Transport plan includes ‘rapid’ Welwyn Garden City to Hemel Hempstead bus

The A414 North Orbitol Road in the Hatfield area.
Picture: Google Street View

The A414 North Orbitol Road in the Hatfield area. Picture: Google Street View - Credit: Archant

Hertfordshire County Council has launched an “aspirational” local transport plan, aiming to put cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users in the driving seat.

The updated Local Transport Plan, which was approved by a meeting of Hertfordshire County Council on May 22, signals a shift away from road building.

And it shows much stronger support for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport users, which could address environmental and inequality issues.

It includes the idea of the ‘A414 bus rapid transit’ scheme between Hemel Hempstead and WGC, where buses would be segregated or given priority to avoid traffic congestion.

Other proposals include A414 improvements and a Hertford bypass in recognition that north-south transport links are good but east-west are weaker.

In the introduction to the plan, cabinet member for environment, planning and transport Cllr Derrick Ashley said: “As a car driver I recognise it is the mode of choice for many journeys in the county.

“However I also recognise that if we continue to depend on it as much as we do currently as our population grows, there will be serious consequences.

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“Our response to growth cannot be to just build more roads and encourage more and more car use.

“Technology may well help avoid some of the problems with excessive car use, but it isn’t a panacea.

“Our health, local environments and urban centres will be vastly improved if we can get more people to walk, cycle and use passenger transport.”

To encourage walking, the county council wants to create ‘walking friendly’ town centres and promote networks of pedestrian priority routes.

Already in Welwyn Garden City a part-pedestrianisation scheme is being trialled, generating mixed reactions from shopkeepers and shoppers.

Councillors want to support the Rights of Way Improvement Plan and to promote recreational walking too.

For those on two wheels, the plan seeks to improve urban areas to enable cycling and to give cyclists greater priority, as well as providing secure cycle parking and cycle training schemes.

Bus services, according to the plan, would be reviewed and commissioned to be more cost effective and efficient, responding to passenger needs.

‘Smart’ ticketing would be encouraged, bus priority measures supported and bus services would be promoted as an option for journeys to work and school.

In addition, the plan says train services should be improved, in terms of capacity, journey times, frequency, and destinations, as well as travel costs and station facilities.

Earlier drafts of the Plan included a list of Sustainable Travel Towns. But this has been temporarily removed, until definitive criteria can be established.

The Local Transport Plan was agreed at an ‘extraordinary meeting’ of Hertfordshire County Council on May 16.

But some councillors said they would have liked it to have gone further.

Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Jarvis said the plan was a good set of aspirations, but that he would have liked it to be clearer in how it could be achieved.

Other councillors raised concerns about how measures could be funded and the need to secure funding from private developers.