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Letters to the editor

The Editor welcomes letters at 151 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4QX

fax: (0171) 505 6667 e-mail: nceedit@construct.emap.co.uk

and reserves the right to condense.

Oxford options

Having spent 27 years grappling with Oxford's traffic problems, I was fascinated to read your editorial (15 January) and Jackie Whitelaw's item regarding traffic congestion-busting plans in Oxford.

I helped to devise the initial strategies as a member of the Oxford working party which drew up the original balanced transport policy document in 1972. This policy was adopted by the Oxford City Council in 1973 and the first park and ride scheme and bus lanes were introduced that year along with many other traffic management measures. The original policy emphasised the expansion of public transport, heavy restraint of unnecessary travel by private car, improvement of the environment for all members of the public and a balanced provision for car, public transport, cycling and walking. This was explained in my paper in Chartered Municipal Engineer' in April 1976, while city engineer, Oxford District Council, 1973 to 1976. Such policies have been rediscovered in recent years as 'integrated transport policies', but still have serious shortcomings.

While Oxford park and ride schemes have been successful - running longer than anywhere else - keeping traffic roughly constant on the main radials, the major shortcoming has been the inability to restrict the many thousands of private non-residential parking space in the city. These spaces, on private, university or college properties, attract thousands of car commuters into the central area every day. Such traffic will only be reduced if and when public control can be exercised over the number and use of these parking space destinations.

Much of the traffic problem springs from the emphasis over many years of encouraging all forms of commercial, industrial and educational development in the city without adequate housing development to meet its needs. This has resulted in greater commuting across a tightly controlled Green Belt as workers have to live outside the city but work in it. In order to persuade commuters, shoppers and visitors to use buses into Oxford, the bus routes must take passengers close to their destinations which has meant that the main central streets, have become choked with a multitude of buses since de-regulation.

The eventual answer, albeit expensive, is to copy Montpellier in France, which has an essential traffic tunnel under the city centre. With the excellent Oxford clay sub-strata, and more and more smaller and single deck buses, such a scheme will become a viable possibility when the disbenefit costs of the present situation became so large that the public are prepared to fund such an alternative.

J Peverel-Cooper (F), 29 Pigeon House Lane, Freeland, Witney, Oxon OX8 8AG.

Recipe for confusion

Having started and finished my engineering career with Oxfordshire County Council, I should like to comment on problems arising in the city of Oxford referred to in recent articles.

Oxford is dependent for much of its workforce and its trade on people living in the surrounding area and they in turn require many of the facilities of the city. However buses and trains only serve those close to stopping places on their routes and most villagers are dependent on cars. The park and ride system is generally acceptable, but higher charges for this would divert many customers elsewhere.

The major radial roads are very busy during peak hours and any significant obstruction (such as roadwork's, accidents and breakdowns) at such times cause serious congestion and delays.

The only roads where pedestrians encounter excessive air pollution are the 'bus only' areas of Queen Street and Cornmarket.

There is a very good coach service from the central bus station to London and its airports, but picking up or setting down passengers with luggage is difficult.

Through traffic is discouraged from crossing the central area by inconvenient diversions using minor roads. The ring road has awkward connections at its north west extremity and many of the roundabouts now need conversion to grade separation or signal control.

Pedestrians have a very hard time as the narrow footways of the shopping area are shared with motorised sweepers, bus queues, newspaper stands and the street furniture to which bicycles are chained.

AE Tumim (M), St Valery Lodge, Hinto Waldrist Farrindgon, Oxfordshire SN7 8SE.

Ineffective action

In your editorial you suggest that Oxford has much to teach us. Indeed, the lesson is familiar - half measures are always inadequate.

Oxford adopted the very minimum of pedestrianisation and continued to allow diesel and petrol driven buses along several of the principal affected streets.

Now they have queues of buses conflicting with pedestrians throughout the day.

It may have been a brave scheme 25 years ago but today it seems timid and ineffective.

What an ideal application for electric driven vehicles. Little progress here in the 50 years since the demise of trams.

Why can't able bodied pedestrians walk the last half mile into a civilised city centre?

I have no doubt that this would make the place even more attractive to visitors. Perhaps that is the hidden agenda - don't make the place too attractive - the residents will be even more outnumbered by tourists and students!

RC Hairsine (M), 10 Ormonde Road, Poole, Dorset BH13 6DF.

Walkway research

I refer to the leading article and editorial NCE 1/8 January on the lessons of the Ramsgate walkway collapse, it was disappointing that the scope of CIRIA's work on the safety of ship to shore link spans and walkways was played down. The current CIRIA research project will produce authoritative best practice guidance on the procurement, operation and maintenance of these facilities. The research will have regard to the Health & Safety at Work Act and associated regulation including, but not limited to, the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations, the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations, the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations, the Docks Regulations, and to relevant standards.

The output will also include guidance that will allow better functional specification, communication, and operational efficiency (including minimising failure which could lead to danger). This to ensure reliability, durability and whole life economy of these structures.

This project enjoys substantial cross industry support, both financial and in-kind.

This research project was planned so that its results can feed into the work to be undertaken by the BSI. It was also felt that the time scale usually associated with the publication of a Standard could be greatly reduced by CIRIA undertaking this work which complements the objectives of the BSI committee. CIRIA intends to publish the output to this research by the end of 1998.

CIRIA is extremely pleased to have appointed Posford Duvivier as research contractors. The project is well under way: Posford Duvivier has started comprehensive industry consultation by sending out 250 questionnaires gathering information on the type of facilities in existence in the UK. The aim is to develop a database of facilities that can be used throughout the research.

Dr Ghazwa M Alwani-Starr (G), group manager, Process Business Centre, Construction Industry Research & Information Association, 6 Storey's Gate, London SW1P 3AU.

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