agenda is matched by action to support its successful delivery

The Scope and Nature of this Report – an inter-urban strategy
Colin Buchanan was appointed by the mksm partnership of local authorities and regional agencies to develop an inter-urban transport strategy for the mksm sub-region – that is, an integrated strategy for the networks connecting the towns to each other, to their rural catchments and to the rest of the country. The study does not explicitly consider transport or traffic issues within the towns; these are the subject of local transport plans. We are aware, of course, that the levels of congestion and ease of movement within the towns can affect their desirability and attractiveness for development, alongside their connectivity to other towns, cities, ports and industrial centres. In addition, ease of movement into and out of the towns does have an effect on the whole interurban journey, whether by bus, car, van or freight vehicle. Our analysis of interurban networks, including levels of congestion and journey speeds, therefore does take account of the urban radial roads leading to the regional and national networks. We also emphasise that this report is not a ‘transport plan’ – it is not a set of schemes or specific policy proposals. Developing those is the responsibility of local authorities, regional and national agencies. This study, commissioned by the mksm partnership, provides a strategic framework for capturing, analysing and prioritising the key issues for transport – those that are special to mksm as a designated area of very substantial growth. So this report informs the formal processes (LTP3, RFA, DaSTS regional and national planning processes for highways and rail, etc). It presents analysis, insights, concerns, issues and recommendations which enrich these processes, helping to ensure that the particular needs and concerns of the mksm area and its local and regional partners are taken on board. And it also makes recommendations for action which we believe the mksm partnership itself can facilitate and progress – such as for the interurban bus network..

The planning context
The mksm transport strategy is about enabling successful delivery of the growth agenda. Its focus is on inter-urban movement of people and goods, and on the inter-urban networks – road, rail and bus -


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

which link the towns and settlements to each other, to the important nearby destinations, and to London, other major business centres and international gateways. The strategy informs and provides context for the local transport plans of the individual towns and counties; the strategy also seeks to influence the processes of regional transport planning, and of national network planning by the DfT (Department for Transport) and its agencies and partners. The government’s recently announced framework for transport planning – DaSTS (Delivering a Sustainable Transport System) – sets a clear timetable, context and process for the national and regional bodies to prepare their proposals for the 2012 Transport Plan (which will determine plans, priorities and funding for 2014-2019 and indicatively beyond that); in particular there is an invitation to the regions and national bodies to bid by June for programmes of studies which will support the planning process towards 2012. mksm has no direct locus of its own in this process, and pursuit of the integrated transport strategy requires advocacy supported by evidence to the relevant stakeholders. The DaSTS paper also sets out the government’s five goals to which the whole basket of national, regional and local transport plans will aspire. It is a critical requirement of this study to consider how well the emerging strategy fulfils these goals. The strategy also aims to interface with the regional transport planning agenda by: Recognising any current committed regional schemes as part of the strategy Providing analysis supporting plans for longer term growth in housing and employment in the sub-region Showing how the three regions ‘interface’ in the mksm area, and highlighting key corridors and priority issues for future work Highlighting the priorities for supporting the growth agenda in the sub-region


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

Figure S.1:

mksm sub-region showing growth points

mksm: an overview
The mksm Business Plan sets out clearly by area and timing the plans for population and employment growth across the sub-region. It highlights the key interventions critical to achieving sustainable growth at a local level, together with those strategic interventions across mksm as a whole. It already identifies issues of connectivity which provide a starting point for our work. The sub-region has benefitted from considerable recent investment in the transport networks (road and rail), and more has recently been committed by government. Some significant issues of capacity and congestion still remain. What is also clear is that the travel patterns show that the constituent parts of the mksm sub-region are highly inter-related – some 70% of all mksm morning peak travel is within the sub-region as a whole, and more than 80% of the employed residents work within the sub-region. It is also important to note that the travel that does take place outside the sub-region is highly significant for businesses,


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

with a very high proportion (more than 55%) of this being heavy goods vehicles and business-related travel. Good connectivity to and through the regional and national networks is therefore critical for competiveness and business success.

The approach of this study
Our primary concern in this study is the successful delivery of the growth agenda and the role of transport at a sub-regional and regional level in enabling that. While the performance of the local networks is taken account of in our analysis, we are not explicitly considering the road or bus networks themselves within towns or within local areas. We also review how well the current plans – and the further transport interventions identified in this report – meet the five goals clearly set out in the DfT’s DaSTS planning process. We have focused in particular in this study on the links between employment and transport and the growth agenda. Our proposition is that businesses will only come and invest and grow if they have good access to labour, good access to business centres and markets, and (depending on their sector) good freight access to ports, terminals and logistics centres. And that housing development will only be successful if there is good access to jobs. It is important to distinguish between employment that is essentially ‘local’, in that it serves the local residential population; and employment that is ‘regional’, which is in businesses which serve other businesses, or wider regional, national or international markets, or in government or other public bodies which serve much wider areas. The key point is that ‘regional’ employment growth is potentially ‘footloose’ – it is not tied to any particular location, and the location decisions will be influenced, among other things, by accessibility. ‘Local’ employment growth, on the other hand, largely follows population growth. One of the issues for sustainability is the relative location of population and employment growth, and particularly the location of the ‘regional’ employment which by its nature generates more inter-urban business-related movement of people and goods. With the focus on inter-urban movement, we have therefore addressed the following questions: What is the planned pattern of ‘local’ and ‘regional’ employment growth and does it support a sustainability agenda? How accessible are the different employment growth areas to labour, business centres and markets? How accessible are the different housing growth areas to jobs? How are these measures of accessibility influenced by the performance of the various networks they depend on? In which corridors are there particular pressures and costs due to congestion and poor service levels? What network issues – road and rail - therefore require further consideration to sustain accessibility and support the growth agenda What further contribution can public transport investment and improvement make – not only to the growth agenda, but to other transport objectives as reflected in the DaSTS goals? So what are the priorities for networks and modes, what it is the emerging vision and transport strategy, and how well does the emerging strategy score against the DaSTS goals?


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

‘Local’ and ‘Regional’ employment
We have explained above the concepts of ‘local’ and ‘regional’ employment. ‘Regional’ organisations and businesses have greater need of access to strategic networks, and generate more traffic and travel on inter-urban and strategic networks. Our analysis has identified that in the mksm Business Plan ‘regional’ employment and its planned growth is indeed concentrated in the main towns – Northampton, Milton Keynes, Luton/Dunstable, and to a lesser extent Bedford, Aylesbury and Daventry. This is an important finding because with the better availability of local bus services in these towns, the access to good walking and cycling networks and the better access to the rail network for commuting and business travel, means that the transport consequences of this pattern of growth are more sustainable than if the jobs growth were distributed differently.

Accessibility and the growth of homes and jobs
This study explores the extent to which different growth areas within mksm face different levels of ‘accessibility’ (or connectivity), and how this affects their likely success in a) attracting investors and new jobs, and b) attracting housing developers to build houses. For each of the growth areas in mksm we have estimated the accessibility that businesses in those locations would face to labour and to business centres, by mode of travel. Account is taken, as relevant, of access to freight nodes and gateways. This is calculated from the ‘levels of service’ offered by the road and rail networks at 2021, taking account of congestion or crowding on those transport networks at that time (from the EERM (East of England Regional Model) model). This measure is then set against the target for jobs growth, and the different areas in mksm are then compared. Similarly, the accessibility to jobs for areas of housing growth is estimated, and this is set against the target for growth. While the performance of the local networks is taken account of in the analysis, we are not explicitly considering the road or bus networks themselves within towns or local areas. Our focus is on the accessibility offered by the inter-urban road, rail and limited-stop bus networks to new and existing businesses, and to housing developers. Accessibility to labour, to business centres and to freight nodes does vary significantly between areas within mksm, and between modes. In areas of lower accessibility, jobs growth may take longer – or some may not happen at all. And growth is more likely if the economic sectors targeted for growth area by area are those most suited to the particular pattern of accessibility in that area. We consider the corridors of movement where there are issues of congestion and overcrowding, and possible transport interventions in the networks indicated by this. While our analysis is unlikely to say anything new about the ‘hotspots’ themselves, it demonstrates the impact they have on accessibility and on the ability to deliver the growth agenda in the different areas within mksm. Broadly our findings are that Northampton has an ambitious target for regional jobs growth, and is reliant on strong commuting flows in from Daventry, Wellingborough, Kettering and to a less extent Corby. The A43/A45 corridor linking these towns and the M1 is increasingly congested – particularly at the key junctions - and this is likely to be a factor limiting Northampton’s accessibility ‘scores’, in spite of its good accessibility to the M1 and to regional services on the West Coast Main Line. This may affect the achievement of the jobs growth target – or at least its timing. Milton Keynes’ plan for ‘regional’ jobs growth is well in line with its accessibility, with its proximity to M1 and access to the West Coast Main Line which offers (somewhat compromised) Virgin’s long distances services as well as the London Midland regional services. However analysis shows the M1 is under considerable pressure from longer-distance traffic, and measures adopted by the Highways


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

Agency to address this are likely to affect travel to and from Milton Keynes - over 25% of its inter-urban journeys use the M1. The Luton/Dunstable urban area offers high inter-urban accessibility both for business and for residents, by road and by rail; we recognise, however, that congestion within the urban area is a continuing problem for businesses and residents alike. But inter-urban transport is not a factor affecting Luton’s future growth; the 2021 accessibility indices reflect the completion and use of the A5-M1 link and the Luton-Dunstable busway. However, the M1 and other corridors east and south-east of Luton demonstrate the same growing pressure as further north. Bedford demonstrates high accessibility by rail for businesses and for residents. While the completion of the A421 to the M1 will significantly improve Bedford’s accessibility on the inter-urban road network, the sustained and widespread traffic congestion within the town will continue to affect overall accessibility – especially the perception of it by prospective investors. East-West links between Milton Keynes and to Cambridgeshire are regarded as vital by stakeholders. Accessibility to jobs by road for prospective housing developers in the North Northants towns of Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby is commensurate with the scale of growth. Rail accessibility for business and for commuters – dependent on the intercity Midland Main Line – may be compromised if the service pattern develops to favour the larger towns to the north. The prospect of electrification north of Bedford and projection of ‘Thameslink’ services – considered in Network Rail’s latest draft RUS (Rail Utilisation Strategy) – could be particularly beneficial. Generally, Corby’s more compromised accessibility to main business centres is offset by its closeness to the A14 and the availability of rail freight facilities. Its prospective employment growth will be most successful with a strong focus on the logistics sector. Aylesbury shows lower accessibility than the larger towns, although its growth target is lower. The issue is the low road speed and limited capacity offered by the existing modest road networks, rather than heavy traffic congestion characteristic of other mksm towns. This is particularly felt in the critical north-south corridor to High Wycombe and the Thames Valley and - to a lesser extent since the completion of the bypass of Leighton Linslade - to Milton Keynes and the M1. Given the sensitive environment, there is currently no appetite for significant road schemes; accessibility improvements will depend on other measures, such as East-West Rail and inter-urban bus developments, but it is not clear that these will be sufficient to enable the growth to occur.

The findings also suggest that – to support the sustainability goal - distribution of further growth beyond 2021 should reflect the different levels of accessibility, and opportunities to make good use of public transport in and between the sub-region and the rest of Britain. Towns recommended for the higher levels of growth beyond 2021 therefore include Luton/Dunstable, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Problem corridors
Given our understanding of the generally adequate forward capacity and service levels offered by the main rail networks, our gathering of evidence about ‘problem’ corridors has focussed on origindestination movements by road (which constitute 90%+ of total inter-urban movements). We identified those corridors with high flows, and in particular those showing a significant deterioration in travel time by 2021 compared with the base date. Based on the combination of these two factors, the main problem corridors identified are:


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The M1 Corridor – defined as the M1 itself over the section J10-J16 (Luton-Milton Keynes-Northampton), together with the parallel local/regional roads, especially A5/A43/A508/A4146/A505 The ‘Northampton Arc’ – the A43/A45 corridor linking Daventry and Towcester with Northampton/Wellingborough/Kettering/Corby and Wellingborough/Rushden/A14-Thrapston The North-South corridor around Aylesbury – to Milton Keynes and M1 in the north and High Wycombe and Thames Valley in the south, and the links to Leighton Linslade and on to Luton/Dunstable The Luton / Dunstable ‘Gateway’ - between Dunstable, Luton and south and east of Luton, on towards the ‘A1’ towns, St Albans, and Hemel Hempstead The links between Bedford, via the A421/A1/A428 and further east.

Network issues – Road
The M1 is a critical sub-regional link for mksm as well as a national link. The improvements proposed for the M1, which is one of two main highway ‘arteries’ of mksm, are welcome. Nevertheless the Highways Agency's projected speed levels on the M1 in the sub-region in 2025 compared to 2003 show that – even with programmed improvements - speeds are expected to drop significantly. The planned ‘managed motorway’ regime is likely to involve ramp-metering to control the entry of traffic to maintain smoother and undisrupted flows on the motorway itself, as part of an Integrated Demand Management (IDM) strategy. However, we understand from discussions with the HA (Highways Agency) that they are contemplating the use of more aggressive forms of ramp-metering imposing delays of up to 5 minutes or more on joining traffic to discourage short distance ‘hops’ travelling two or three junctions, giving priority to longer-distance journeys. This is likely to incentivise some traffic to divert to parallel local/regional roads such as A5, A43, A508, A4146, A505 and further south, the A5183 and A1081, but the extent of diversion and the scale of the problem needs to be modelled in order to be assessed, and the implications evaluated for those roads, for other traffic and for the communities they serve. Because of the critical role of the M1 in mksm, we are recommending that the M1 Corridor (that is the M1 together with the network of parallel local and regional roads) be the subject of joint studies between the Highways Agency and the relevant local authorities in mksm; Colin Buchanan has already submitted a paper to mksm partnership outlining the rationale and possible scope of such studies for consideration in the package of ‘DaSTS’ studies by the end of June (See Appendix G). Improvements are also planned for the A14, which runs east/west along the north of the mksm area, including widening around Kettering, an improvement scheme between Ellington and Fen Ditton and traffic management measures along the route. The traffic management regime is considering ‘traditional’ ramp-metering. We recommend that the mksm partners also review the use of those techniques with the HA on this strategic route and understand that discussions are underway between the HA, DfT and the County Council. The implementation of these improvements is critical to the delivery of the growth agenda around Kettering and for the sub-regions’ wider links. The ‘Northampton ‘Arc’ - the A45/A43 linking Towcester and Daventry with the M1 through to Northampton-Wellingborough-Kettering and from Wellingborough-Rushden-Thrapston (A14) - shows significant pressures, especially around Northampton, and at the major junctions. This is largely due to the combined pressure of substantial local, regional and national traffic movements, already reaching nearly 100,000 vehs/day on some sections. The A43 is the key route linking the north of the County with the M1, and reducing congestion on this road would strengthen the inward investment potential of Northampton, Kettering and Corby. The recent Highways Agency decision about M1 J19


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(joining A14 and M6) removes any south<>east movement between the A14 and the M1, and puts more pressure on the A43/A45 corridor for longer-distance traffic (especially LGVs (Light Goods Vehicles)) going from the A1/A14 to the M1, the A34 and the South Coast and the West Country. On our advice, mksm submitted in February 2009 a response to the DaSTS consultation recommending that the A43/A45 corridor from M40 J10 – M1 J15/15A – A14/Thrapston be classified at part of the strategic national network; the DfT has subsequently rejected this change. We believe the continuing issues on this corridor justify a comprehensive study of the whole ‘Arc’, which should include a range of management and public transport options as well as infrastructure. At the request of the mksm partnership we have prepared a note giving the rationale and scope for such studies, which should be endorsed and progressed by a partnership of the DfT, Highways Agency, Northamptonshire County Council and the East Midlands region, and submitted for consideration as a DaSTS regional study. The note is at Appendix H. Failure to address this satisfactorily could bring into question the desirability of further growth beyond 2021. Luton – east and south east. The corridor analysis suggests significant pressure on roads between Luton and Stevenage (via Hitchin), Welwyn/Hatfield/St Albans. With the exception of part of the A505, here again the issue is largely one of inadequate single carriageway roads limiting capacity and speed. Destinations beyond are better served by M1 and M25, although the longer term sees pressure on these motorway links too. Luton has aspirations for a Northern Bypass, linking the M1 with the A6 and on to the A505, providing an east/west link outside of central Luton between the M1 and the Stevenage area. The first section of this potential link (between the M1 and A6) is closely associated with (and potentially fundable by) development here, but the next section (between the A6 and A505) is likely to be more challenging to achieve. Initial modelling by Luton indicates that while this road also performs a local function in enabling development, a significant proportion of traffic using it is likely to be of a more strategic nature. The broad corridor to Stevenage and Welwyn Garden city is identified in this study as carrying large volumes with future worsening of journey times. The potential contribution of this link to subregional strategic connectivity requires more analysis. Dunstable: The link between Dunstable and Luton and to Leighton Linslade were also highlighted as priority areas in the analysis. We are not aware of any current proposals to deal with these issues, although the Luton-Dunstable busway should offer alternatives for travellers. We recommend that the link between Leighton Linslade and Dunstable could be considered as part of the proposed north/south route study proposed by the South East Partnership Board and Buckinghamshire mentioned below. Aylesbury – North and South: As noted previously, Aylesbury does not score highly on the accessibility measures, because of the historic nature of the road network, the limited rail network and the pattern of settlement across the county. Delivering the growth agenda may be compromised without significant accessibility improvements. Priority should be given to those corridors which most affect accessibility and where travel demands are likely to increase substantially – which means northwards towards Milton Keynes and Luton/Dunstable, and southwards towards High Wycombe and the Thames Valley. North-facing accessibility has been improved by the opening of the A4146 bypass round Leighton Linslade. However, addressing the issues raised by the A418 – including the conflict of through movements and the rural and village environments – has presented challenges and caused considerable debate locally. Opportunities to improve accessibility by road to High Wycombe and the Thames Valley are equally constrained, although we understand that the South East Partnership Board has supported a study of this corridor looking at potential solutions. While the current rail network plays an important though south-facing role, the EW (east-west) Rail development will open rail access to the north. Meanwhile, recent and prospective investment in bus facilities in Aylesbury and High Wycombe, together with a good response by the main operator Arriva, has seen and will continue significant growth in inter-urban bus/coach traffic.


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Nevertheless, our role in this study is to point out that successful delivery of the growth agenda for Aylesbury (for housing and for jobs) will require inter-urban ‘accessibility’ to be improved beyond current plans, and this will depend to a considerable extent on addressing the level of service (in its most general sense) offered by the road network. In this respect our findings support the case of the South East Partnership Board for work looking at future strategic connectivity on the north/south corridor between the M1 and Thames Valley via Aylesbury. Bedford: Recent and committed road improvements such as the A421 link to the M1 and Milton Keynes will improve the inter-urban accessibility of Bedford, although the remainder of the link beyond the new M1 junction 13 and on to Milton Keynes is not yet committed. The TEES study (2008) identified the A421/A428 Cambridge-Bedford-MK (Milton Keynes) as a stressed route in the worst traffic congestion change group, and regarded it as an ‘economic priority corridor for future intervention’. This study identified ‘medium range’ flows between Bedford and the east on this corridor, and noted decreases in journey time. The corridor remains one of few east/west links between the M1 and A1 and the east in the mksm area, and should be regarded as important in these terms. It is noted that the modelling used for this study assumed that the Bedford Western Bypass was a committed scheme, although we understand that this is not currently the case and there is little prospect of developer funding alone delivering this link. This strengthens the case for advancement of the Western Bypass in order to facilitate growth.

Network issues – Rail
The principal towns in mksm are well located on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and the Midland Main Line (MML), Aylesbury is the exception, at the end of Chiltern’s slow but high quality commuter service to London, and with no north-facing connections. For the WCML and MML, recent and committed improvement plans bring sufficient capacity and frequency for the next 10-15 years to provide for commuters and for business travellers to London, and reasonable access to destinations to the north/north-west of mksm – using the long distance express services and the regional services on each route. There is some intra-regional movement by rail along the main corridors. One major concern continues to be the access to Virgin long distance services at Milton Keynes given its size and strategic economic importance. The problem is familiar and longstanding, and based on our investigations in some depth with DfT and Network Rail, we judge that current trends in rail traffic along the WCML make the prospects for improvements to Milton Keynes connectivity less and less likely. Recent and committed improvement plans to MML have reduced the frequency for travellers from Kettering to London and Northamptonshire. Northampton is also relatively poorly served by longerdistance services given its size, although opportunities to change this in the short to medium term are limited by the local rial geography and current service patterns. However the development of HS2 may offer opportunities for more fundamental changes in service patterns in the area. Another concern is the irregularly timed new service between Corby and St Pancras, involving for some trains waits at Kettering of up to 30 minutes, and only a couple of minutes for other, due to constraints on platform occupation at Corby on the line used by freight trains. There is some concern about reduced connectivity on the MML north from Kettering and Wellingborough. As with the road network, the predominantly radial pattern from London leaves poor East-West connectivity by rail both within mksm and to the towns and cities either side of the sub-region. The East-West Rail project makes a significant contribution to this, offering connections between the WCML and MML as well as northwards from Aylesbury. The project also supports the Regional Spatial Strategies for the South-East and East of England, and has strategic benefits for freight and cross-country services. The cost and engineering requirements have now been confirmed through the continuing work as part of the GRIP4 process. It is important to secure the necessary funding to progress this significant project for mksm.


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Since this study was initiated, the government has announced the formation of the High-Speed 2 company, with a specific remit to identify a route and prospective business case and delivery plans for high-speed rail from London to the West Midlands. A substantial opportunity for mksm lies in the consequential reshaping of services on the existing WCML. At the right time this opportunity must be seized, and a clear view formed and advocated about how the needs of Milton Keynes, Northampton, and the other towns on WCML can best be served. Additionally, there may be an opportunity to bid for an intermediate station on HS2 itself, but in our view this has a low chance of being adopted and should not be pursued at the expense of ensuring that mksm gets the full benefit of the consequential reshaping. The mksm partnership should also be sensitive to the possible impact of the possible HS2 alignments on the mksm environment.

Inter-urban bus
We believe there is significant scope for improvements to the inter-urban bus network, its scope, its operation and its quality of service, which with the right degree of collaboration between the local authorities and the bus operators can be delivered. We believe there is scope for significant increases in patronage, although its modal share of all travel is still likely to be modest. An improved inter-urban bus network can make an important contribution to transport accessibility within the sub-region. It will supplement the improvements to local bus services, and by providing improved connectivity for those without access to car it will contribute to the DaSTS goals of equality and quality of life. The current network consists mostly of hourly services linking the main towns, with more frequent services along the M1 Corridor, on the ‘Northampton Arc’ and Aylesbury north and south. The two main operators are Stagecoach (towards the north) and Arriva (towards the south). The biggest problem for the inter-urban bus network is the unpredictability of journey times due to congestion, mostly in and out of the towns served. The length of the routes, and the impact of delays on waiting times along the route, make it particularly important to address this, and to do so on a subregional basis - the network is only as strong as its weakest part. There is good cooperation between operators and many of the local authorities individually, on facilities for buses, priorities, information distribution and so on. In addition to this, however, there are opportunities for the local authorities, working in partnership with each other and the operators, to progress on a collective basis: General bus/coach stop provision and quality and interchanges Parking enforcement along critical corridors Traffic signal prioritisation with transponders Selective road geometry and road surface markings to make bus entry into the traffic stream easier Information and marketing There is a particular need for real-time passenger information at bus stops and to electronic media such as mobile phones and PDAs; while the technology solutions exist, much of the equipment is in place, and operating in some towns, there are institutional and commercial barriers that need to be addressed if the systems integration problems are to be solved and information to be extended along the length of route for the inter-urban network. Passengers expect and get this on the railways, and ‘raising the game’ for inter-urban bus must involve the same facility. The two main bus operators are willing to engage in a sub-regional ‘strategic partnership’ with the local authorities to address these issues on a holistic basis, and we have suggested a possible scope for such engagement. It remains the case that achieving significant modal shift away from the car is easier within urban areas and on journeys between towns and their rural catchments, than for the generality of inter-urban


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journeys – where journey patterns are more dispersed, and longer journeys make alternative modes less attractive or practical. Nevertheless a longer term vision for a step-change in the role of inter-urban bus, including extensive application of park-and-ride, as set out in this report is worth taking forward. It will involve some radical thinking about policies, priorities and facilities, and require a strategic response from the operators. The opening of the Luton-Dunstable busway will demonstrate how a major shift in the relative travel times of bus against other modes can transform the competitive offer and lead to new service development and passengers. We are pleased to note that Northamptonshire County Council is to develop a radical ‘rapid transport system’ for the Northampton Arc, with just such a transformational objective. We believe that an aspirational target of doubling the current patronage using inter-urban bus within 10 years can be achieved.

Local transport issues
Within the urban areas there are significant congestion and accessibility problems, and this can also have an important impact on the location decisions of employers and residents. It is important that investment in ‘local ‘transport therefore keeps pace with growth. There is much that the respective authorities are doing in relation to encouraging walking, cycling and buses, and other improvements to reduce congestion. The Smarter Choices work at this local level is also highly important – Aylesbury for example has shown what a concerted effort on encouraging cycling can achieve. The travel issues within towns are also highly important for inter-urban travel: The exact location and density of development, particularly where accessible to good inter-urban bus corridors, can significantly influence modal share; in other cases (e.g. in the Northampton Arc), development can impact on other inter-urban travel between towns Higher density development around sub-regional “hubs” (such as that planned at Station Quarter, Kettering) can encourage sustainable travel Congestion on key corridors can have a significant impact on the reliability and attraction of inter-urban bus services – these services are only as strong as their weakest link A focus on improving the quality and catchments of the key local interchanges providing access to inter-urban networks Common standards across authorities and a focus on travel behaviour change by encouraging the appropriate mode for the different types of travel can reduce intraurban congestion which helps improve inter-urban public transport accessibility There is also scope for considering the linkages between development and travel in relation to major travel generators such as educational and health facilities, which serve wider catchments In addition at local level we believe that local authorities can seriously influence the take-up of technology change initiatives for vehicles users within their areas to help achieve climate change goals In terms of rural accessibility, this has not been a major focus of the study, but we recognise the fact that access to public transport in the rural areas of the sub-region is vital to the DaSTS goals of quality of life and promotion of equal opportunity. The emphasis within the strategy of promotion of high quality–inter-urban bus services should help to strengthen the overall quality of rural accessibility.

Contribution to DaSTS goals
DfT have set out clearly their goals within Delivering a Sustainable Transport System and the planning processes that will help their delivery. The goals are:


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

to support national economic competitiveness and growth, by delivering reliable and efficient transport networks to reduce transport’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with the desired outcome of tackling climate change to contribute to better safety, security and health and longer life expectancy by reducing transport risks, and by promoting travel modes that are beneficial to health to promote greater equality of opportunity for all citizens to improve quality of life and to promote a healthy natural environment Our report indicates how the emerging transport strategy is informed by these goals and to what extent it satisfies them at a strategic level. mksm is well placed to make a significant contribution to the first DaSTS goal, and overall has an appropriate pattern of growth to support it. This also supports the second goal on carbon reduction, on the basis that achieving a target modal share by getting the relative scale and location of new development right in the first place is more effective than trying to influence travel behaviour once people and firms have moved in. Alongside the promotion of travel behaviour change, the government’s approach to carbon reduction in transport involves promoting a wide range of technology measures - and the fiscal and regulatory policies to incentivise their adoption - to drive up vehicle fuel efficiency and the use of alternative energy sources to reduce carbon emissions. There are many opportunities for local authorities to use their own powers to reinforce and leverage these changes, which on an mksm-wide basis could be particularly effective. While the potential to contribute to the last four DaSTS goals for travel within towns is substantial, because of the opportunities for alternatives to the private car, it is more limited for inter-urban travel. Nevertheless, improvements in the inter-urban bus network, including park-and-ride, and better integration with the existing rail networks, will make an important contribution to equality of opportunity, and to improved quality of life – especially for those without access to a car.

Planning within mksm
No purpose-designed transport planning model exists for the mksm sub-region. A number of local authorities have – or are renewing – their own more granular transport models, but we understand that none ‘connect’ with adjacent models to enable policies and scenarios wider than one local authority to be tested reliably. While there is (understandably) no appetite for a sub-regional transport model as such, there is a case for exploring what would be involved in developing a common model architecture, and common formats and data structures for networks, zones and so on, for the various local authority models. This would enable linking between models and the opportunity to properly test scenarios over parts or the whole of the mksm sub-region. The mksm partnership could lead a project with this objective.

Our report identifies that mksm is well placed to deliver its growth agenda of homes and jobs. Committed transport interventions on road and rail will be helpful in catering for much of the anticipated growth, and in providing accessibility improvements which will in general encourage and enable that growth. The different parts of mksm are highly inter-related in terms of travel patterns, and the inter-urban travel is of critical importance to business. Overall, the planned growth to 2021 is located appropriately and sustainably for the planned transport infrastructure (not always the case in growth areas).


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

The current plans make a good contribution to DaSTS goals; improvements are possible with further interventions that we identify. This is because ‘accessibility’ offered by the transport networks to enable and encourage investors to deliver homes and jobs growth is higher where the growth plans are most ambitious. However, we express concern however about the effect of pressure on the ‘Northampton Arc’ on the longer term prospects for growth in this area; and we note the lower accessibility of Aylesbury – and the difficulties of significantly improving it – in relation to its growth plans. Meanwhile, Luton stands out as a place which in accessibility terms would be able to attract much higher employment than is planned, if other factors (such as town congestion and land availability) allowed it. Bedford will also have excellent rail access following Thameslink completion, but similarly will need to tackle town centre congestion. There are significant challenges affecting the overall connectivity for the sub-region: The M1 is critical to future accessibility for the mksm sub-region, but future management strategies for this road by the HA could adversely affect access to M1 for the three largest towns; joint studies are recommended with the HA and the local authorities, to be brokered by the mksm partnership. The A43/A45 corridor – the ‘Northampton Arc’ covering Daventry/Towcester to Northampton and to Wellingborough/Kettering/Corby and Rushden/A14 – is under particular pressure through the combination of local, regional and national traffic movements. Current transport plans envisage only limited transport interventions. A comprehensive review is required, considering options of strategic traffic management and public transport improvements as well as infrastructure investment; we note Northants CC have already initiated a rapid transport study. If the longer term growth aspirations of the corridor and Northampton in particular are to be delivered without adverse impacts on the existing communities then these issues must be addressed. Aylesbury’s growth agenda is ambitious given its relatively constrained accessibility, due to its location, the historic nature of its road network and its limited rail connectivity. Any improvements to the inter-urban road network are sensitive; however, the substantial improvements to bus and coach facilities within the town, coupled with the prospect of EW Rail opening new access northwards, make a valuable contribution. Nevertheless, the overall accessibility may limit the ability to achieve the targeted growth. At the same time, there are a number of opportunities for enhancement in the transport networks which will not only help deliver the growth agenda but make useful further contribution to dasts goals, especially those concerned with equality of opportunity and quality of life, as well as modestly to carbon reduction. The recognition within mksm of a sub-regional network of importance (See Figure S.2), and the focus of future attention and investment in protecting and enhancing this network as a means of accessing the national networks and connecting the sub-region. There is potential to co-ordinate and develop common Smarter Choices policies and measures across the sub-region. While these will obviously have greater impact at the local level, the sharing of expertise and best practice across the sub-region, a focus on a common ‘message’ to travellers, coordination of policies for travel to e.g. major health and educational facilities, and encouragement of car share and sustainable freight initiatives will also have an impact on inter-urban travel East/West links, in particular those of the A421/A428 through Bedford and those linking the A505 to the M1 have been identified as carrying significant sub-regional


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

volumes and will have future decreases in journey times, and various improvements are being considered for these The East-West Rail proposals will make an important contribution to east-west connectivity in a sub-region dominated by north-south links (including Aylesbury as well as Bicester, Bletchley, Milton Keynes and Bedford), and to Oxford and Cambridge outside mksm. Prospects for its use for rail freight and for (national) cross-country services will benefit the sub-region too The role that inter-urban bus plays in connecting mksm can be enhanced by concerted action by local authorities within the sub-region, with the bus operators, to address a range of practical issues affecting service reliability, passenger information and infrastructure facilities; a longer term, more ambitious vision for inter-urban bus, including use of park-and-ride, could make a strategic contribution on certain corridors The possibility of rail electrification beyond Bedford – raised in the recent Network Rail RUS on electrification – holds the opportunity for projecting the Thameslink service to Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby High-Speed 2 (HS2) – the vision for high-speed rail from London to the West Midlands – offers the possibility of radical reshaping of the existing WCML servicers to serve the mksm towns, especially Milton Keynes and Northampton, more effectively In some locations the more significant challenges for delivering growth are local issues – such as local transport access and congestion, or other issues such as skills, training or land availability, rather than strategic inter-urban accessibility


mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

Figure S.2:

Conceptual sub-regional network

The Transport Strategy for mksm therefore 1. Recognises the close inter-relationship of the towns and areas of the mksm subregion, as shown by sub-regional travel patterns. Recognises the generally high level of connectivity for mksm offered by the strategic and regional networks, and emphasises the critical nature of the planned improvements on these networks for future growth. Recognises that generally the pattern of growth planned across the sub-region is located appropriately and in areas of higher accessibility (including rail), and overall contributes to the first two DaSTS goals. Requires, in order to sustain the growth agenda, that attention be given to the key challenges of the M1 Corridor, the Northampton Arc, and the north-south connectivity for Aylesbury. Identifies opportunities for enhancements to public transport connectivity; these are worth pursuing both in their own right and for their wider contribution to DaSTS goals of equality of opportunity and quality of life, as well as to carbon reduction. Some, such as inter-urban bus development, the backing for EW Rail, and the longer term benefits of reshaping the WCML services in the wake of HS2, will






mksm Inter-Urban Transport Strategy Connecting the mksm sub-region

benefit from concerted action which should be led by the mksm partnership; others require pressure and advocacy with the relevant agencies. 6. Recognises the key role that individual authorities need to play to improve travel and accessibility within their areas, and how decisions made here can have a significant impact on inter-urban travel. Involves the mksm partnership in an important continuing role to. keep this agenda in front of government – both DfT and CLG – and the national agencies it needs to influence (Highways Agency and Network Rail) inform the regional spatial plan review process currently being led by the regions, and engage the regions in supporting the transport agenda identified, both for the regional DaSTS process generally and for the recommended DaSTS studies in particular – emphasising the particular aspects of the transport plans which are essential to support and sustain the ambitious growth agenda for the sub-region inform the LTP3 process led by the local transport authorities, identifying the connections with the sub-regional agenda, and supporting those aspects of the local transport plans which contribute to connectivity across the subregion provide leadership for the issues, identified above, which need concerted sub-region-wide action





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