I am very concerned about
proposals to turn the Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway line into a busway.
it would be a tragedy to lose this unique opportunity to create a wonderful
green corridor for walking and cycling, which would be of immense benefit to
the local people, and provide a much-needed green lung through some very, built-up
areas of Chester.
Whilst there is a case for trying to reduce traffic into the city, there are other means of achieving this with more park and ride facilities and bus lanes. To create enough width on the line, much of the vegetation/wildlife habitat would be destoyed making it unpleasant to walk or cycle along, and also reducing screening for adjoining properties.
The line should be used to create a linear park free from motorised traffic. It could then be used both by commuters cycling to work and also to provide a wonderful leisure facility benefitting vast numbers of people. You only have to look as far as the Wirral Way to see the huge success of such schemes.
The council appear to be pressing ahead with plans for a bus route, before any proper consultation to determine public opinion. I would urge that anyone opposed to buses on this line should contact their local councillors to express their concerns.
Liz Taylor Hoole
After I criticised another correspondent for describing the council's busway plan as a "vital strategic link" it was entirely to Cllr John Boughton's discredit that he restated this fallacy in 'Points of View' last week- omitting the word strategic, which made him completely wrong.
If this is a vital link, Chester should have died 30 odd years ago when passenger services on the old Shotton line ceased. Yet when I go to town what I see is not tumbleweed and dust but people, thousands of them, none of whom needed a busway to get there. Councillor Boughton apparently believes a he repeated often enough somehow becomes the truth.
As for his wild claims of achieving world fame through a busway, will we become as famous as, say, Runcorn with its miles of busways? Or Manchester,where for acouple of years I had to use a foot/cycle/busway? Believe me, they are truly awful soulless things, a complete waste of time for walkers and cyclists and no big deal for bus passengers either.
I'm sure that if the old line became a greenway its present rubbishy state (observed by Cllr Boughton) could be quickly rectified, possibly by volunteers: I'd be there. The same cannot be said for the council sponsored vandalism behind Newton School, where contractors have grubbed out or seriously damaged all the large trees on one side of the track in order to lay a three-foot sewer pipe. How much worse will the roadbuilders do? So much for a green transport scheme, only felling trees where absolutely necessary!
I do agree with Cllr Boughton on one point though; that the greenway lobby don't have all the received wisdom on the subject, as we are noticeably lacking in megalomaniac councillors and money-grabbing business types. Other informed opinions are well represented though as A Wright demonstrated last week with his letter on the unlikeliness ofelectric buses. For the reader who hasn't seen or heard so call green diesels, I can only add that ifyou am not within sniffing distance of one they are just like normal buses - noisy, big, ugly. The same goes for LPG and other "green" fuels I am sure.
Really in this day and age, when even walking is in decline we need to do something better than turning old railway lines into more roads. Has Clir Boughton considered the financial benefits of promoting walking and cycling as exercise to keep people out of expensive coronary intensive care wards? I doubt it. Certain local Conservatives have taken a more enlightened approach to the use of the old line and to avoid having them tarred with the same brush I suggest Clir Boughton does not write any more assinine letters on the subject.
Allan Jones, 82 Brook Lane Newton, Chester
Having now sat through two different city council committee
meetings considering the busway proposals I find that the biggest tragedy of
the whole debate is that public opinion and quality of life considerations were
so misjudged at the outset qnd that already the proposals have been allowed
to become firmly entrenched in the council's wider Draft Local Plan, This incidentally
was in advance of the "consultation" process!
What was it all about then? The 'consultation' process was intended as a flag waving, back slapping event to fine tune the "preferred option" and plainly not intended as the focus for dissent that it has turned out to be.
What other local proposals get continuing strong adverse public comment months later? Is there now any face-saving way back? Perhaps some councillors are hoping that the funding dries up and the "preferred option" can be shelved quietly.
Don't depend on it. Speak up. Local party diktat mustn't put us down a road that will adversely affect many local people and also rob them of an opportunity to create something special.
Graeme Lyall 47 Oaklea Avenue Hoole, Chester
I read with great interest the letters from Steven Howe:
"On your bike" and 'Disgusted': "Busway Blues". How I agree with them both.
Firstly cycling is one of the most beneficial exercises you can do and should
be encouraged by all.
The proposed busway runs to Shotton where a lot of people from Chester work. I am sure a lot of the said people would cycle to work if there was a decent route. Last summer I tried to cycle to work on the Deeside Industrial Park from Chester but gave in. Not because the exercise was too much for me but my bottle gave way pedalling along the Sealand Road with nutters flying past at speeds fit only for landing jumbos.
As for councillors and surveys representing the people of Chester, I still have yet to meet any one in this area who would prefer a bus route over a greenway. Look at other places where disused rail lines have turned into greenway's for cyclists and walkers. There are clubs all over the country who travel en mass to walk and cycle these greenways- If they had wanted a bus they would have stayed at home. A greenway would benefit the people of Chester and would also become a tourist attraction.
Why can't the council give the people what they really want? I mean, do we really need more buses in Chester? I think not. We need places to take the kids for a walk, walk the dog, cycle to work and enjoy clean, fresh air. Everybody should write to their local councillor with their own opinion of what should be done and not what they think we need.
IC Ryan, 56 Sefton Road, Hoole, Chester
With regard to the Mickle Trafford line, I understand the council have said a cycle path/walkway only is unviable. If this busway is costing an estimate of £8.5 million forjust the initial phases how can this be viable? Has the council stopped to think why the new busway may he a first in North West, is because other councils have recognised the importance of when an opportunity arises to allow people to cycle and walk to improve their health, then it should be taken, but not to make another road.
Wirral has recognised the importance of these cvcle ways. Wirral's highway chairman said: "Cycle routes are tremendously important from a recreational point of view, apart from their value in helping to reduce pollution. We greatly underestimate the importance of cycling. but we must create safe routes if we want to encourage more people to get on their bikes."
How can this busway be called green when it can only destroy wildlife, greenery and invade people's privacy who live by it? I would also he very concerned about the safety aspect of having buses, walkers and cyclists in this corridor- railway tracks were built for trains not buses that seem to be able to leave the track at access points. If the buses can come off, then the joyriders with stolen cars and daredevils can get on, with all the havoc it could cause.
I wonder if it was suggested that an undertaking be given from the council, that there would he no development allowed on the greenfields along the track, the scheme would fizzle out. I am very sad British Rail have allowed this situation to happen without protecting this green corridor, which has served them well for many years, in some way before selling.
Copy of a letter to Mr Peter Cocker, Chief Highways Engineer, Cheshire County Council, Backford Hall, Chester:
Perhaps the major point made by the public in the consultation process for the Mickle Trafford-Shotton transport system is that success will depend crucially on the acceptability (or "greeness") of the passenger transport method.
Mr Wright's letter (local press w/e 5th April) was very pertinent though he is obviously unaware that the Oxford battery buses have been out of service for some time with battery problems. A promising light-weight battery development has also recently been dropped as not commercially viable after some 20 years'work.
The main alternative contender, compressed natural gas, costs £17,000 per bus conversion (add £3,000 for the guidance system) so cannot be too attractive to small operators. The other alternative of electric traction with current pick-up - i.e. trams or trolley buses has been rejected as too expensive: however, it is proven and clean at point-of-use, but will be a poor fall-back solution if the track has been widened and made more undulating and the concrete guide trough has been installed - at immense cost.
A possible alternative to all the above exists already just to the south of the proposed park and ride site where Railtrack have under-utilised lines running into central station, City Road is wide enough to take an extension to the south (city) end where the underpass gives convenient access to Foregate Street.
Perhaps such a solution has already been considered but your comments would be appreciated in any case.
Brian Rose, 12 Alpraham Crescent, Chester
In my situation of being
a) a regular commuting cyclist;
b) The father of small children;
c) The fortunate survivor of- this very morning- yet another close shave with a badly-driven motor vehicle,
- I feel justified in issuing a challenge to those responsible for coming to a decision regarding the eventual use of the old Deeside railway.
Judging by recent articles in the Standard, these gentlemen would be appearing to place an inappropriate amount of importance to the results of their misleading and, shall we say selectively distributed questionnaire which appears to show that "most people who responded" would prefer the route to be used by buses. The mentally lazy will interpret this as "most people in Chester and district would prefer buses." This use of fallacious statistics is, I repeat, misleading and dishonest.
Attention should be paid to the following. That a) most people", being car users, probably don't care much either way, b) "most people" myself included, didn't receive the questionnaire at all- or if they did, probably felt there was little point in responding, based upon numerous precedents of rotton planning decisions in the past; c) the large number of correspondents to the Standard and other local papers, almost without exception presenting an overwhelming view that this route should be for walkers and bikers only. If I may, I would like to suggest a little project our councillors and planners may wish to try, as a result of which, even they may start to see a little sense...
1. Borrow some bicycles and a quantity of small children, it works best if the children are your own, the effects are rather more personal. If you cannot ride a bicycle, walk instead;
2. Choose a point in Chester, anywhere will do, city, suburb, rural, it's all the same;
3. Set yourself a destination a mile or two away, in any direction you wish, and start off...
4. Prepare for heart failure. Guaranteed;
5. Come to your senses regarding the vital need for routes where such journeys can be undertaken in peace and safety, well away from stinking buses and nutters burning- up the country lanes.
I am personally unable to think of a single such place in our region, except maybe Duke's Drive. But, of course, that doesn't actually go anywhere! Surely this is an unacceptable state of affairs in a city such as ours, that boasts such a high quality of life. Quality of life involves much more than shopping precincts and express busways, you know.
Congratulations are to be offered to the city council in finally making a start on the much needed improvements to the canal towpath between Hoole Lane and the city. When completed in a few weeks, we will be able to walk and cycle in comfort and safety, away from the stinking hell of Boughton and the Ring road, right into the city ccntre. I commend the experience to drivers and bus passengers everywhere!
This relatively inexpensive piece of renovation will become a much used and valued asset to our city and will contribute greatly to our aforementioned quality of life.
Think, then, how very much more valuable a cycleway on this old rail route would be! lmagine travelling to your school or work of a summer's morning, from Mickle Trafford, Hoole, Blacon, Saughall or beyond, in safety, breathing good air and for free! And this wonderful addition to the transport System of our city (make no mistake; the bicycle IS a real and very efficient form of transport) could be achieved at very low cost, certainly compared with the enormous expense of computer traffic-management schemes that do so much to ensure our car journeys around the city are smooth and efficient (I don't think) and have untold economic and cultural benefits for our citizens.
Steven Howe 25 Lime Grove, Hoole, Chester
Considering the number of articulate, well qualified people who have put the case against the proposal to convert the Mickle Trafford/Deeside railtrack into a busway, I decided that further comment from me was unnecessary, even after the scheme was unbelievably given the green light.
However, I really cannot leave S. Clout's letter (Standard 28th March) unanswered. Incidentally, I note the address at Handbridge, well beyond influencing range.
S. Clout mentioned 'low emission' buses travelling along a 'guideway'- two frequently used terms during this controversy. Who does S. Clout is going to provide this new fleet of 'low emission' buses? Where will they come from? Can we have a look at (and a smell of) one?
Does your correspondent seriously believe that any bus operator, in the present deregulated, cut throat environment, is about to go out and purchase a whole new fleet? How naive can you get? One particular company who operate locally have recently been forced to take a considerable number of vehicles off the road because they were chucking out so much filth. A decision which they did not take voluntarily, I might add.
And what about the so-called 'guideways'? The council's glossy leaflet clearly states that "existing buses could easily be converted to run on the guideway." Plonking a couple of small, horizontal wheels at the front of an existing bus in order to enable it to run between two concrete kerbs, does not suddenly make it environmentally friendly.
One final point, regarding the mandate that the council claim they have to impose this busway on us, I was involved in canvassing opinion in my neighbourhood Sefton Road. Out of about 60 households, a mere six were in favour of the scheme. With one exception, they were all residents who back onto Newton Hollows and considered that a busway may give them more security. I find it difficult to believe that residents in other areas, within similar proximity to the busway, have overwhelmingly endorsed the proposals.
I still can't believe that the council propose to go ahead with this. It will adversely effect the quality of life for many people along the route. Surely it's all a bad dream- or should I say nightmare?
G. Williams, 27 Sefton Road Hoole, Chester
In the debate over the future of the proposed busway on the old Mickle Trafford railway line, there seems to be a general consensus that if it must be built, electric buses would be much more preferable than diesel buses.
Electric buses are operating successfully in Oxford, so why not Chester? A typical electric bus would require about four tonnes of batteries. For every tonne of additional weight, four fewer passengers could be carried. So the capacity of a 50-seater diesel bus would be reduced by sixteen passengers to a 32-seater electric bus. For park and ride, where the ability to cope with high peak loadings is essential, that would not work. In Oxford, the buses are small and carry more even loads around the city centre,where they can use 'opportunistic' recharging at certain points and thus increase their range between main charges.
With present technology, the only feasible vehicle options may be diesel, trolley buses taking power from overhead lines, or a light rail system. Rail seems already to have been ruled out on cost grounds (despite being the best in every other respect); trolley buses have not been discussed much but would also be expensive. That many only leave diesel, with all its noise and pollution.
Of course, there is another option. That is the greenway for cyclists and pedestrians only. What is so often ignored in the debate is that a greenway is still a genuine transport system which would provide a safe, attractive and quick route for many people who currently use the roads. That is by far the cheapest option and would also create a linear park for the people of Chester. The only snag is that not quite so many more people from elsewhere could be crammed into the city centre from expanded park and ride schemes.
A Wright, 21, Glan Aber Park, Hough Green Chester
I was upset to read "Disgusted of Newton"- a letter of 25th March about the Mickle Trafford to Deeside railway line - but only because I think that the personal nature of the attack on the Lib-Dems detracted from the strength of the arguments and is likely to encourage the politicians to retrench in their bunkers.
The fact of the matter is incontrovertible - the 'consultation' exercise was a sham designed to endorse a decision already made by the planners. The original draft consultation document did not even have the cycleway as an option. This was put in only after representations following the public meeting in Newton School. I believe that it was the Lib-Dems who instigated that insertion and also the analysis by postcode. For that we should be grateful as it has given the evidence with which the whole sham can be exposed. For example, 20 per cent of the pro-busway votes were from Clwyd - and yet the Garden City exhibitions only attracted six per cent of the total attendees. if we got such a vote in a third world country, we would knowingly talk of "ballot box stuffing". The analysis by ward on the basis that the track "passes through the ward' is also misleading as that count also includes the wards for the "possible" phase three of the scheme. That number is not relevant when specifically considering the disused track. The Lib-Dems have said in "Focus" that they are insisting on an Environmental Impact Survey for the scheme. Good. But did you know (do they?) that the planning departments plan to confine the brief to an assessment of the impact of their scheme in comparison to the current condition of the track? - not a comparison with what the track could be expected to develop into if transformed into a linear park. Perhaps the Lib-Dems and other politicians would now support a request for the impact assessment brief to be widened to cover this aspect?
What I would ask everyone to do is to ask the local politicians who will be canvassing for your vote in the forthcoming May elccfions to state exactly where they stand on the issue. Don't accept anything less than a categorical statement that they will oppose the busway and work for the establishment of a linear park.
This is a local issue and the local politicians, of whatever political hue, can influence it. Can I suggest that you use your vote in the election to vote on this single issue, rather than on the Westminster agenda? It only takes about 1200 votes to elect a local councillor. There must he many times many voters in each ward who support a linear park concept. Ensure that your vote is cast for someone who is prepared to give unequivocal support for a linear park.
Nic Siddle, 7 Sandleigh Hoole, Chester
It was with some sadness that I read the article 'Rail line to be new busway", in last week's Standard about the new use of the line as proposed by the city and county councils. Sadness because, for a period of 18 months the officers of the county council have been very aware that some Chester residents would like serious consideration given to the use being one largely for Cestrians, in the form of a cycle and walkway only with no buses on it at all. It would serve as a wonderful "greenway" providing both a leisure asset and a safe route to work and shops, for cyclists and pedestrians, and within easy reach for many households.
I do not regard Chester as well served for leisure amenities for families; but I feel I pay high rates and do wonder how much actually subsidises the tourist. Isn't a busway just another facility for the 'Out of towners"?
I ask the county and city councils to give proper consideration to the request for a "greenway" (looking properly at the grant options), rather than pursuing the wishes of the officers of the county council. And I request that the public consultation questionnaire includes the .greenway" as one of the options - which is not at present guaranteed.
Please restore my faith in our system of local government.
Annamarie Bellinger, Ivy Mews, Hoole
I am writing to you to express my concern regarding the council's plans for the proposed busway on the Mickle Trafford to Shotton disused railway line.
As expressed by many people in your excellent newspaper a more beneficial approach to this matter would be a linear park, comprising footway and cycleway. In other parts of the country this has been applied with great success and attracts thousands of tourists each year, a point which was missing from the council's proposals.
I have already asked people to write to their councillors about this in a previous letter and I and other concerned residents have decided to start a petition. Would anyone who would like to assist in this petition please send a SAE to the address below and I will send you some petition sheets.
Come on, let us tell these people what we really want. I feel that anyone with a view on this matter should stand up and be counted. Chester council have for too long had their own way with issues regarding what is best for the people of Chester, let them know what your feelings are. Think of future generations. Do we really need to destroy the natural habitat of an abundance of wildlife? Buses and fumes we can do without. Let's have a place to take the kids for a walk, exercise the dog, go for a cycle ride with all the family without fear of being run over by a car. Breath fresh air and enjoy natural beauty, and to top it all, it's good for you!
A final word to all you councillors. A cycleway-cum-walkway would cost about £15 million. Drop the busway and you have £14 million to spend on things that are needed much more. And on top of all that you might even get some votes back.
J. C. Ryan, 56 Sefton Road Hoole, Chester
I've been surprised to open the Standard in the past two weeks and see no letter from Cllr John Boughton (busway apostle) slagging off Graeme Lyall or myself. Can we take it that you have come over to our point of view then, Cllr B? Do tell.
In the "public consultation" about the old railway line there was a small but significant number of respondents wanting what was described as "other, eg bridleway". To my mind there is little difference between this and a greenway on the line. It might need some bridge parapet work and a few fancygates, but I don't suppose the small additional cost of making a greenway horse friendly would be prohibitive; it would be nice to see some contributions from horse riders on this point.
It strikes me that if 195 or so Littleton residents can petition for (and expect to get) a bypass costing £8 or £9 million, then a greenway could be justistified by its benefits to horse riders alone, as a kind of green bypass for the town centre. After all, riding is extremely dangerous when considered as a transportational activity, so a safe, traffic free route would be a great asset in this respect, maybe saving a number of lives. Let us know what vou think, horsey types.
Returning to the distasteful subject of politics, I see one of my own councillors, Jean Garrod, has been making rash promises in the press. So the Lib Dems want to consult people and restore public trust in the council do they? Laudable intentions I'm sure, and I suggest Cllr Garrod makes a start by responding to her electorate and opposing the busway. Cllr Garrod and her colleagues will find the public will trust them a lot more if they actually do what we elect them for- represented our interests.
Allan Jones, 82 Brook Lane Newton Chester
The town council seems very determined to uglify Chester just at the moment. Last year we had that untidy, half-built greenhouse of a Forum entrance stuck out beside our Town Hall, the most sensitive area of the city.
This year, when nature kindly presented us with the ideal green walk-way cycle-track into the city centre, someone had the unfortunate bright idea of making it into a noisy, smelly bus route wanted by scarcely anybody (I am sceptical about environmentally friendly buses).
If 15 million pounds are going begging why not spend it on doing up all those listed buildings which are falling into a state if disrepair because nobody cares about them?
Chester is not loved for its buses or even, Scottish Widows will be surprised to hear, for its shops. It is loved for its fascinating streets and buildings. We need to look after them.
Meg Pendlebury, 292 Hoole Lane Chester
I see from last week's Points of View that the Chester Deeside Transport System (CDTS) has its very own spin doctor. On reflection this is probably for the best as our very busy councillors will now be briefed from the same executive summary and thus avoid their embarrassing contradictions in the past, covering areas such as costing, sources of funding, the scale of opposition etc. etc. What's worrying though is that they have progressed the scheme this far on an inadequate briefing.
On the subject of the planning application by SUSTRANS. This is for the footpath/cycleway along the route, in advance of the busway. but allowing for it to be added later without hindrance. I believe that there is insufficient width in the corridor between Blacon and Mannings Lane (the section with the highest potential useage) and this will mean that the path will be sited at the very edge of the corridor, making it a straight and uninspiring route. it will also destroy the trees and other plants that have grown up along its route.
As an alternative, compromise proposal, I suggest that the most costly aspects of the scheme, ie. the access points, are made in line with the busway proposals but that the rest of the path is allowed to utilise the full width of the corridor, weaving in and out, to create a much more attractive walkway. When and if the busway does procced the whole corridor can be safely and more easily developed as a whole, including rerouting the footpath. In the general scale of things I don't imagine this will add to the cost. it may even reduce it, by speeding up construction. If on the other hand the busway plans are scrapped then we will have the attractive footpath/cycleway we want without having to secure further funding. Additionally this alternative would allow councillors the advantage of seeing the true amenity value and usage of the greenway before taking a final decision on adding the busway lines.
In answer to Peter Byrnes letter detailing how he and his fellow councillors are all backing the CDTS scheme. Essentially it is spending in excess of £50 million on more and more roads. Don't we have enough already? We all know that this flies in the face of current thinking that the building of more roads doesn't solve problems, it just creates more of them. The councils have really failed to make the necessary mind shift in thinking and acting sustainably rather than just using the wordy environmental rhetoric that is evident in the council's many transport policy documents.
Yes Clir Byrne, I do think the greenway would contribute to bringing about a solution to Chester's problem and in addition, properly utilising the £49 million left over from the then aborted CDTS scheme could make us one of the most forward-acting cities in the land! So please let's see some significant action in implementing the likes of the county council's Cheshire Cycling Strategy. Then I'll know you've made the necessary leap to earn you claimed green credentials.
Graeme Lyall 47 Oaklea Avenue, Hoole, Chester
In last week's paper, it was announced that Cheshire County Council had just launched its Agenda 21 process in Winsford. I was at that ceremony and many fine words were spoken about the development of sustainable policies, care of the environment and the involvement of the various indicators of environniental damage that had been selected.
One of these policy areas was that of transport and it was said that car use would be reduced by promotion of alternative modes of transport public transport, walking and cycling.
I also note, as many other correspondents to your columns have noted, that the Cheshire County Council Highways Department is still intent on pushing through the folly of a guided busway along what is, at the moment, a wonderfully peaceful wildlife corridor through the city. I reckon that the Highways Department must be one of the most unsustainable county departments because of its promotion of road spending and fanfare announcements of how much central government money has been "won" for Cheshire's roads.
Are we to be presented with another debacle similar to what happened over Northgate Street when much weII-presented evidence was ignored at the public inquiry over pedestrianisation, resulting in a costly and embarassing climbdown by the county council once it had been realised that, yes indeed, too many smoky buses were going up and down that narrow street making the air too foul to breathe.
Similarly, many well argued points are being over-ruled regarding the busway scheme on the disused Mickle Trafford-Deeside railway line. The proposal has many flaws which have yet to be satisfactorily overcome many have already been written about; here are few more...
1. Current park and ride sites in the city, as both city and county councils have told us, are very successful - this is without any special busways to link them to the city centre. After all Chester city centre is only one and a half miles at the most from the peripheral park and ride sites. Why engineer and develop a special route and effectively destroy an unspoilt linear park through many built-up areas which are short of open space in order to serve two more park and ride sites?
2. In order to create the busway virtually all the mature trees along the route will have to be chopped down, quite apart from the major earthworks needed to build the guided busway. Even if a few ofthem are replaced as we are promised they will take many years to mature. What happens to the wildlife in the meantime? Killed off I suspect.
3. The scheme is promoted as serving as a quick access to Chester from Deeside. But the end of the line is the wrong side of the river from most of the population of Deeside. With the new Dee crossing in place next year, the only beneficiaries will be Flint, Holywell and the North Wales coastal towns rather than Deeside. And people will drive to get there. Furthermore Flint railway station is being served by fewer and fewer trains and is under threat. Far better to spend £18 million on railway infrastructure, providing real time train inrormation, upgrading Flint and Shotton stations and building stations again at Connah's Quay, Queensferry and Saltney to provide frequent and quick commuter services to Chester. That might attract people out of their cars, not an express busway to which you have to drive to anyway. So much for car use under Agenda 21.
4. If the engineering works go ahead and the busway is built it will scupper any plan to reopen the route as a railway link in the future because of the need to remove thousands of tons of concrete.
Through preserving the route as it is with minor improvements to make is useable for walkers and cyclists, and thus creating the backbone of a decent network of traffic-free walking and cycling routes in Chester, our city's future generations will be able to travel by walking or cycling very much as safely as 40 or 50 years ago.
I suspect that much of the one-sided information supplied by the county highway officials to councillors and public alike owes more to preserving in-house design teams (through income generated by large schemes such as this) rather than anything to do with what is best for Chester and what its inhabitants want.
As for whether central government funding is available for a greenway option, much government advice centres on the promotion of the very alternatives a greenway would cater for. If the county council was really serious about promoting alternatives to the motor car in Chester there would be serious money put into creating good bus passenger information systems and a good cycling and walking infrastructure. Both are lamentable at the present time.
Come on Cheshire County Council - forget the greenwash of the Agenda 21 process. Let's we some serious money spent on some really sustainable policies and projects that will benefit the citzens of Cheshire not remote property developers, house building companies, or major superstore chains.
Simon Brown, 65 Gladstone Avenue, Chester
Judging by the large numbers of letters published by the Standard in recent weeks, it would appear that the public are unanimously in favour of the former Chester-Deeside railway becoming a green link for walkers and cyclists. Personally, despite considerable effort, I have failed to meet anyone who thinks a bus route here is desirable or necessary.
It was interesting. therefore, to find on my doormat this morning a glossy document, "Chester-Deeside Transport system", full of colour photos and drawings of buses (surprise surprise). The only mention of a cycle and walkway was as part of the projected bus route: no alternatives are proposed. It is therefore a dishonest and misleading piece of work and should be perceived as such.
What faith can we have in a city council whose love affair with the bus has resulted in the hellish conditions now experienced by traders and residents here in Northgate Street? Don't forget when You're sitting in a log-jammed line of vehicles trying to enter or leave the city, or sprayed with exhaust filth by some clapped-out bus, that all this was plannned! Unbelievaible but true. And now we are asked to believe that the conversion of this line to a main road (for such it would be) to carry more buses would be the best (only?) alternative.
Rather than risk the hazards of the ring road, I cycle from Hoole to my business in the city centre along the canal bank. It's quick - ten minutes compared to up to an hour by car, some days - mostly traffic free, with swans and boats to look at. It's also still, after years of campaigning, flooded, unlit, covered in rubbish, graffiti, winos' bonfires and the rest. All in all, a complete disgrace to a beautiful city. Pity it's not wide enough to stick a busway on it . . . now there's an idea!
Could there be it common link here? Could it be that our local unholy alliance of politicians and planners, described so entertainingly by Barry Johnson as "compulsive leather gear change fondlers" have nothing but contempt for cyclists and walkers in our city? Can they not see that we are business owners, ratepayers, voters- too?
They consider a cyclist as someone too poor to own a car, and therefore not worthy of consideration. My researches indicate that many more people would like to cycle to and from the city but are put off by dangerous roads, or dark and muddy alternative routes.
To conclude: the old Chester-Deeside line offers a golden opportunity to create a much needed recreational facility to benefit our area, and a chance for our planners- just for once- to get it right. But don't hold your breath.
Steven Howe, I Rufus Court Row Chester
Mike Johnston's proposal of a light rail system for the closed down Shotton to Mickle Trafford railway line is visionary. My letter had proposed a tree-lined greenway - a peaceful wildlife commuter route for walkers and cyclists.
...the price of our car culture covers carnage, delays, noise, stinks and asthma. So can we even dare to find ways to discourage that most wasteful yet dominant species, the driver-only car? Would a small surcharge on city car parks for lone drivers be one way to encourage car sharing?
Of course mere car sharing and better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians won't solve Chester's transport crisis alone. We'll also need trams or similar, plus bus priority lanes, traffic calming and 20mph zones outside schools. Even so, it's worth remembering just why bikes are so great for the environment when it comes to combating pollution.
Motorised transport can never emit zero pollution. Even electric cars fume - at power stations. So the act of creating just one new cyclist from an erstwhile car driver saves as much air pollution as two such converts to pubic transport. Why? Because while two passengers sit in a bus or tram, on average, each is saving about half a car's-worth of fumes. Meanwhile, the cyclists pedalling alongside is saving a whole car worth - on her own. Do our traffic planners knew this?
Meanwhile it would be wise to promote cycling in general, since a mere 10 per cent shift of commuters from cars to cycles is as powerful a pollution saver as a 20 per cent shift into buses.
Unfortunately many key transport planners are driven by infantile car fixations. Obsessive strokers of leather gearknobs, few are capable of strategic green thinking. Not many have the potency to spend significant money on green transport initiatives.
Cheshire county; for example, is near the bottom on the national league when it comes to asking for government money for cycling initiatives. When it comes to spending what little they actually budget for green initiatives, they sometimes fail here too. For example a major towpath improvement project planned for this year has been shelved - because the council bought too many traffic lights!
Why do transport planners still toy foolishly with ideas for big new road schemes, while school children develop asthma? Why do the Chester greenway proposals still rest on their shelves,where they have now been filed for over three years?
Time is short. Getting down to details, The line is under threat from builders and speculators. Building anything on, or cutting it anywhere along its length would ruin its transport value for ever!
As a transport use,the cleanest and by far the cheapest way to save it is to start on the Chester Greenway - soon. It would also be by far the most beautiful option, boosting Chester as a place to visit, live, work and travel in. A phone call or note to your MP or councillor might put someone on the right track!
Barry Johnston, 24 Cambrian Road, Chester
Three schemes am being presented as "The answer' to Chester's traffic problems: The Forum Phase 11 and Delamere Street bus station redevelopment; the Western By-Pass; The Deeside-Mickle Trafford guided busway.
The existing large and busy bus exchange near the Town Hall is to be built over as part of the Forum Phase II development.The new Local Plan proposes that most of the local bus services will terminate at a redeveloped Delmere Street bus station with a shuttle service taking passengers into the city. Some local bus services may continue to use the direct access to the Forum, but which routes are to be favoured is not known.
The Western Bypass is supposed to unblock the traffic congestion created by the over-intensive development on Sealand Road and Wrexham Road. This by-pass is to be accessed from the Post House roundabout on the southerly by-pass, the Sealand Road/Bumpers Lane junction or the Bache roundabout, all of which are notorious traffic bottlenecks. One of the aims of this bypass is to release even more development sites on Sealand Road and Wrexham Road. These will clearly create additional traffic on these roads.
The Mickle Trafford-Deeside guided busway is supposed to get us all out of our car. Less polluting buses are proposed for this route. It is not clear why such buses cannot be used on the existing park and ride and local bus routes without building an elaborate and expensive concrete trackway and a new park and ride site. The Mannings Lane park and ride would be the third on the A41 on the eastern side of the city.
The busway is just as likely to draw passengers away from the existing park and ride services, or from the local bus services, as from car users. There is the further problem that the new Mannings Lane site may attract unwelcome development pressure for further out-of-town development in the area.
These schemes need to be critically examined to see whether in fact they will ease Chester's traffic problems- or make them worse.
W V Jones, 101 Daleside Upton Heath, Chester
Recent letters in your column have raised objections to the proposed Mickle Trafford-Deeside busway on various grounds with which I broadly agree. I would like to add to the debate by commenting on some of the geographical aspects of the line.
For example, where the line passes through Blacon. it is mostly bounded by back gardens and is only readily accessible via a cul de sac at the old railway station site. Where are the bus stops to be sited? To make the scheme viable, it would be necessary to build interchanges with the existing road system, otherwise it would be highly unlikely that sufficient traffic would be generated, Where can these interchanges be sited? Parkgate Road, Liverpool Road, Brook Lane, Newton Lane?
All of these would require considerable expense and local disruption. None of them is close to the city centre. Any of them would exacerbate existing road congestion.
Is it necessary for the local authorities concerned to spend £l.5 million to be told the obvious when they already employ professional officers to advise them on these matters? This sum would employ 100 people on a good wage for a year. it is also not far short of the projected £l.7 million shortfall in the highways maintainance budget.
May I ask what the proposed recipients of the money intend to do to earn it? it seems an awfully large sum for a bit of pen-twiddling and doodling on maps.
B Morse, 12 Queens Road, Chester
I am writing with regard to the letter fmm Peter Byrne, 'How it will be', Standard, 23rd January. Trying to allay fears regarding the use of the Chester to Deeside transport system, it did not allay my fear but served to increase them.
I am one the people who was referred to as having misunderstood the proposals regarding the bus law. I have read many a letter from concerned residents who wish the route could be turned into a walkway/cycleway and bridleway but none for a busway. Most people Who expressed a preference said no to a busway, after petitioning people who live not just on the line but in and around the line they said no busway. Having said that a busway would not solve Chester's traffic problem maybe a cycle way would help more people on their bikes going to work or the shops without fear of being ran over, more people leaving their cars at home alleviating the already choked up roads.
As for the huge expense for the maintenance of the bridges, what bridges? The Golden Gate Bridge? Come on, get real. Most bridges along the route have roads going over them and must be maintained whatever and the others haven't been maintained since Adam was a lad. My final word must go to the mention of low pollution modern fuel. What nuclear buses? No really, until you can come up with a no-pollution modern fuel forget it. Shanks's pony and the iron horse is the only transport that should be considered here.
Jimmy Ryan, 56 Sefton Road, Hoole, Chester
How illuminating that, of the large number of letters published in your current issue concerning the Chester-Deeside Busway proposals, only one was in support of the views of councillor Peter Byrne. Yes, you guessed it- another councillor.
This one, John Boughton, claims the busway will "reinforce Chester's position as a sub-regional centre for business and tourism in the North West and greatly strengthen its economic base"
The mind boggles at all those future big-spending tourists and high-power businessmen catching the bus into Chester from Mickle Trafford and Shotton, hell-bent on 'economic reinforcement'. In other words, what utter tosh.
Recreational green space should not be that which is left over from the orgy of leisure complexes, supermarkets and housing estates, so dear to the hearts of you councillors and planners. What must we do to get it into your skulls that we want this route to be for walkers, cyclists and horses only?
The community that plays well, works well.
Steven Howe, 25 Lime Grove, Hoole, Chester
With regard to Steve Howe and Liz Taylor's point of view last week, I too think it is very wrong to ruin this wildlife area of the Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway line.
I would have thought the Cheshire Wildlife Trust would have an opinion on this and Sustrans, also the emergency services who will have to deal with accidents on the enclosed corridor, but as far as I know they have not said anything against this in the Standard. I cannot see the point in ruining this wildlife corridor, as other sections of the busway have to go on the roads.
There is a Mr Seymour who has lately won a case saving a hedge under the Enclosures Act. He has done legal work on British Rail land and seems to have never lost a case he has taken on. The line is a sort of enclosure. I wonder if this would help in the fight to save the line.
I hope there will eventually be a public inquiry, but it does not surprise me the council is not listening to people and spending unnecessary money, as when the line came up for sale the talking was done behind closed doors. So what can you expect?
I welcome Cllr Byrne's contribution to the debate over the Chester - Deeside transport system and am glad that he recognises that the majority of correspondents we against it being constructed.
When it comes to "misunderstanding" though I fear that it is both the county and city councils that misunderstand what the people of Chester really want or need.
However, were the scheme to go ahead then I think we would find that there would be insufficient room for the "all singing and dancing" system as outlined by Cllr Byrne, without significantly detracting from the amenity value of the cycleway and walkway. Remember we are talking about buses going both ways, a cycletrack and a walkway and still leave room for enough vegetation so that it could be called a "greenway". Maybe green lining is on the specification much like the red routes in London.
It may interest Clir Byrne to read that back in December 1985 a more enlightened joint meeting of the city and county councils resolved that "the route should be preserved for use as an urban and rural path". A report prepared for them at the time allowed a commuted sum of £169,000 for bridge liabilities- not as insurmountable as we have been led to believe. As regards the effect on the local residents I fear that Clir Byrne plays it down a mite. For instance, during the construction stages the significant amount of earth moving required will significantly reduce the quality of life and disrupt or eradicate the significant local wildlife along the corridor. On a final note it's all very well telling us that what's on offer is a "modern public transport system fit to compare with those which can be found in many places on the continent but few places in Britain." But if it doesn't solve the traffic problems then a white elephant is a white elephant no matter how expensive and high-tech it is.
Graeme Lyall, 47 Oaklea Avenue, Hoole, Chester
So the Council have agreed to spend £l.5 million of OUR (council and income tax payers) money on a "feasability" study for a scheme that very few Chester residents want - the Mickle Trafford to Deeside busway.
Your report last week trotted out all the discredited reasoning that has been put forward in the past by the planners of Backford Hall. The letters pages of this paper have already exposed all the weaknesses in their justifications for the scheme. If anyone wants a full review of the arguments, please contact me.
To pretend there is any kind of mass support for the scheme is a downright falsehood and our elected representatives should appraise themselves of the facts and question the accountability of the planners to anything but their own budgets before allowing this scheme to progress.
Sustrans is an organisation with unrivalled experience in this country of converting disused railways into cycle/walkways. They estimate £50,000/km for path laying and £1OO,000/km for the bridges on routes with the bridge difficulties shared with this truck. In other words, the £I.5.million which the council propose to spend on a feasibility study alone could pay for completion of about two thirds of the route.
And before anyone writes to you to say that the money would not he available for a greenway, the fact of the matter is that no sustained attempt has been made to look at funding for any altemative other than the busway. Which do you think is the best use of our money? Let your councillors know - they will be looking for your votes in May.
Nic Siddle, 7 Sandileigh Hoole, Chester
So, Councillor Peter Byrne, just how wide is this disused Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway anyway that there is room for a cycleway, 'green' walkway and, of course, the darling busway so dear to the hearts of councillors, businessmen and bus companies, but not wanted by anyone else?
Even you will have to admit the busway will not be attractive. it will be made of concrete, with assorted paraphernalia involved with signalling, lighting and the like and will, for sound reasons of safety and security, be extremely well fenced in.
I'm afraid the idea of spending my Sunday family excursions boxed in by a lot of concrete and wire mesh just does nothing for me.
You say: 'I find it difficult to understand why a greenway without the transport benefits is superior to a greenway with those benefits.' Because a greenway with buses on it is not a greenway. Is this so difficult to understand?
I realise that to to you people there is no profit in peace and quiet, but that is what is so urgently needed in this city whose every green space is regarded as a housing estate or supermarket waiting to happen.
You say this busway will not solve Chester's traffic problems, but will give us the opportunity to have a 'modern transport system that may be found in many places on the continent but few in Britain'. To me, this speaks volumes about the real motives behind this stupid scheme - the desire to have a shiny new toy the child down the road will envy, even though it cost a packet and probably won't get played with much anyway...
You mention the 'huge expense for maintenance of the bridges'. One assumes these have been, and must continue to be, maintained- crossing main roads as they do- irrespective of future usage.
As for the future, just how much wear and tear do you imagine bicycles cause, compared with buses? Also, isn't it a fact that the greenway-only scheme would cost just a small fraction, in terms both of construction and maintenance, of the busway proposal?
A little while back we were being wooed by the benefits of a pedestrianisation scheme. We were promised a peaceful and efficient city centre where people would be able to stroll about and shop, untroubled by traffic. What we got was a horrible shack disfiguring Town Hall Square, Foregate Street dominated by speeding buses and Northgate Street being transformed into a polluted hell brought about by those same stinking buses - and, of course, nowhere ended up being truly pedestrian.
The only reason things improved in Northgate Street is because the residents and traders held a series of public meetings with councillors and planners and forced them to make the street one way, thereby somewhat reducing the horrible conditions they had- never forget- planned for.
After that shambles what faith can we possibly have in this latest proposal? Just for once, dear councillors and planners, listen to the people you are supposedly there to serve, not the vested business interests, and imagine future users of a splendid, peaceful rural green corridor reading your names on the commemorative plaque and saying: 'How wise they must have been to build this, and how grateful we are that it exists for us and our children to enjoy.'
Steve Howe 25 Lime Grove, Hoole, Chester
I refer to last week's letter from Cllr Peter Byrne.
It appears that he, like the many other councillors, has been misinformed (or even deliberately misled?) regarding the uses to which Transport Policies programme funding can be applied. He says that the Government will only allow the councils to meet the expense of bridge maintenance by means of a package (implying a busway) and that therefore the use of the line as a greenway "is not an option open to anyone". The planners have led a number of councillors to whom I have spoken to believe that such funding cannot be used for non-motorised transport. Yet I have a letter from Stephen Norris (when he was still at the Transport ministry) confirming that a there are circumstances when it could be used for a 'greenway'. After all, walking and cycling are still means of transport!
I am given to understand that Derbyshire has used funds in precisely this way. If one looks closer to home, where did the funding come from for the Liverpool Loop Line or the Transpennine Way through Warrington? Sustrans did produce a report in 1985 showing how conversion of the Mickle Trafford-Deeside track to a greenway could be financed. No doubt grants land circumstances have changed since then but would it be too much to ask to commission an update? It would be money well spent to demonstrate the real options.
Incidentally, the bridge maintenance issue is something of a red herring. There is only the Newton Lane bridge in phase one that is an old bridge which rises to go over the track. In either the busway or greenway scheme, it could be demolished (not that I would want to see this happen). The bypass/Mannings Lane and Liverpool Road bridges all ran over the track where it goes through a cutting - so these bridges will have to be maintained anyway. The Ermine Road bridge will need a much more substantial structure if it is to carry buses.
At the end of the day, it is a matter of political will. It is clear that some local politicians regard the track as a potential way of solving Chester's problems- yet they have singularly failed to say how this will come about. A busway in isolation will actually increase rather than decrease total traffic entering the city. Cllr Byrne refers to the "other measures" being considered in order to alleviate the problems. May we know what they are? Before the county council elections please?
Nic Siddle, 7 Sandleigh Hoole, Chester
It was interesting to read in last week's Standard that county engineer Peter Cocker has forecast a shortfall of £17 million pounds in funding for basic highway maintenance for the coming year, stating that the savings must be made by cuts to the budget for both routine and structural maintenance.
May I suggest that he starts by cutting the £1.5 million due to be squandered in April on a feasibility study for a busway nobody wants on the old Deeside railway? Planners and the more gullible of our councillors persist in the fantasy that this scheme is backed by public approval, despite increasingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
I suppose it has always been easy to discount the views of cyclists and folk who enjoy spending their leisure time walking in quiet places as being of little importance. However, dear driver, when you crash over the next pothole or are delayed by the next broken traffic light, remember how the money has been wasted on paper-shuffling and consultants' fees. We should all- drivers, cyclists and pedestrians- be unified on these issues. I, for one, am all three, although I drive a car only when I have to. I commute by bicycle and walk with my family for relaxation, but we have to drive to places like Wepre Park and Loggerheads to be able to escape from Chester's stinking traffic. What a contradiction! And even these places are unsuitable for family cycling... there is, to my knowledge, nowhere at all in Chester one can take small children on bikes to be away from traffic.
How wonderful it would be to join a long-distance cycle track and footpath yards from our home and travel for miles into Cheshire or North Wales, and never meet a car or bus. It would be a simple path of tarmac, open to the elements, not a concrete construction complete with security fencing. One of the great advantages of this pIace is the wealth of mature trees, as well as a rich variety of animal and plant species, all of which would be destroyed by the projected busway.
I am informed by Mr Elwyn Jones, field officer of the Clwyd Badgers' Group, that at least four sets exist at the Shotton end of the line alone, and that local planners are quite aware of the fact.
This writer is currently awaiting details of other wildlife habitats destined to be part of this planned 'environmentally friendly' holocaust...
Dear readers, you must, must, must write to your councillors and local press and tell them what you actually think, as opposed to leaving it to them to tell you what you think. Do it today, or it will be too late.
Steve Howe, B&W Picture Place, Rufus Court, Chester
I read with astonishment that the scheme to turn the Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway line into a bus link has "so far been given the thumbs up" by members of the public (the Standard 6th March).
The consultation in late 1995 showed that over 70 per cent of people living close to the line did not want a bus route. Letters to Points of view from the general public have consistently argued against the inclusion of a bus link in the scheme.
The £1.5 million armarked for a feasibility study in April would virtually finance the complete provision of a walkway/cycleway. Why do the council persist in ignoring the views of the people they represent? Local residents want a walkway/cycleway in the form of a linear park- not squashed alongside a bus route.
Liz Taylor, Hoole, Chester
A few weeks ago Cllr Peter Byrne wrote to assure people about the proposed buslink from Mickle Trafford to the city centre, ably supported by Cllr John Boughton.
Well, his article did nothing to reassure me. He said provision would be included for walkers and cyclists to share the bus route. Some concession!- as according to him, buses would be passing every five minutes.Sounds like some form of Chinese torture to me.
If it is such a super scheme as claimed by John Boughton, it should be his sole duty to campaign on behalf of the people he represents to extend the bus link to Mickle Trafford only a further mile, and build a park and ride in the centre of the village. Why miss out on such a great scheme? Most of the councillors who are in favour of this scheme don't live near the site and will not be bothered by the disruption and noise involved.
Incidentally, I have lived in this area most of my life, and in 60 years have never seen any bridge repairs taking place.
Sefton Road reader
I am sorry to say that it does not surprise me that officialdom is planning to misappropriate our money to pollute and destroy a potentially delightful haven of peace, pleasure and health, on the old Deeside railway. I agree totally with Steve Howe (20th March).
It could never have been more than a dream anyway. Try to imagine a traffic-free countryside highway being enjoyed by people young and old, on foot or on bikes, experiencing something far more uplifting and healthy than packing themselves into the shopping car parks of Sealand road on a Sunday afternoon. Much more realistic is envisage a countryside version of the shame that is today's Frodsham Street- a picture od continuous columns of ancient, smoke-belching, usually-empty buses, now also being let loose in such places makes a mockery of the so-called environmental transport initiatives everyone is talking about.
It is a pity that cycling and cyclists are held in such poor regard in Britain. They really have no place on Britain's highways - illegal on the pavement, kamikaze on the road, so different compared with the continent where I have just worked, cycled and motored for three years.
I cannot help smiling when I see the lip service paid to these third class road users- such as 'cycleways' like the one on the road to the King's School, it starts nowhere, runs about 200 yards then stops nowhere. is this really promoting safety for our schoolchildren?
Some of the cycleways along Sealand Road are actually no more than about 25 yards long, starting and stopping nowhere. Again, a safety hazard.
I know of no way a person can safely cycle into Chester from the suburbs.
What is wrong with a little bit of tarmac, say, three feet wide, running from the top of Curzon Park North through the valley, under the big bridge to join up will the pathway to the Old Dee Bridge along the river?
How much would it cost to level out the pathway between the Roodee and the railway viaduct, now in a tragic state of disrepair?
How much would it cost to throw down a few stones or Iay a few square yards of tarmac on the canal towpath running through the city?
Despite our national ambivalence to cyclists, I am sure that if safe practical routes existed, large numbers of frustrated motorists would gladly jump on their bikes to nip into town, leaving their cars at home. On the continent they love their carts at least as much as we do, but you should see housewives, office workers, schoolchildren, factory workers cycling through town and suburbs, all times of the day. The cost to set up these facilities? - a tin of paint to draw a bike on one of the pavements, and a pedestrian on the other!
There are quite some aspects of life on the continent which I am nor too keen on, but cycling is viewed in much higher esteem than it is here. Of course we need buses for many sections of community - including myself, but them seems to be no coherent strategy, and, let's he honest, no real will to improve our chaotic transport system.
No, let's spend £l.5 million on a feasibility study to see how much more environmental destruction we can wreak, and at the same time have a good reason to bump up our poll tax even more next year. If the silent majority would just spend a couple of minutes writing their complaint to their MP or local councillor, they (we) could save ourselves huge sums of public money spent whether on feasibility studies or on police and security staff fighting to eject tree dwelling or tunnelling activists when it is already too late.
B. R. Fendt, 59 Earlsway, Cuzon Park, Chester
Followers of the Chester-Deeside Transport System saga will be interested to read that Cheshire County Council Engineering Consultancy has just last week advises for project manager "to lead the feasibility and development of a new £50 million transport system'. Annual fee circa £3O,OOO-£4OOOO.
Can this be the same system that was costed in the region of £15 million back in 1995? It is interesting also that this scheme is being punted as an environmental alternative to the car. As far as I am aware, and do correct me if I'm wrong, none of the environmental groups have given it their backing. Has Cheshire County Council become greener than the greens or is this scheme fundamnentally flawed? Another point highlighted in the ad is that it is a "guided bus system linking a number of park and ride sites on the periphery of the city ... and the city centre."
Does this mean for example that the buses from the Boughton Heath or the Zoo park and rides will instead of making the circa two mile journey into town they will instead travel two miles round the ring road to Mannings Lane and then two miles down the busway? Hardly an economic or time mving option in my opinion. However even if this is not the case, then the new park and ride site at the Mannings Lane would have to be enomous in order that the busway could become even remotely viable. This scenario would then bring with it horrendous traffic implications to this side of the city. Do we really want or need this?
Incidentally, the job spec lists as one of the qualities required of the applicants that they have the ability to 'steer this initiative through the approval processes with the backing of the local commmunity". A bit of wishful thinking her or are they displaying a bizarre sense of irony?
In any event keep pestering your elected or soon to be elected representatives on this issue as they would seem, in the main, to have ignored you views so far.
Graeme Lyall, 47 Oaklea Avenue Hoole, Chester
Re the future use of the old Deeside/Mickle Trafford rail link, it seems obvious, from the many letters published in the Standard on the subject, that the majority of the public simply want a cycle and pedestrian route. the arguments for which seem overwhelmingly in favour.
Other cities and towns have faced the same problem and developed successful greenways along these routes to the benefit of their residents. Why not Chester?
York, Edinburgh, Bath to Bristol, Liverpool to Ormskirk, Caernarfon to Bangor and Prestatyn to Dyserth are all good examples. Has every avenue been examined, beyond the unforthcoming national lottery, to obtain finance towards the project? I understand a charity called Sustrans exists to Provide support for this kind of development.
To make the Chester/Deeside link an effective public service a hugh amount would have to be spent on additional spurs to link outlying centres of population with Chester City. Not to mention the numerous projected species which would be decimated by a route which would not only require regular maintenance but extra security measures and all that that entails.
I also find alarming the suggestion that the main purpose of this scheme has less to do with improving amenities than providing work for a hungry council engineering department. I have not yet read anything to refute this suggestion, but if there is any truth in it then it's time the department was closed down, apart from a handful of supervising engineers, and work sub-contracted as and when necessary. That is what would happen in private industry. The funds then released could go towards the rehabilitation of this route before it gets mutilated like so many other previously attractive parts of the city.
It would seem however that whoever is elected, the future of this old rail link will be developed into a public transport route regardless of the wishes of Chester residents unless persistent objections are raised to change official opinion.
E L Robinson, 17 Cottage Road Chester
I am increasingly concerned over hidden agendas lying behind the insistence of the Cheshire County Council Highways Department to bulldoze through their desire to create a white elephant in the shape of the Deeside/ Mickle Trafford guided busway, despite a huge amount of local opposition in Chester.
My suspicions were further aroused about the project being a way to create a cashflow with the C.C.C. engineering consultancy (rather than being what is best for the people of Chester) when I read an advertisement in the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday 16th April for a project manager for the Chester Deeside Transport link. The post was advertised at up to £40,000 per annum. Guess who is paying for the post! Cheshire County Council Engineering Consultancy of course. Through monies received under Capital Challenge from central government. Total project cost described in the advert ... £50 Million. A greenway would cost £500,000 at the most.
Amongst all the election coverage it is perhaps not very well known that Cheshire County Council elections are also taking place on 1st May. Suffice it to say that most existing county councillors have been hoodwinked into agreeing this madcap scheme and have been deaf to the concerns their constituents have been raising. Just try it and find out. Think before you cast your vote for your county councillor and find out how your intended councillor stands on this issue. Get this folly stopped - get a greenway that Chester needs. Use your vote where it counts.
Simon Brown, 65 Gladstone Avenue Chester
Chester and York are popular destinations for visitors. York (Ebocacum) is also popular with cyclists. Chester could learn from her walled-city sister.
Disused railway lines converted into cyclist paths.
Cyclists gutters on flights of steps (making it easier for cycle access.)
Cycle-only zones at traffic lights; (cyclists head the traffic queue, allowing quicker exit, plus no direct inhaling of exhaust fumes).
Environmental initiatives have been acted upon for two decades in York.
Chester's councillors maintain that £1.5million should be spent on this unwanted feasibility study. Cestrians have always said no to this bus route. A cycle-pedestrian route from Mickle Trafford to Shotton may just help Chester equalise!
We're in injury time.
Brenda E. Norris, Martin B.E. Bell,The Cottage, St Mary's on the Hill, Chester
It is a matter of great concern to C.P.R.E. that the Cheshire County Council is submitting a Transport Policies and Programme 1997 (T.P.P.) to the Department of Transport requesting approval for a £52 million package for the Chester-Deeside Transport System- combined with the Chester Western By-pass. This figure, we understand, is the approximate cost of the English section; the section in Wales would be progressed by Flintshire via the Welsh Office.
The Department of Transport has indicated that public funding cannot be assumed so private funding will have a significant part to play in the construction and operation of the system.
C.P.R.E. understands that the current T.P.P. circular issued by the Department of Transport to local authorities stresses the importance of genuine local support for major transport schemes of this kind.
C.P.R.E. believes it has been a serious omission during public consultation on the Cheshire Structure Plan and the pre-deposit Chester Local Plan that an updated Chester Transport Strategy has not been available for public comment. The 1990 Traffic Study ('The Yellow Book') is now clearly out of date.
C.P.R.E. believes that the Western By-pass would unlock greenfield development sites in the Sealand basin and Wrexham Road and and the guided busway which requires very large parking areas at Mannings Lane, Wrexham Road and north of Blacon would influence the location of new out-of-town development on a strategic scale.
No evidence has been provided that the proposed system would reduce traffic on the existing roads or would make public transport attractive enough to reduce the use of the private car. New traffic generated by the new development sites may create additional traffic problems.
C.P.R.E. would be very interested to hear the views of others. Please write to the address given below.
Ann Jones, Planning Coordinator Chester District C.P.R.E. 101 Daleside, Upton Heath, Chester
The many people who commented on the county council's 2011 Structure Plan and more specifically the use of the Mickle Tafford-Deeside railway corridor for the Deeside Transport System will he disappointed to learn this week that it is not planned to debate this issue in the Examination in Public to be held later this year. (see Cheshire 2011 News in local libraries).
This is yet another example of the council putting off or denying public debate on this highly contentious scheme. All those against the scheme please write now to Ian Gilfoyle, County Planning Officer, Cheshire County Council, Commerce House, Hunter Street, Chester CHI 2QP and demand that it be included and also that local residents, environmental and other groups with a interest in the corridor be invited to take part in the inquiry. All submissions should be received by 28th May, 1997.
Additionally as the city and county councils would seem intent on blocking any opposition to this scheme it would assist our cause if you were also to write to the Director, Government Office for the North West, Piccadily Plaza, Manchester, MI 4BE indicating you objections to the scheme. This is the department that controls the purse strings and they don't like public disquiet.
Graeme Lyall, 47 Oaklea Avenue Hoole, Chester
Never a week goes by without some troubled resident expressing fears about the strip of old railway line, running at the bottom of their garden, that is going to become a public thoroughfare - even in spite of the public outcry.
At last that other great talking point, the Cheshire Oaks threat, is being coupled to the all singing, all dancing rapid transport project.
For it's all about transport and ultimately transport is all about collecting money. For, while it is sold as a service for the people, with the people comes the money.
The rapid transport busway is sold by the instigators as a means of opening up the city centre, by using some of the existing railway system. It can only begin to approach near the city centre by absorbing one of the few existing roads within the inner city. A massive price to pay.
The rapid transport busway only serves the northern side of the city, until more of the existing railways are replicated at huge expense. A delight to be enjoyed in the future.
Now consider the Cheshire Oaks. Cheshire Oaks didn't just appear overnight- It has been years in the making. Giant speculators and planners nationwide, have identified the easy way to scoop up money. Out-of-town shopping only exists because towns and cities are so unfriendly to visitors and customers.
Like: Nowhere for a car to stop, to enable the passengers to spend their money.
Or, if a car does stop, more money has to he spent on exorbitant parking tolls and excessive traffic fines as a penalty for making the visit.
The logic of the planners is: 'There are more cars than towns can hope to contain, and it is not financially viable for this transient use of space.' Hence out-of-town shopping. But this is what out-of-town shopping really means. Money spent out of town deprives city traders of the return on their investment, and what is more, ensures the continuing need for a car, so out-of-town shopping can be patronised.
Suburban roads will remain choked with parked cars.
Urban pollution will remain unabated and the cost to the city dwellers will continue to rise.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a hidden agenda. Maybe this north Of the city rapid transport tramway will eventually feed the Cheshire Oaks with city trade, for trams have allegiance only to the planners that provide them.
The public won't know, but it's a bet somebody does.
JAMES T INDERMAUR, Shaftesbury Avenue Vicars Cross, Chester
1/1/98 I write concerning the county council's proposals for the disused railway line running from Mickle Trafford to Deeside.
In all of the correspondence published about the line and documents produced by the county council there has still been no adequate explanation as to how the busway proposal will actually reduce car traffic. This is the fundamental flaw in this whole grandiose scheme. If the scheme is shown to be "successful" then it will have attracted traffic to the park and ride sites along the route. These will rely on road traffic to reach them. Far from encouraging travellers to use another transport mode the scheme will make it more attractive to use cars. And furthermore, the busway will degrade what could be a key incentive for the citizens of Chester to use their bicycles or legs more to reach schools, shops, friends, etc along a totally traffic free route and it would destroy what would be an attractive recreational route through the middle of the city to access the countryside.
In addition, the scheme relies on developer's" contributions to fund a significant proportion of the scheme, and these developments in themselves will generate extra traffic. Far from being a sustainable transport proposal, the scheme again demonstrates dinosaur thinking of highways engineers who persist in assuming that car traffic needs to be provided for.
Now that the Road Traffic Reduction Act is now law, requiring all local authorities to come up with plans on how to reduce traffic overall (not just in one locality) and that the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Bill is before Parliament in January 1998, the county council must demonstrate how its strategy will achieve the requirement that road traffic is reduced. By spending far less money than the millions proposed for the busway project and by creating attractive cycle/ pedestrian routes throughout the city the county council will do much to promote more sustainable ways for Chester's residents to get about to shop, go to school (even go to work!).
The question of how people are to arrive in Chester needs to be dealt with much more radically, with attractive alternative transport modes being developed to encourage travellers out or their cars - if the government is to be taken seriously, then a much greater emphasis in putting investment into transport alternatives will be given over the next decade.
Perhaps we will see conditions similar to that prevailing in Holland or Denmark where transport is really coordinated and public transport is generally excellent.
Simon Brown 65 Gladstone Avenue, Chester
1/1/98 Regarding the disused railway line from Mickle Trafford to North Wales, I would like to once again draw to the attention of the councillors who are actively supporting this bus route project that there are many people who do not want this project to take place and feel their voice has not been heard in their arguments against it.
When Cllr Smith says Cllr M. Hale has come under criticism for her support for the project, remember she represents a lot of people who do not want the project.
Surely we have a right to question people who represent us. I always thought this was called democracy.
Cllr Smith refers to the old and disabled with reference to a cycle or walkway. But can he or anyone else explain how these groups of people will gain access to the new bus route when the road/track - call it what you will - is 20 to 30 feet below the road levels in the Mannings Lane/ Long Lane area and access is limited.
If the park and ride system will take most of the car traffic off Hoole Road, why waste money on a new bus route? Use the money to replace the clapped out buses we see on the roads at present with these Super-Green buses highlighted in the local press recently which could be made much more disabled and elderly friendly to the advantage of us all.
Leave the old railway track to the walkers and cyclists who will have the benefit of hearing the birds and seeing the rabbits scurrying away instead of a bus passing them at "three-minute intervals" as previously stated.
T.A. Whitehouse, 76 Sefton Road Hoole, Chester
With regard to the proposed Chester to Deeside Transport System, allow me to quote from two letters.
1. From Mr Mike Hayward of the Government Office for the North West, Manchester to Mr Frank Crowe Of Hoole (19th May 1997): "As you were concerned about the financing of the scheme I am pleased to say that the authorities are exploring ways of introducing private finance in order to minimise or possibly do without any government grant. At present there is no committment to provide any financial support for the construction of the busway."
2. From Mr Peter Cocker, County Engineer, Cheshire County Concil to Councillor Gordon Smith ( 12th May 1997): "it is not envisaged that there will be any private sector contributions to the transport system or park and ride from firms wishing to develop land currently in the green belt, although it is true that Tesco appears to own the land which is our first choice for a park and ride site at Hoole."
Some extracts from the Analysis of Public Consultation- Spring 1997 read-
"Healey and Baker for Tesco Stores Ltd comment that: Tesco have now evolved proposals for a package of development on land near the junction of the M53 and... Mannings Lane'. Healey and Baker-
*Object to the lack of flexibility and absolute nature ... in Policy DGE1.
*Wish to see 8 hectares of land removed from the green belt and allocated for a park and ride and OTHER (my emphasis) facilities associated with the proposed busway.
*Object to policy DRE5 because it fails to make provision for convenience shopping... wish to see part of the Mannings Lane site allocated"
I do not think that I have to labour the conclusions for your readers.
Nic Siddle, 7 Sandleigh Hoole, Chester
5/6/97 It comes as no surprise to the Council for the Protection of Rural England that the most enthusiastic supporters of the combined Chester-Deeside Transport System (busway) and the Western Bypass are the developers. They want out-of-town greenfield development sites in Chester.
In particular, developers are anxious to locate food superstores at each end of the transport system in association with large new park and ride sites at Mannings Lane and opposite the Chester Business Park On Wrexham Road, and on greenfield sites in the Sealand Basin unlocked by the Western Bypass.
Their views can be found documented in representations to the Cheshire Structure Plan and the Chester District Local Plan.
CPRE would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who responded to our recent letter published in the Standard supporting the views of CPRE.
Ann Jones, Planning Co-ordinator Chester District CPRE, 101 Daleside, Upton Heath, Chester
Our local council is gearing up to drive guided buses down the disused Shotton/Chester/Mickle Trafford railway line. They are now awaiting a planning application for this busway with a walkway/cycleway squeezed alongside. Ironically this application will be made by Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity who have been charged with building a national cycle network. But many local people do not want buses tearing along this green haven. Many would prefer a greenway - after all Chester has plenty of roads already but few really safe walkways and cycle routes.
Unless local people act soon, the council will be faced with only one planning application - one which includes a busway.
We can offer a choice to our councillors. We want to put in an alternative planning application for a walkway/ cyclaway only. We have already received pledges of £70 towards the cost by a number of local people who believe all residents deserve a choice. Since our proposal will not create extra road space it will also imply that traffic reduction or priority bus lanes will be needed on our crowded roads.
If you want to support the greenway idea we still need 12 cheques for £lO each. If you can contribute (any sum is welcome) make your cheque payable to 'Chester City Council'. When we have enough cheques we will pass them on with a planning application for a GREENWAY ONLY, direct to the council. Time is short. Our elected councillors need a chance to consider, in its own right, the GREENWAY ONLY option for the disused railway line.
At the next election we will know how they put our views forward. We also need expert advice on matters of planning law and civil engineering to give this application its best chance. Any offers or advice would be welcome.
Gordon Emery, Chester Urban Wildliffe Group, 27 Gladstone Road, Chester
20/11/97 Those of your readers who read the 'Independent on Sunday' will have learnt of the meeting held in October by Lord Sainsbury and representatives of Tesco and Safeway with Prime minister Tony Blair. At this meeting, they pleaded for a relaxation of the planning guidelines on out of town
Your readers will also be aware of the substantial donation made by Lord Sainsbury to Labour Party funds.
Any readers who have seen the agenda of last week's meeting of the county council Environmental Committee will have spotted the instruction that the report by the Turner & Townsend project management team into the Chester-Deeside Transport System (the old railway line) should be kept confidential "as it contains confidential information relating to the financial business affairs of a third party".
Now that the committee has met, I trust that the report will be released for public scrutiny so that we can all see who the "third party" is. Or am I naive to expect such open government?
Nic Siddle, 7 Sandileigh, Hoole, Chester
18/12/97 Once again the letters in the current issue of the Standard about the Mickle Trafford-Deeside busway are represented in a proportion of around 3:1 in favour of its development as a cycle and footpath only. And, predictably, the single letter in support is from a city councillor, in this instance Gordon Smith.
Cllr Smith's attempt to compare the mle of Manchester's MetroLink tram system with that of the projected busway is quite absurd, for many reasons. Notably, that the Manchester trams travel right into the city centre from a number of locations - the nearest the old railway comes to Chester city centre is the junction of Brook Lane and Liverpool Road and where it crosses, at a considerable height, above Parkgate Road. We have yet to be shown how hordes of former motorists, most of whom would not be seen dead in a bus or on a bicycle, are expected to gain access to the city from these locations.
In fact, there is a great deal Chester's People have yet to he told about many other aspects of this ill-considered scheme. Why the secrecy? For example, it was reported recently that the report by the Turner and Townsend project management team into the old railway line should be kept confidential "as it contained confidential information relating to the financial business affairs of a third party" What does this mean? One must assume that this "third party" is the construction company commissioned with the highly-profitable task of replacing the rural green atmosphere of the place (not a lot of that to be found on the Manchester MetroLink) with tons of concrete, lighting and security fencing. Councillors and planners may say this is a nonsense. But how are we to know until it's too late and the damaged has been done? In the light of this conspiracy of silence, relieved only by carefully-phrased PR handouts, is it It all surprising that many citizens are deeply uneasy about the situation?
A while back, we were told that the results of a city council "Public consultation" exercise indicated that "the majority of respondents" favoured the busway, and this despite an option for a cycle and footpath only never even being included. A rival paper to the Standard recently made much of a survey carried out by schoolchildren in Upton, advised by a mysterious "public/private initiative" calling itself SEEN - the Sustainable Environmental Education Network, which remarkably came to the same conclusions - without, of course, informing its readers who the members of SEEN actually are.
The very presence of this report as the front page story in this normally-unreadable publication was, I felt, highly suspicious in itself.
Cllr Smith then goes one further than including children in the PR battle by dragging in the old folks. He says that be is still fit enough to cycle into Chester (all the way from Canadian Avenue) but "Many elderly people and those with disabilities are not so fortunate", and he goes on to describe the increasing call for the line to be used as a greenway as "arcadian"...
To get back to the children, HERE is the reality: it is a fact that, as the father of two myself, there currently exists NOWHERE AT ALL where we can cycle in peace and safety as a family, away - just for once - from speeding, inconsiderate motorists. We adults cannot cycle in the parks, and there's no way we should take our kids onto our roads! This is especially true now that the moderately quiet conditions that once prevailed on Sundays are now sadly a thing of the past.
This is surely a disgracful situation in a city the size of ours.
Our planners no doubt believe that Chester families like nothing better than to spend their time shopping and wolfing down burgers at the Greyhound Park or Cheshire Oaks. If they were to spend a little time at places outside Chester such as- to name but one- the Wirral Country Park, itself converted from a disused railway by Cheshire County Council, and saw the thousands of people walking and cycling there, unwinding and enjoying the rural peace of the place- no cars to dodge, nothing to buy- they may just see that there is a growing demand- and desperate need- for this type of facility. It is a vital way of investing in the well being of our people -the old saying that 'the family that plays well works well' is more true today than ever ...
It is quite absurd - and says much of those who govern the city in which we live - that this family has to load their bikes into a car and drive a considerable distance in order to partake of such recreational pleasures.
Steve Howe, Lime Grove Chester
An open letter to Cllr Derek Bateman and all the car lobby.
The Council for the Preservation of Rural England are right in their findings regarding Park and Ride. You are still encouraging use of the car within one mile of the city. People are given the wrong message - it's all right to come within a mile or so of Chester, we'll give up our countryside just for you to come park and spend.
How many business people, councillors and Backford Hall boffins are affected in their homes by loss of countryside on the fringes of Chester? Likely none at all.
How many times do ordinary folk have to scream out to you STOP cars coming to Chester by encouraging the use of train and bus travel? Send this information out: reduce prices on public transport or other facilities for those thoughtful enough to leave their cars at home. We welcome everyone to Chester but we do not welcome their cars. Make in plain, make it simple. People will realise it makes sense to come but not by car. Scrap park and ride. Stop the one person one car brigade going to work in the city each day (witness this yourself for a few minutes in the rush hour).
Take a leaf out of Leeds council's book. Get tough- after all we are talking about OUR environment. If workers won't use train or bus at least use their cars to full seating capacity where they can, slap parking prices really high for them, or just ban them completely, and stop this dropping off one person in the middle of town, turning and going out again. At last it seems, action is being taken to stop free parking for 13,000-odd council workers. Better late than never. Fill your car with people or do without it.
Don't talk about helping the motorist- start helping those on foot, cycle and public transort, we have had third class treatment for too long. A vehicle-free Mickle Trafford route would be a start to put the balance straight. Send the message out loud and clear that priority will be given to people who consider the environment. Give us what we are crying out for- vehicle free routes like the Mickle Trafford-Shotton Railway. The car is no longer King - thank God people are beginning to realise this.
By the way, we do have a car- it is greener than most, but we walk, cycle or use public transport most of the time.
We should like to walk along the Mickle Trafford line into the country or town more safely, listening to birds singing, breathing fresh air and not bracing ourselves, eyes shut for the next vehicle to blow grit in our face.
Last but not least. More Power to Mr David Lloyd Griffiths, the environment committee and all those with foresight and unblinkered views.
Two healthier citizens
I am a Cestrian born and bred, though I now work in London. My parents live in Chester along "The Hollows" off Hoole road which back onto the above railway line and have done since the 50s, so as a family we have seen much of the development of the line... It's now a real haven for wildlife and my parents have noticed a real increase in wildlife with owls, buzzards, sparrowhawk, black caps, redwings, all increased over the years since the line became disused... I wonder if the local RSPB members group have taken an interest, or any other local wildlife groups? If there was some scientific study of the species diversity and if rare species could be found..that would strengthen the case for keeping to the footpath/bike path idea...or is that already in hand?
I spent last summer on Cape Cod on the eastern seaboard of the US, where they have a marvellous bike path running for several miles, called the shining sea bike path, linking two towns. It features nature stops showing a little info on what can be seen in the area and it's so popular with visitors and locals alike... Bike racks are provided liberally, benches on which people can sit and relax are also provided along the route, it would be so great if that were to be seen in Chester too!
Well done on the web page and good luck in your battle against the councils plans, wish I could do more but sadly I am too far away these days....
PS... I see from further browsing the wildlife groups ARE involved, that's great."
Dr. Julie L Hodgkinson
"I have read your pages on the Virtual Stroll and Facfile with interest and will look again from time to time for updates.
I am currently living in the States, but will return to Chester again to live within the next couple of years. I'd like to think that by the time I return the old line will have been converted to a cycleway and footpath which I and my children can use to get away from the Chester traffic.
We visited the UK over Christmas and were particularly struck by how polluted the air is compared with the air quality of the large US city in which we live! This has to be due to the greater use of diesel fuel in the UK - I dread to think that small diesel powered buses, which we already see all over Chester, could use the proposed busway on the old Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway. If this were to happen, I doubt that we'd want to use a parallel cycletrack, as one of the reasons we cycle is to breath fresh air!
Keep up the pressure on the council to consider the conversion of this old railway into a 'linear park' where we can escape from traffic and enjoy nature! Good Luck!"
Kn & Jn Young
11/12/97 For the past two years I have been both observing and contributing to the correspondence and debate concerning the proposals for the re-use of the Mickle Trafford to Shotton former railway line and it appears to me that the recently Proposed cycleway and walkway could have been built two years ago, if our elected representatives had listened to the reasoned arguments being put forward at that time. The cycleway/walkway element of [he current proposals appear to be not dissimilar to the proposals first put forward 13 years ago and then apparently shelved by our elected councillors.
The original scheme proposed by Cheshire County Council Transportation Department in 1995 seems to have been endorsed by a Labour Conservative alliance supported, so as not to appear to be party poopers, by the Liberal Democrats. This situation created a rare, if not unique, creature of local government, a scheme with all party and all council support including Flintshire County Council which had not even been formed when their support was claimed. This of course meant that anyone who opposed the scheme in its original form or had alterative proposals was not represented and by definition, was effectively disenfranchised at local govemment elections, there being no party opposing the scheme for whom they could vote.
With no political opposition whatsoever, the proposals can never, and will never, be critically examined or meaningfully debated, as providing that they comply with the parameters for funding, all of the proposals including the abuseway will go through on the nod.
During the past two years our elected representatives and council officials appear to have used a lot of our money in spin doctoring some of the untenable aspects of their scheme, in an apparent attempt not to explain or justify it, but to either disarm or discredit those opposed to any part of the proposal.
It has seemed to me from the outset that the fundamental flaw in the proposal for the abuseway, is that by the time it is functioning at some unspecified time in the next century, it be neither a sustainable transportation system, (unless it is fuelled by the horse manure that the proponents are presently shovelling on the opposition) or be relevant to Chester and Cheshire's needs.
Dennis Turner, 7 West Bank Abbot's Park, Chester
11/12/97 Yet another letter about the Mickle Trafford railway line, but I make no apologies.
It appears that the council are rather deaf to the views of many city residents who are opposed to the plans for a busway and wish for the route to be used as a footpath/walkway alone. The increasing volume of letters in the local press from residents regarding this issue will, I hope, call into play their sense of local democracy at some point.
Councillor Smith (Points of View, 4th December) makes the point that elderly and disabled people who are unable to walk or cycle into the city centre would benefit from the proposed busway. He fails to realise that the city already has bus services, and that development mont would be much better spent improving these existing services. What the city does not have is a pleasant traffic-free route which would encourage those who are able to walk or cycle into the city centre. At present many people do not walk or cycle into the city simply because of the exposure to nauseating traffic fumes and, for cyclists, the very real danger of being knocked off a bike by motor vehicles.
Councillor Smith hopes that the other councillors will "stick to their guns" and pursue the busway plans despite objections from residents. I hope that other councillors will stick to the principles of local democracy, use their consciences and act according to the views of the residents who elected them to look after our city. The recent catalogue of planning decisions which override residents' opinions and wishes in favour of commercial developers and the council's own schemes is deplorable.
I urge our councillors to act to restore the balance back towards the needs of residents, reject the plans for the busway and let the city enjoy the green space it truly needs.
Russell Sheldrick, Newton Lane, Newton, Chester
7/5/98 How impressed I was by the latest Chester-Deeside Transport System piece (part of an insert in Chester's other weekly paper). It has completely changed my mind about the environmentally sustainable nature of the scheme's publicity.
The article contained many familiar elements- blind optimism about profitability, opinion stated as fact, misleading use of statistics, illogical deductions - enough recycled old rubbish to satisfy the greenest of sensibilities. But as with any other recycled product, some parts become just so degraded or dangerous that they are best discarded; and so it was that we said goodbye to the combined linear park and transport system claim. The visiting European transport chiefs (credited with more sense than us thick locals) could never be expected to swallow it.
The feature which most impressed me was a clever dual purpose photograph and artist's impression. To someone unfamiliar with the area this was just your typical before/after comparison, but the subject matter (Newton Hollows bridge) seems cunningly contrived to demonstrate the council's real attitude to cycling - the bridge carried a cycle path from Hoole to Newton, but has a three piece anti-cycle barrier on it, while the caption "Fairfield Road bridge at Hoole" shows how much they care for local opinion. Killing two birds with one stone like this shows a healthy desire to save paper.
Yes, I have to say I'm convinced of Backford Hall's ability to sustain production of this stuff, and of their desire to feed it to us until our brains turn to mush. But as for the busway itself...
WITH regard to the letters "Pros and Cons" and "Solution" last week, my Point of View is that the only sensible way forward is the construction of a footpath/cycleway only managed by Sustrans on the disused Mickle Trafford-Shotton railway line. Leave buses for the roads.
I used to go to school on the train to Northgate Station and very few people used it at the same time. I thought this was why Dr Beeching closed these stations. Now the council want to put a busway, but unlike the trains come off the track on to the roads, which to me defeats the object. If they have to come off the track anyway, why ruin this green corridor? On top of this people are supposed to walk and cycle. As I recall with the train it was an offence to be by the track and transport police were there to enforce this.
My view is, like residents, Sustrans have to settle for second best. It would be interesting to hear Sustrans' point of view on this and whether they do think it safe. As the council says, it is too expensive for ordinary people to fight them and developers who have the money, and in the end it is what the council wants it gets, by whatever means it goes about it.
I would think the only thing people can do if the council goes ahead with the busway is to use their people power and don't use it- only use it for cycling and walking.
I Feel sure that the Chester-Deeside Transport System will create more problems than it will solve.
In his letter, "Pros and Cons", in last weeek's issue, Mr Carlton Roberts James of Cheshire C.C. makes a positive offer to help anyone wishing to inform themselves further. I intend to take up his offer- it is always extremely difficult for an individual to brief himself adequately and only a few have the time to research and analyse the bulky documents involved, or to understand the procedures followed. I recommend that those who, like me, are far from convinced that a bus service is necessary or wanted, should also take up Mr Carlton Roberts-James' offer.
I strongly believe that the original "appreciation" of the need for a busway was faulted and that the majority of the citizens of this area probably think likewise.
Peter Crowe, 21 Housesteads Drive, Hoole Chester
18/12/97 I've received another five cheques for £I0.00 to Chester City Council and lots of sudden interest from Cheshire county Council employees both officially and unofficially.
All this because Chester Urban Wildlife Group suggested applying for planning permission for a GREENWAY ONLY option along the Mickle Trafford/ Deeside railway. It has been pointed out that Sustrans are only applying for a cycleway but it is also true that they are only getting the land on condition that they leave space for a busway.
Encouraging cars to go to park and ride could hardly be called sustainable transport, the scheme relies on increased traffic for a bus to be feasible. Mr Carlton Roberts-James of Cheshire County Council, on his three year £30,000 plus salary, to implement the busway suggests that local people would be wasting their money on planning permission. Several unofficial comments about waste and his £IOO,000 have been made to me but I won't bother repeating them here.
Councillor Peter Byrne suggests that the busway is the only way to solve traffic problems but even the government has now conceded that new roads just fill with new traffic. look at the Deva Link - and busways just leave more space for cars. He challenges me for another solution. Here is one. put a bus lane along Sealand Road, access and buses only along Stadium Way and Whipcord Lane (saving this becoming a rat run especially if the third bridge is built) then up Canal Street- this avoids the use of the railway line and gives a direct link to the city centre thus saving the county millions of pounds.
From a wildlife point of view I suggest Peter Byrne and Carlton Roberts-James take a quiet walk along the Wirral Way (an old railway line now used as a latest country park) then imagine this same walk with a bus going past every six minutes minimum.
Gordon Emery, 27 Gladstone Road, Chester
18/12/97 While many of the points Cllr Gordon Smith made in his recent letter made sense, such as deterring thousands of cars in via the motomay into Chester and the need for attractive, frequent and affordable public transport, I and the main environmental groups disagree with his assertion that using the Shotton/Mickle Trafford railway corridor is pivotal to all this happening.
Yes, improve the bus service through better, more frequent and cheaper park and rides (even free!) but there are already enough roads try do this. This isn't Manchester with miles and miles of choked up suburban roads, this is Chester With the distance from green belt to city centre at most being two miles.
Additionally what Cllr Smith and his colleagues still fail to grasp is that the still large percentage of the population who take their cars 200 yds down the road to get the paper or to take the kids to school are indifferent to the busway proposals or maybe just support them if they think it will make their own 200 yard motorised dash a few seconds quicker. Recent work in other cities has shown just how ingrained people's habits are and how very much they would have to be penalised in order to leave their car at home. Are you prepared to grasp that nettle, Cllr Smith?
Conversely it is the very people who are pro an improved public transport system and providing other aspects of a sustainable transport system and who would use it that are against using this corridor for a busway. SO Clir Smith why not be radical- tackle the problem from the other end, work with the converted, it might just be catching.
Graeme Lyall, 47 Oaklea Avenue Hoole, Chester
16/7/98 It is now clear that the promised cycleway/walkway along the Mickle Trafford - Shotton disused railway line is to be forced off the trackbed into the margins and in some places onto adjacent land to make Way for the constmction of a new road to accommodate a two-way bus system.
A detailed planning application (98/729/FLJL), submitted by Sustrans this week has revealed the widths that are needed for the 3-in-I Chester Deeside Transport System. The recommended safe width for a cycleway/ pedestrian route in an urban setting is three metres. As a minimum width of seven metres is required for the two-lane bus system, the original eight metre width of the trackbed is not sufficient to accommode the bus system, cycleway and pedestrian route.
It is understood that the disused railway is being acquired by Sustrans as part of the countrywide network of disused railway lines approved by the Department of Transport and part funded by Lottery money.
it is also understood that the local councils are asking Sustrans to agree: "Immeditely after the acquisition of the disused railway line from Rail Property, Sustrans will pass title of the relevant sections of the line to Flintshire and Cheshire County Councils, free of charge, the relevant sections will be those needed for the construction of the guided busway (western extremity eastwards to the county boundary, and then eastwards to the proposed Mickle Trafford park and ride site) with the proviso that the guided busway may be extended east wards from Mickle Trafford park and ride site at some point in the future."
C.P.R.E. will continue to strongly object to the construction of a new road on the disused railway line as it will destroy the possibility of a tranquil open space greenway for walking and cycling through an urban area, with access to the countryside, similar to other imaginative schemes initiated by Sustrans.
Ann Jones, Planning Co-ordinator Chester District C.P.R.E. 101 Daleside, Upton Heath, Chester
16/7/98 Many people living adjacent to the old Mickle Trafford/Deeside Line will have received notification from the city council of a planning application by Sustrans to create a foot/cycle way along this corridor. Is this good news?
Well, yes it is! The funding has now somehow been found to create a track which at the time of the consultation process into the Deeside Transport System we were told was well nigh impossible. It should be noted however that although this plan is not dependent on two lanes of buses going in alongside the path that a condition imposed by the joint councils on Sustram stipulates that space is left for them!
So when inspecting the detailed plans the main points that residents may wish to consider/ask is, if the "way" is not to take a pleasant, meandering path along the existing trackbed will there be significant earth-moving required to create the narrow route along the very edge of the corridor? Just how narrow will it be? Will this mean significant loss of trees and shrubbery along the edge of the corridor? Does the path have good access and link up well with green spaces along the route? Could the railway line be brought back into service at reasonable cost in the future, if required?
Everyone interested in a better and safer environment for walking and cycling please go along to the Plans Processing Unit at the Forum, inspect the plans and then make your comments. Don't delay as the closing date is 31 st July.
Graeme Lyall, 47 Oaklea Avenue Hoole, Chester
23/7/98 By now some of your readers will be aware that Sustrans has applied for planning permission to make a cycle track/walkway along the old Mickle Trafford to Deeside railway track. It is likely that those living near to the track will be bombarded with "positive" information by the council about the applications in the near future. What many or may not be made clear in the publicity is that it is still the council's intention to put a "bus highway" along the line of the track in the relatively near future.
To this end they have obliged Sustrans to acccept undesirable planning restrictions in the applications that has been submitted. The Sustrans application is now available for public scrutiny. The wording of it is quite revealing, for instance:-
"This necessarily means that the cycleway/ pedestrian route will be forcedto the margins of the railway formation, and could make a very uninterestingoff-highway route" (my italics)-
"Bridges are generally in good condition" - at the original exhibitions, we were told by the County Engineers (and by the local councillors who had been advised by them) that the state of the bridges was so poor that the only way of financing their upkeep was by having a Busway.
The standard eight metre width is not sufficient... so the County's Engineers are proposing that cuttings are filled with embankments lowered as part of the busway scheme. The shared path is to be constructed in advance of the bay in its final position with minimum disturbance during the buway contract.(So) the surfaced route (has to be) finished at the correct level over most of its length."
I have no doubt that any publicity issued by the council will continue to deny the massive local opposition to the busway scheme. Of the 766 individuals who sent formal objections to the Local Plan, at least 245 specifically objected to the proposed Busway- I understand that each objection form was only counted as one objection, even where signed by more than one person together with a specific request that multiple signatures should count as separate objections (there was a shortage of forms at the time). To my certain knowledge, there were at least an additionally 92 objections lodged in this way. So much for local democracy!
The current proposal will be of some benefit to those who already walk or cycle. What it will not do is to encourage those who do not currently walk or cycle to change their habits. It thus will fail to meet the Government's objectives for sustainable transport because it will not, help to create a new attitude to the transport needs of the country. It will be an opportunity wasted.
Nic Siddle, 7 Sandileigh, Hoole, Chester
31/7/98 As a resident of Cranleigh Crescent, I began to feel persecuted by assaults from every side, by Chester City Council planning department.
We have the Deva link, retail park, Blacon meadows building. Blacon dairy building- now plans are in a cycleway/busway.
To add insult to injury, plans show the removal of initial security fencing to build a turning circle, exit gate and access path in the middle of our estate. It is to be built on one of the few local green spots designated for children to play on.
There are, of course, many security issues raised when strangers are encouraged into our open plan housing area such as child safety, vandalism and burglary.
As with the Duke's Drive, extra cars will be brought into our Crescent bringing with it child safety, congestion and parking issues.
To discharge cycle users into Cranleigh Crescent seems ludicrous as we have no bike lanes here nor on Saughall Road which is already in heavy use. Surely there are many more suitable access points such as onto the Deva Link bike lane?
As a regular bike user I can't see any benefit to Chester residents of a cycleway which goes from nowhere to nowhere, except maybe for recreation. While it may be fun for people living in ivory towers away from the railway to go for the odd bike ride, it defeats the object of getting people out of their cars and onto bikes!
Finally, I sincerely hope public money will not be wasted on the upkeep of this fancy when local people are crying out for more useable bike lanes such as at the Deva llnk road.
Emma Riding, Cranleigh Crescent, Chester
31/7/98 While I am all in favour of turning the disused Mickle Trafford to Shotton railway line into a cycletrack/walkway, I am certainly not in favour of the Sustrans planning application to put a cycle track/walkway on the margins of the disused railway.
As I understand it, once Sustrans take control of the disused railway line, they must give control of the trackbed to Chester City Council, Cheshire County Council, and Flintshire County Council.
It is the only scheme in the country where this will happen if they get the go-ahead and where the cycle track will not run on the old track bed.
Running the cycle track/walkway on the margins of the railway track will simply destroy yet more trees and greenery.
Then if we get the supposed express bus route, I hate to think of the destruction it would cause.
Also the railway track is not wide enough to take all the proposed cycle, walkway and bus route, so how much land adjacent to the railway line are we to lose I wonder?
I suppose it's somewhat cynical of me but Tesco's have acquired land between Mannings Lane and the Hoole Road roundabout and there is talk of a proposed park and ride site being built here (on Green Belt land). But I suppose that's just coincidence?
It is common knowledge that local people are not informed properly oi such planning schemes. I urge all local people who feel strongly about this to write a personal letter objecting to the scheme to Chester City Council's planning department.
Also, write to your councillor and MP. After all we pay their wages and they are there to represent us. It's about time they took some notice of what Cestrians really want and not what developers demand.
One thought to leave you with: the Government's White Paper on transport came out last week. Now how about using the disused railway line as a safe cycle walkway route for children going to school as the railway line passes at least on school and is close to two colleges.
Clint Hughes, Chester Friends of the Earth
6/8/98 Any chance of the Standard printing a health warning above future articles on the Mickle Trafford railway? I increasingly find myself choking with disbelief when I read them.
Last week's piece, undoubtedly quoting from a press release, said the proposed cycleway is separate from the Chester-Deeside busway. Oh please! The cycleway, as proposed, only includes all the earthworks required to squueze the busway in alongside. It is nothing less than the first step on the way to the three in one bus/bike/walkway scheme and therefore just as objectionable.
Still, at least the county council say they want to hear OUR opinions. Chester City Council shut their door on objections and comments before this week's exhibition even began. Good timing, eh?
Yours with a glass of water in one hand.
Allan Jones, 82 Brook Lane Newton, Chester
6/8/98 Today, 3rd August, I have been to see the plans for the cycle route/walkway along the old Shotton Mickle Trafford railway line at Upton Library. I note that this planning application has been classed as separate to the one for the express bus route along the aforesaid line. If it is separate why do the plans include allocation for this bus route?
Could it be that Sustrans (who are building the cycle/walkway) are being expected to also do the necessary work for the bus route, then along come the council and take over this nicely packaged/ready to use route? How convenient if then opposers to the bus route will be told "Well, the route is already in place!" How convenient that the part of the cycle/walkway that also has a bus route goes right up to land owned by Tesco by the A41/A56 and what is planned in that area but yet another park and ride site on greenbelt land!
The original plans by Sustrans were done in 1985, which entailed just a cyclce/walkway - where people could get about without having bu@s whizzing past every few minutes. Now the plans entail major development in places to accommodate two-way bus traffic, with the general public thrown off to one side. What's new?
Views to the planning department can still be made known until 14th August. Let's hope that not everyone with a viewpoint has gone on holiday- or is the timing of the release of the plans just another convenient coincidence? Or maybe I'm yet another cynical resident.
Lesley Howard, 14 Spital Walk Chester
6/8/98 Copy of a letter to Chester City Council regarding CDTS (Chester to Deeside busway)
As an objector to the use of this corridor for a transit system, I was surprised that you did not inform me (in your letter of 29th May) that the detailed drawings accompanying Sustrans Planning Application were available for inspection at the Forum. Surely I had a right to expect this information from you?
Luckily, as the result of reading Points of View correspondence in the local papers, I became aware of the availability of the plans and have just managed to view them within the short time allowed. As a result, I would comment about the plans deposited by Sustrans as follows:
a) I completely approve of imaginative segregated cycleways and pathways being constructed throughout the proposed length of the corridor, together with appropriate landscaping, so that the whole scheme becomes a valued asset for Chester residents to enjoy and also a popular attraction for both UK and foreign tourists.
b) I object to the bus system being used in this location, where it would totally mar the concept outlined in paragraph a) above. As a result of inclusion of provision for the proposed busway, the cycleway/pathway has become secondary to the requirements of the former, being shown on the Deposit Plan as a three-metre wide, largely straight and characterless free-for-all. Sustrans have made a fair job of squeezing in this three-metre wide combined cycleway/pathway, bearing in mind the over-riding priority forced on them, namely to give space for a centrally located eight metre wide busway.
c) Regardless of the decision emanating from the desk of some holier than thou civil servant- namely that a three metre space is adequate to contain two-way cycle traffic (most without means of giving any audible warning, as from, for example, a cycle bell), and two-way pedestrian traffic, not forgetting that dog owners would also expect to be accompanied by their pet(s). Those of us who have experienced this will know how unsatisfactory such a concept would prove to be. It would be positively dangerous.
d) Sustrans have clearly been inhibited by conditions imposed upon them by others, including the 12-point protocol. It appears to me as though our local authorities have jumped the gun by this action. It would be a fair acknowledgement of the weight of public opinion if an alternative plans was deposited by Sustrans before the Public Inquiry, showing a landscaped pathway and segregated cycleway with planted areas of (say) plants, shrubs and an azalea and rhododendron glade. In addition, one could have a stream, pool and waterfall, using surface water runoff. Such a scheme would provide safe and pleasant cycling and walking way and a positive, cost-effective tourist attraction.
In view of the above comments, I have no option other than objecting to the plans deposited. May I take the opportunity to say that the CDTS (busway) scheme will result in a needless gross expenditure of many tens of millions of pounds. Far better would be active pmmotion of environmentally-friendly buses on all routes into and around Chester (as already underway in conjunction with Shell). Also advantage could be taken of the envisaged improvement in railway signalling to upgrade Hoole Bridge roadway and pavements - long overdue!
F. W. Crowe, 21 Housteads Drive Hoole, Chester
7/8/98 Copy of a letter to Chester City Council regarding CDTS Sustrans application 98/729/FUL:
I have become aware of the letter sent to people whose many people whose property adjoins the disused railway line.
I am surprised copies were not sent to the many people who have already registered objections via the various consultation procedures. I am also disturbed by the apparent lack of notice for objections to be lodged- three weeks in the middle of the holiday season is totally inadequate.
As far as the Plan itself is concerned, my objection is not to the creation by Sustrans of a pedestrian/lcycleway along this corridor. My objection is to the nature of the route shown on the application.
This route has been pre-determined by a planning application which has yet to be lodged and for which very little 'hard' information is available - ie the busway.
It was premature to impose unnecessary conditons on Sustrans that will lead to:
Earthworks which are unjustified for the needs of a 'greenway' and which will cause significant damage to trees, shrubbery and wildlife
Unnecessary noise, dust and inconvenience for those living near to the track
Under-utilisation of the track as a 'greenway'
I base this latter assertion on the fact the route shown will largely be straight, narrow and uninteresting.
The later addition of a two-way busway will only succeed in making it even less attractive and will further reduce its value as a 'green corridor'.
The frequency with which buses will pass has not been publicly acknowledged but calculatons based on the information presented for the Examination in Public and elsewhere suggests it will devalue the amenity value even further.
As a result, the proposal will be less able to achieve the objectives outlined in government policy (that walking and cycling should be encouraged) than if the path were to be constructed with access points as per plan, but laid at minimum cost and constructed in such a way as to meander across the full width of the existing track bed.
It is absurd to restrict the opportunity for a more desirable solution until it is known whether planning permission and funding for the Busway proposals can be obtained at all.
There are strong objections to the full development of this corridor. Graeme Lyall and myself have, been nominated to speak on behalf of many objectors who have already lodged their concerns with the city council.
It is clear that conditions requiring Sustrans to undertake civil work necessary for the Busway project have been imposed as a condition for obtaining permission to construct the 'greenway' path. This strikes me as being an abuse, in spirit at least, of the planning process and of democracy itself.
Nic Siddle, Sandileigh, Hoole, Chester
30/8/98 This is just a note of appreciation for all of your work in raising
awareness of the issues involved in the busway plan. Your website is a
gem, a delight to explore. Your love of Chester shines through in the
site and this provides a sharp contrast with the views and approach of
our so-called public servants in the Planning Department.
Your contributions to the local paper are also appreciated, and help raise the debate to a level where the absurdity of the busway plan is clearly evident to readers.
Can you tell me whether it is too late to express views as part of the consultation process, or has the short time period now expired? If it has expired, are there any other ways that Chester residents can work to fight the plan?
I'm sure many, many people in Chester (myself included) would be willing to join in peaceful, direct action in the future, if such action was necessary!
Keep up the good work,
We wish to state on this initial page that
the huge difference in the numbers of letters against the development of a guided
busway system on the site of the old Mickle Trafford-Deeside railway versus those in favour of it (and
the almost total lack of letters from the public in this latter category) is a true
and accurate representation of the letters to us and appearing in Chester's
local press, and- unlike material emanating from certain councillors, planners
and other local vested interests- NO attempt has been made to doctor