Sustainable travel, my wishlist

Standing for election always means a huge number of emails, letters and tweets to answer!

Replying to all these takes a lot of time, but it’s interesting to learn what concerns people, and be challenged to think about so many different and important areas. I will share some of my replies on the most popular topics here over the next two weeks.

I’ll start with sustainable travel, a cause close to my heart!  Cycle Redhill & Reigate, who are looking to make cycling a safe and viable option locally, tweeted all the candidates in Reigate constituency with three questions. My answers are far too long for a tweet, so I replied by email, and this is an abridged version of what I said.

(Cycle Redhill & Reigate have a lively Twitter account full of interesting comments and opinions – I recommend it to anyone interested in cycling and sustainable travel: @CycleRandR )

The environment is one of the key features in the election. Transport is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. How will your party’s policies address this?

Firstly, we would stop making the problem worse. This means no expansion of Heathrow or Gatwick airports. Gatwick Airport wants to use its emergency runway as a second runway – and wants the government to allow this as well as expansion at Heathrow, without requiring planning permission. They must not be allowed to bypass planning. The increased flights from this growth would be equivalent to all the carbon emissions produced in Reigate and Banstead.

Similarly, the government is trying to spend hundreds of millions of pounds to expand road capacity in Surrey. This includes plans to dual the A23 from Coulsdon through Hooley and put a massive roundabout at the end – costing £4 million and £20-30 million respectively. Instead we would spend this money on transforming the ways we move around – investing in far, far better public transport networks, and walking and cycling routes. Instead of widening the A23 we could have an off-carriageway cycle route from Merstham to Coulsdon, phase the traffic lights to improve flow, tweak junctions to enhance safety and improve the bus service, including better links to Netherne-on-the-Hill.

We would shift funding to make public transport cheaper, allow publicly run bus companies and bring rail back into public ownership. We need through-ticketing so changing buses doesn’t make journeys uneconomic, and run buses into the evenings so they work as part of the daily commute for more people. And we would deal with the rail price ‘hump’ that affects Redhill.

All this would require changing the Treasury’s rules from only investing in transport infrastructure that increases capacity to investing to sustainable transport. And we need to invest in genuinely affordable homes so more people can live and work in the same community, removing the need for travel in the first place.

This would dramatically reduce air pollution, which currently causes many people to live shorter lives with more years of ill health.

Surrey has the highest rate of deaths and serious injuries from road traffic accidents of any UK local authority. The Green Party supports #VisionZero principles to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. We would fund councils to make road traffic improvements, not new road capacity.

Tell us a little about how you get around and what, if any, frustrations you have with transport infrastructure locally.

I gave up the car in 2002.  I do local journeys on my bike and use taxis sometimes late at night or in heavy rain. And I make longer distances mainly by train and bus.

As a local councillor I am frustrated by how hard it is to get small local improvements funded, such as safe routes to schools, a pedestrian crossing in Frenches Road, and that resurfacing bad patches on pavements is not a higher priority.

What specific changes would you want to see locally to help residents shift to more sustainable travel.

I want a plan to make it happen, and a clear indication that it would be funded by the government. Too little happens, and in a piecemeal way.

We need a review of bus routes – more routes, with through-ticketing and longer journeys for the minimum fare. We need to encourage more to choose the bus. Extending the 100 bus in a loop around Watercolour and Merstham would be a start. And improve connections to South Park and Woodhatch, which are poorly served.  And more frequent buses at night, linked up with the trains.

For five years we have seen campaigns for a fairer fare from Redhill to London blocked by Conservative MPs. It’s ridiculous that it is cheaper to split your ticket to London at Coulsdon in peak times and that Gatwick, 5 miles further out of London, is the same price. We now have spare capacity on our trains and congestion on our roads. It is time to make rail fares fair in Redhill – and affordable for all-.

I would like to see more money invested to join up our cycle routes, such as connecting a safe route from East Surrey Hospital to the A23, and all the way to Horley along the A23. I think it ridiculous that we have a cycle lane on the A25 from Redhill to Reigate that is parked on most days. I would double cycle parking at Redhill station – the bike stands are often full. Cycle routes on pavements should be segregated to make these routes easier and safer for bikes and pedestrians.

I would like to see a publicly backed and heavily promoted car-share scheme, far more electric car and bike charging points, at all car parks and workplaces, and sustainable travel plans in all major workplaces.