Bradford-Shipley traffic scheme: new release of (old) information

West Yorkshire Combined Authority have finally released to us the ‘Benefits Realisation Strategy and Monitoring Plan’ prepared for their traffic scheme between Bradford and Shipley in 2019. Although all the scheme details have been hidden and made unreadable, the list of aims and intended monitoring sadly reveals a lack of ambition on making a shift to traffic patterns that health and climate improvements demand.

The document claims to “summarise the principal scheme objectives and related benefits, the proposed interventions, opportunities to maximise and lock-in the benefits, their measurement and ownership” (p3).

The main objectives declared for the scheme (Table 3) are as follows:

  • “Increased capacity to a level which can accommodate the predicted demand from the residential and employment growth around the corridor
  • Reduce congestion and improve journey time reliability
  • Improve safety… with a particular focus on pedestrians and cyclists
  • To support … a modal shift from private cars
  • To improve air quality and environmental impacts”

While welcoming the aims of safety and improved air quality, it is fair to ask how will the aims be achieved? Though every measure is blacked out, the ways of monitoring the impact of the scheme are listed.

An initial concern is that the aims are not reflected in the ways the expected benefits will be measured (Table 4):

  • ‘Increased capacity’ has no quantitative target, simply ‘widened highway’.
  • ‘Modal shift from private cars’ has no target at all. Measurements will be made to reveal if there has been a change in walking, cycling and public transport, but no measurement or target of a shift to these away from private cars. WYCA has an aim from its climate emergency policy to reduce car journeys by between 21% and 38%, but there is no whiff of that realism here. 

Bradford Council officers, who develop and implement the scheme on behalf of WYCA, have said that the objectives themselves are being further developed (Ref 16 in their June 2021 response to the Shipley Labour Party’s review of the scheme). It can only be hoped that the concerns of residents and Councillors will be taken on board. It would be better if we could have a conversation rather than rely on hope. Just for confirmation, Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance is not party political and has support from community and environmental organisations as well as from several local branches of different political parties.

The reason given by WYCA for hiding or ‘redacting’ the details is:

“Redactions have been made to information specific to the scheme itself that is still under development. The data / information is changing frequently as options are developed, assessed and refined and it is therefore not appropriate to share these at this time. Evidence summarising the Full Business Case will be provided through further consultations and other statutory processes such as Planning Approval. … We are committed to openness and transparency however we also need to ensure the integrity of the development process is protected.”

It seems clear that WYCA and Bradford Highways do not at present intend to collaborate with residents, schools and businesses affected by the scheme. Currently, it appears they intend to consult only on a finished scheme, “the Full Business Case”, not gaining residents’ inputs to the formulation of the scheme. It is our intention to intervene to change that process and influence the plans to make them better for health and climate.

WYCA correspondence, keeping aims ill-defined

After an appeal, BSTA has received the ‘Benefits Realisation Strategy & Monitoring and Evaluation Plan’ for the road scheme between Bradford and Shipley. West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) sent it with all reference to specific ‘improvements’ blacked out because its planning is “still in the course of completion”. We can hope that this means the options for the road are being revised and that when published they will take into account health and climate concerns. They should include full publication and discussion of the carbon audit that WYCA plans to conduct on the scheme later this year.

The objectives of the scheme stated in the document are first to increase road capacity but also “to support a more sustainable transport network and modal shift from private cars”. Sadly that ‘modal shift’ doesn’t get mentioned again and is not included as an outcome for monitoring. Only an increase in public transport and active travel (walking, cycling) are measured, not whether there is a shift away from cars. Nor is ‘model shift from private cars’ mentioned in the summary case for the scheme. Yet a minimum 21% shift away from car travel is necessary to achieve WYCA’s target of net zero carbon by 2038, a target that many say is not ambitious enough.

The Bradford-Shipley road scheme was conceived a decade ago to support new housing and employment in the Canal Road / Valley Road area. We do need people-centred jobs and housing, that don’t require more cars on the road.  It means implementing the Council’s policies in favour of a shift to other forms of transport, and to reduce car traffic as part of avoiding climate catastrophe. It means providing car-share schemes and public transport along the valley and insisting on housing with low car density, not only in the valley but across the District.

Is anyone there? Just what are the scheme’s aims…

No-one has been willing to state the aims of this Bradford-Shipley road scheme. Our last newsletter pointed out the contradiction between its original justification – to increase traffic as a means of stimulating economic growth – and the current aims of West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) to reduce traffic to avert climate catastrophe. Each scheme document states a different set of aims.

As promised, we wrote to Bradford Council on 8th March to ask for the scheme’s Benefits Realisation Plan, which all WYCA schemes must have. This would lay out the scheme aims, and how they will be ensured.

Not receiving an acknowledgement or a reply during March, we approached the Councillor responsible for the scheme, Alex Ross-Shaw, who followed it up and assured us that a response would be forthcoming “in due course”.

As of 24th April, there still is no reply.

We also asked for the assumptions being made for scenarios of future traffic. The scenarios, or forecasts, will be core evidence to judge the scheme’s impact on our health. We would like to engage with the Council in a helpful collaborative manner to get the best scheme possible.

No answer to that one, either.

We will knock on the door again in every way we can think of, you can be sure.

What are the scheme’s aims?

The publicised aims of the Bradford-Shipley road scheme are to ‘green’ Manningham Lane, introduce a 20 mph speed limit there, add bicycle lanes to encourage a move from the car, move traffic to Canal Road and Valley Road, and reduce congestion.

However, the scheme’s original aim in 2012 was to create economic growth through inward investment, by increasing the capacity of the road system. This aim is still there, though relegated to appendices in more recent reports going to Councillors and public consultation. More traffic along Canal and Valley Roads will add further pressure to the existing bottleneck at Shipley, threatening to increase rather than decrease congestion and pushing up already extreme pollution levels recorded along the road. So, just what ARE the aims of this scheme?

The Bradford Shipley Travel Alliance will be repeating a request to West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Bradford Council to be explicit about the scheme’s aims, and to provide a Benefits Realisation Plan which is required but has not yet been seen.

The conflicting aims and lack of key evidence are identified in points j to s in https://www.shipleylabour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2020/11/Shipley-CLP-road-scheme-report-approved-6-Nov-2020-Appendices.pdf.