Transport plans for A638 in Cleckheaton 'would do more harm than good'
A former leader of Kirklees Council has called for a radical shift in transport policy after branding plans to improve traffic flow through Cleckheaton as “tinkering”.
Baroness Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) was speaking as public consultation is underway on £16million plans to improve the A638 between Dewsbury and Cleckheaton.
The so-called Dewsbury-Cleckheaton Sustainable Travel Corridor is aimed at speeding up journey times for buses and making the routes safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
The plans also include a new bus station for Heckmondwike to replace the current “bus hub”.
Coun Pinnock said some of the proposals in and around Bradford Road in Cleckheaton, such as making Wesley Street one-way and removing lay-bys outside shops, would do more harm than good and make little difference to journey times.
Kirklees Council has secured a total of more than £60million for transport improvements from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund and Coun Pinnock said radical solutions were needed to get people out of their cars and onto public transport.
“We need to be bold and brave,” she said. “Instead of tinkering around the edges with schemes that will make only a minor difference, why not spend the money over 12 months to reduce bus fares and see whether people leave their cars at home and use the bus?
“If you want people to make the move to another form of transport it’s all about cost and convenience.
“Cut bus fares to a couple of quid, making it cheaper than travelling by car and paying for parking, and see what happens.
"When more people use public transport, services will become more reliable and more frequent.”
The council is proposing to make Wesley Street one-way, allowing traffic to come down Wesley Street and turn out onto Bradford Road.
The idea is that bus journeys would be quicker because there would be no vehicles blocking the road by waiting to turn into Wesley Street.
Coun Pinnock was non-plussed at the plans for Wesley Street and said: “What do you gain? I just don’t see the point.
“The principle of trying to encourage more bus use and to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians is a good one but you have to make sensible decisions.
"If you alienate people, which some of these proposals do, how do you make any progress?”
There are also plans to remove lay-bys between Balme Road and John William Street, Mount Street and Heaton Street and Exchange Street and Stoneacre Street.
“The lay-bys were put there deliberately so that the shops could have passing trade,” said Coun Pinnock.
“Is the council really in the business of shutting down local shops? Is that what the council intends to do? It’s totally unfair.”
The council is also proposing changes around Chain Bar roundabout, creating a bus lane and a “segregated” cycle lane on the Bradford Road approach to the roundabout.
Buses are to be given priority and there will also be a shared bus and cycle lane on the Bradford side.
“One of the biggest issues for buses is getting across Chain Bar,” said Coun Pinnock.
“On the approach from Cleckheaton to Chain Bar they are proposing new bus traffic signals just ahead of the existing signals to give buses priority.”
There are plans currently before Kirklees Council to build a massive new warehouse on land between Whitehall Road, Whitechapel Road and the M62 near Scholes, believed to be for retail giant Amazon.
Coun Pinnock said if that went ahead it was estimated there would be an additional 2,500 lorry movements a day around Chain Bar roundabout. That would render any measures proposed now meaningless.
“You won’t be able to move around Chain Bar if the Amazon warehouse is built,” she said.
“Surely there are better ways of using this money than tinkering around the edges?
“The Government might have made a lot of money available and the principle is right but what they are proposing is a mish-mash. What they are suggesting is not value for money.
“The answer is to reduce the cost of public transport, not narrow the roads. All that happens then is that we get more queues and more people agitated.”
Coun Peter McBride, Kirklees Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “These planned improvements will maximise sustainable transport options providing attractive and viable alternatives to driving in, out and through the town centres.
“More people choosing to cycle rather than drive to the town centres will also have a positive impact on health and well-being.
“By upgrading these facilities there will be better links between communities, room for future growth in the area, and improved bus journey times.
“This will, in turn, improve the air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping us make further strides towards Kirklees becoming carbon neutral by 2030.”
To take part in the consultation, go to www.yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/a638travel. The closing date is August 17.