Norfolk County Council’s latest transport plan will do little for rural public transport

by Steff on 29 November, 2021

During the process for passing its new plan on the future of transport in Norfolk, the Government issued a report called Decarbonising Transport A Better, Greener Britain. Given the timing of the release of this guidance the motion to adopt was not moved at Full Council in September so as to enable officers to consider the relevant policies and guidance to enable any necessary adaptations to LTP4 Strategy.

And yet, all that has been changed is to defer the timing of its implementation!

Even more important than this, is what has changed since LTP4 strategy was first drafted – the sudden but lasting changes to transport patterns, the awakening of the public to the urgency of the climate crisis, and the particularly crucial role investment in public transport plays in particular in rural areas like North Norfolk – but also most of Norfolk!

So important is the aspect of public transport that at in Infrastructure and Development Select Committee earlier this year I supported the call for a members’ oversight group on this particular topic.  But this proposal, accepted at the time, was flattened with the creation of a task and finish group that met to task and, well, finish, in the same single meeting!

I therefore say now what I would have said if this had been put to Council in September: it is insufficient, and I cannot support it.

As just one example of where this strategy falls short: it mentions improving connectivity between rural areas and services in urban centres. And yet bus services are vital for our communities and are a lifeline for many of our most vulnerable residents; they shouldn’t just be for people who want to go to Norwich and don’t have a choice. In cities across the country, public transport is the preferred option for many. But the continuous cutting of routes and lack of investment have made public transport unviable for most journeys – whether commuting to nearby towns (not just Norwich), going to the shops or heading for a night out.

The long-term solution lies in re-thinking our approach to public transport, and building a sustainable transport approach across the county that combines public transport, rail, walking and cycling.

Although this paper mentions all these things in name, whilst the leader says – as recently as this summer – that Norfolk is a car county, I have little faith that this strategy is setting the direction required to carry out the work that is urgently needed in our county to create a network for zero-carbon public transport that works for everyone.

In short, we need to get people out of cars and onto public transport if we want to keep the Norther Distributor Road from becoming a coast road as the result of human activity caused climate change.

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