New Transport Strategy could isolate Neston

Neston’s award-winning railway station offers bus connections to Ness and Parkgate and may get more frequent trains – but key links to Chester and Ellesmere Port in the evening are missing.  And using the car has its problems, as the sign posted on Neston’s main road makes clear. (Photos P. Lloyd)

 

      

Neston Town Council Places Committee continued a key theme for the town on Tuesday when it examined the draft Cheshire and Warrington Transport Strategy. Its findings were not encouraging for the town, which has already had to campaign hard even to keep the present poor level of road, rail and bus connection, culminating in the narrow escape from losing the 272 bus service recently.

Now the committee finds that the new strategy could do little to address the issues that it has championed over the past four years – more frequent trains, better bus services, improved road access and safer traffic management.

It resolved to carry on the campaign for these improvements, and recorded its concerns about the new strategy – which it considered to be strong on the analysis of the problem, but lacked specific actions and resources to deliver change. A general statement in the strategy perfectly describes Neston’s situation:

Constraints on internal connectivity impact upon employers’ ability to recruit locally and hence reduce access to labour markets. Congestion on the M56 and M6, as well as at key pinch points on the A road network, impacts on journey times. Internal connectivity is also limited by single carriageway A roads with limited opportunities for overtaking slow moving vehicles and by some A roads having restrictions such as single lane bridges.  Infrequent internal rail connections and interchange constraints limit the attractiveness of public transport.[1]

The Committee found that in the report:

    • Only the increased rail services deliver direct benefit for Neston – but there is no guarantee that the extra services will actually stop at Neston.
    • The strategy does not appear to recognise that decisions made in Wales affect our rail services in Neston – and that upgrading Shotton station is more important than the ‘hubs’ at Chester, Crewe, Warrington and Manchester Airport that are emphasised in the strategy. Neston needs access to these hubs and to high-speed rail – and the best way is from Shotton.
    • The strategy suggested for the A550/A5117 has the potential to isolate Neston further, unless Neston’s link to it is also upgraded so that the A540 becomes part of the Major Roads Network with government funding attached.
    • The strategy omits any specific commitments to improved bus services, particularly for communities with no rail services, or rail services that are inadequate – such as Neston. This is despite the strategy stating that improved bus services, ‘will be crucial for the success of local economies’ – a point Neston Council has often made.

Overall, the Places Committee concluded that the Draft Transport Strategy for Cheshire and Warrington, even if implemented in full, would not improve the outlook for Neston unless significant changes are made; and it called on local councillors and Justin Madders MP to seek changes that would improve Neston’s connection to large neighbouring regional economies. One way to move in that direction would be for Cheshire West to follow Cheshire East Council’s example and review its own transport strategy.

Neston Town Councillor, and Places Committee Chair, Dominic Roberts said, ‘Our hopes that this important strategic review would address Neston’s weak road, bus and rail connections have not been fulfilled. But there is still time for our representatives to make changes and secure financial backing for a more broad-based strategy that tackles poor connectivity to and from Neston, and to many other Cheshire communities that face similar difficulties to ours. But we could not discover any other town with 15,000 inhabitants that is so poorly connected to jobs, health facilities and leisure opportunities – so we will continue our fight for vital improvements’.

The strategy is available at

http://www.871candwep.co.uk/content/uploads/2018/05/FINAL-Draft-Transport-Strategy-14.05.2018.pdf

Neston Town Council urges residents to read it and to respond by 6 August 2018.

 

[1] Draft Strategy, 13