BUS OPERATOR Cardiff Bus has demanded formal evaluation of transport policies at all levels as the only way to ensure the effectiveness of integrated transport schemes in Wales.
Speaking at the ICE Wales conference Integrated Transport: Wales on the Move? last month, Cardiff Bus managing director Alan Kreppel argued the urgent need for local, regional and national monitoring of key transport indicators (KTIs).
Typical KTIs would include modal split, peak/off peak average speeds, absolute numbers using public transport non-car and car modes, the effectiveness of parking enforcement, air quality, noise pollution and safety.
Such measures are essential to correct current transport policies, which are ignorant of best practice and unfairly skewed against bus travel, Kreppel urged.
'There is still a failure to recognise that buses account for 88% of public transport in Wales,' said Kreppel. fiWe are the prime mover, yet in terms of funding you see the reverse.
'UK bus subsidies are the lowest in Europe,' Kreppel continued. 'As a result, the UK has the third highest fares in Europe, and between 1990 and 1998 bus travel in the UK declined faster than any other EU country except Germany.' The reverse is true for rail schemes, Kreppel contested, citing the Vale of Glamorgan line reopening, scheduled for May 2003, as an example of subsidies misspent.
'A capital cost of over £15M, a subsidy of £1M/annum initially, and the effect? Fifty nine percent of passengers drawn from parallel buses,' said Kreppel.
'The bus network will either be cut or need further subsidy.' 'Wales' rail network carries around 600,000 commuters, yet we spend £1.5M a year delivering it,' said Kreppel. 'How can we have integrated transport in Wales when all the rail decisions are taken in London?' Problems do not end with national government. 'What about recalcitrant unitary authorities?' Kreppel continued, saying that the biggest problem facing major public transport operators is congestion.
'It's absolutely criminal that our congestion costs are now £1M a year,' he said. 'Some peak hour services in Cardiff now average less than 10km/h.' An absence of bus priority schemes, parking strategies and effective street parking enforcement all contribute, and Kreppel is also angry at the lack of infrastructure investment in bus stations. fiMost are a disgrace, and the Welsh Assembly needs to take action,' he said.
Kreppel also attacked the approach of authorities to land use planning, where local decisions are often taken in ignorance of best practice guidelines, are based on unsustainable principles and are incompatible with the public transport provision.
One new supermarket, built within the last 18 months, is out of town yet has no bus stop, he said. 'Most Wales Development Agency developments are reliant wholly on the car.' Responding to Kreppel's attack on commuter rail, Strategic Rail Authority replacement team leader David Hibbs set out a positive future for Welsh rail under the united Wales & Borders (W&B) franchise.
Hibbs defended W&B, which will integrate four existing franchises into one by spring 2003, as justified in receiving significant government subsidy.
'A lot is going into the system, but the system has seen enormous growth - 34% extra passenger kilometres since 1995 - and we have seen some success,' Hibbs said.
Examples quoted were the recently completed interchange at Haverfordwest, and the South West Area Multi-modal study which has recommended doubling of capacity on the Great Western line (NCE 16 May).
Air travel was represented by Air Transport Users Council (AUC) chairman Ian Hamer, who explained that the downturn following the 11 September attacks had hit Wales badly. Scheduled services from Cardiff International Airport (CIA) to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Dublin has all been withdrawn.
'The problem for Cardiff is that it is in direct competition with other UK airports which are fairly close geographically,' said Hamer. 'Cardiff International is a good airport, has capacity, but it badly lacks infrastructure.' More sustainable transport methods were championed by Sustrans director John Grimshaw, who accused engineers of failing to cater for walkers and cyclists through poor design and a lack of consultation.
'It is lunatic that the most obvious way of travelling is not being exploited,' said Grimshaw.
Grimshaw cited the new Dingle Road station, just nine minutes from Cardiff Central, where the 41 trains each way, every day, are used by less than 1% of the population living within 1.6km.
'As professionals it is not good enough to say 'we did that because that's what the client wanted',' said Grimshaw.
'Fundamental to any real reversal in the decline of walking and cycling is the need for these modes of transport to be included in every project, every design and every detail.
'If we as engineers have in our minds the opportunities for making cycling and walking just a little easier, then their world will gradually become more attractive and the pressure on vastly more costly transport systems on the road will be reduced,' Grimshaw said.
The dire situation for cyclists and walkers had earlier been vividly described by Cardiff University professor of European regional development Kevin Morgan.
'Cardiff has dubbed itself Europe's youngest capital, so it's good to see it through the eyes of European students,' said Morgan. 'Most consider our public transport Neanderthal.
'Cardiff has simply not punched its weight,' Morgan said. fiBus corridors are woefully inadequate. Bus lanes are not enforced. Buses stop at 11pm, and because cycle paths are either non-existent or narrow, cyclists must be skinny and fearless.' INFOPLUS A full set of conference proceedings, including presentations, is available from ICE Wales, e-mail denysmorgan@ constructionplus. net