How alternative transport could be about to revolutionise how we get around
Not since the engine took over from real horse power has transport faced a bigger revolution.
Electric vehicles, city centre tram systems, driverless cars and lorries and campaigns to get more people cycling and walking – what does 2018 and beyond hold for Lancashire and its congested roads?
Preston is looking to go back to the future to rid itself of city centre traffic congestion.
Trams, which last rumbled through the streets more than 80 years ago, are on track to return within two years if an experiment which started this week proves successful.
Work is now underway to clear a one-mile long test track – the first move in an ambitious £25m project to rid the roads of at least a quarter of the cars that regularly choke central parts of Preston.
And if that trial works as well as experts predict it will, then full planning permission will be sought for a three-and-a-half mile Guild Line through the city from the railway station up to Red Scar, via Fishergate, Church Street, Deepdale and Ribbleton.
The brains behind the scheme say 80 per cent of people questioned would welcome a return to a tram system which last functioned in 1935.
The test track on a disused stretch of railway in Deepdale was given planning permission in November. It will have masts with overhead cables, a station platform building, a tram shed and storage building and is to be surrounded by a 2.4m high fence.
Despite some planning setbacks, the official sod cutting ceremony took place on Tuesday and the trials could be running within weeks. A full application is expected before the summer.
Prof Lewis Lesley, director of Preston Trampower, said: “Everyone knows congestion is a huge problem in Preston and this could be part of the solution.“This would take cars off the road,
reduce air pollution, provide a safer way to travel around the city and create a cheap accessible way to travel across Preston.
“We expect the tramway to serve thousands of passengers a day from across the city. The Guild Line would have 10 trams an hour at peak times. This would bring a lot to the city of Preston.
“We’ve all seen how the Manchester Metrolink has been instrumental in the growth of that city and I have no doubt that a Preston tram system can provide a huge shot in the arm for the city’s economy.”
If the complete project goes ahead Preston will become the ninth place in the UK to have its own tramway and the first to build one since 2004.
Everyone knows about Blackpool’s trams, which have operated for more than 125 years, but there are others in Croydon, London’s Docklands, Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Tyne and Wear and West Midlands.
There are schemes at the planning stage for South to Central London and Edinburgh. Systems planned for Leeds and Liverpool have been refused government funding and may not now happen. And both Bristol and Portsmouth have abandoned their tram schemes because of a lack of funding.
On your bike
The former head of world cycling wants to get Lancashire back on its bike.
And Brian Cookson, whose four-year stint as president of the Union Cycliste Internationale came to an end recently, is calling on the county council to do more to help two-wheeled transport on the county’s congested roads.
Brian, who lives in the Ribble Valley, wants Lancashire to follow the lead of Greater Manchester over funding for cycling.
“They are going to invest a lot of their budget in getting people back on to bicycles,” he said. “I think that’s a great thing and Lancashire should follow that example.
“Manchester has announced some exciting things and the challenge is for Lancashire to match it proportionately.”
Brian points to Preston’s award-winning Guild Wheel as proof that, given the right funding, projects for cyclists can be successful.
“It’s been such a big success,” he said. “It’s such a great credit to my old friend Peter Ward. I think thousands and thousands of people have enjoyed riding their bikes in safe conditions.
It’s not cost a fortune but it’s a great facility.”
“We need some political will to change the way we prioritise our transport investment and the way in which people behave when using the roads and byways of the county.
“People drive now as if they are impregnable and too many drivers do not respect the needs of other road users. They take a risk with other people’s lives they have no right to. I am not anti-car. I like driving and couldn’t sustain my own lifestyle without a car, but it’s about balance.”
Brian maintains other nations have had the wisdom to see the long-term benefits of cycling and says Britain’s often sedentary population is fuelling an obesity crisis, while vehicles add to air pollution.
“The humble bike can help with all of this,” he said. “Those countries where bicycle use is highest - it’s not an accident. They’ve invested in infrastructure and cycle paths like in Holland and Denmark and we could do more of that here in Lancashire.”
The charge to electric vehicles
Electric cars are the future, whether we like it or not.
With the days of diesel numbered and petrol ultimately sharing the same destiny, battery powered vehicles are on the charge in 2018.
There are already more than 1,000 on the road in Lancashire and a high voltage surge is expected over the next few years.
Yet still the biggest worry for drivers thinking about converting to these cleaner, greener and quieter eco-vehicles is: Will I run out of juice before I get where I’m going?
With a range of around 150 miles – some might even top 200 at a push – you can’t afford to go too far without factoring in a pit stop to top it up.
There are currently only around 60 public charging points in the whole of the county – and a quarter of those are sited at car dealerships.
Lancashire County Council announced in 2016 it was going to install another 150 charging points after winning a grant from the Department of Transport.But that still might not be enough
if the sale of electric vehicles continues to outpace the number of chargers being provided.
The first batch of the new plug-in stations are due to be switched on this month. LCC hopes that by the end of the year all 150 will be in service.And with numerous companies offering to
install charging points in the home – they can cost as little as £279 with a £500 Government grant – the electric revolution is seemingly irresistible.
Currently there are 990 public charging points in the North West, just a third of the number in Greater London. Lancashire has 59.
In Preston there are just seven – five of them at car showrooms and the other two at St George’s Shopping Centre and the Avenham car park.
Walton Summit has three, Walton-le-Dale one, there are two at hotels in Fulwood/Broughton, one each in Whittingham, Leyland, Much Hoole and Tarleton. Chorley has three and Charnock Richard has three (including two at the M6 services).
There are six in Lancaster, five in West Lancashire, three in the Ribble Valley and one in Wrea Green.
It is claimed it costs around £3 to fully charge a vehicle – it takes between 30 minutes and an hour – and that should give you a minimum of 150 miles, the equivalent of 2p a mile compared to 10p-12p for petrol or diesel.
As the new programme to install 150 charging points across Lancashire gets underway this month, Coun Keith Iddon, LCC cabinet member for highways and transport, said the work was being done “to ensure owners of electric cars can find somewhere convenient to charge their battery wherever they go within Lancashire. The scheme aims to increase take-up of electric vehicles.”