County Councilor fears public transport won’t stop traffic problems in Basingstoke

A COUNCILOR has called on planners to think twice about relying too heavily on public transport to solve traffic problems in the borough of Basingstoke and Deane.

The appeal comes from Cllr Stephen Reid of Hampshire County Council after tens of thousands of new homes could be built in Basingstoke.

As previously reported Government calculations suggest that up to 17,820 new homes need to be built in Basingstoke and Deane by the end of 2039 and council papers reveal that Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) need to build 7,703 more homes than they currently have in the pipeline.

This is part of the process of updating a document called the local plan, which sets out the rules surrounding development in the borough and can be used by developers as a blueprint for where and how to build homes.

SEE ALSO: County Councilor Stephen Reid shares his views on Basingstoke local plan

Cllr Stephen Reid said: “The Covid lockdowns have produced a lasting impact on people’s use of public transport, an impact that planners need to recognise. But I fear that is not the case, which means that a striking contradiction is developing in our planning process. Unless they respond, planners will be taking a huge risk with Basingstoke’s future.

“Basingstoke is expected to welcome thousands of new homes over the next decade, most of them in the south west of the borough. But will we get the roads to support the resulting traffic? I’m not afraid: planners talk instead of “modal shift”, which means moving people from their cars to public transport.

“Sounds good. But can they actually pull it off? I’m not so sure because recent history is not on their side.

Cllr Reid said the Basingstoke Bus Company reports the recovery appears to have reached around 75% of pre-Covid levels, which will make “many services unprofitable”.

He said the reasons for the drop in bus usage are easy to analyze, including:

  • Shopping habits have changed, with more online orders.
  • Work patterns have changed, with more people working from home or in “hybrid” mode.
  • Mentalities have changed. People are now much more careful about mingling with others, including on public transport.

READ MORE: Hundreds of police recruited in Hampshire since September 2019

He continued: ‘Even extremely high fuel costs do not persuade enough people to use public transport. Major investments by the bus company to make its vehicles cleaner and more comfortable have also not overcome the trend.

“For Basingstoke, the risk of depending on ‘modal shift’ is enormous. Tens of thousands of new homes are planned for South Manydown and its adjoining fields, all of which will generate traffic.

“Planners are basing their designs on greater use of public transport aided by a ‘Mass Rapid Transport’ link, which appears to be an as yet undefined bus route. No western bypass. No new north/south road. Just a hope that public transport will come to the rescue when signs show they can’t.

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