Tracy Brabin’s office looking both ways

It is useful to look both ways before crossing a road. But if you see traffic coming from two directions you may feel stuck. That seems to be the case in the reported words from West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, whose office rejected pleas for a review of road-widening, saying “not all the road schemes would increase carbon emissions, adding that some included new cycle and walking facilities”.

Below we reproduce the letter that BSTA sent to Tracy Brabin yesterday. Her Office promises a reply within 15 working days.

8th September 2021

Dear Mayor Tracy Brabin

Congratulations on your election as Mayor, and on your and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s commitment to reduce traffic pollution to meet its net-zero carbon target. The Combined Authority ‘Carbon Emissions Reduction Pathways’ report in June 2020 highlights the need to treat greenhouse gas emissions as a budget that must reduce each year, and its carbon audits of road schemes will help to decide how to do this.

Time is not elastic in this matter. To put in no starker terms than the world’s scientists, immediate measures are needed for deep reductions in carbon emissions.

I was surprised to read then, that “Ms Brabin’s office told the Local Democracy Reporting Service … that not all the road schemes would increase carbon emissions, adding that some included new cycle and walking facilities.” Bradford T&A 5/9/2021

The Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance brings together those concerned on health and climate grounds about WYCA’s proposed increase in traffic capacity of the route between Bradford and Shipley. The Alliance’s members now include over 200 individuals, and the local organisations of your own Labour Party as well as the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. It includes Shipley Town Council, local environmental and community associations and many businesses.

The road scheme is part of the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund and devised in its current form in 2012. It envisages new cycle and walking facilities. But its main expenditure and aim of widening roads and increasing traffic capacity speaks to an age when increased traffic capacity was the main measure of success in economic prosperity. That perspective is no longer valid.

WYCA’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Pathways report investigates three scenarios to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2038. These differ according to how much is left to hoped-for but unknown solutions. Even the most optimistic of the three scenarios requires not only a large shift towards electric vehicles but a 21% reduction in car traffic. A major reduction in traffic capacity.

The final public consultation on the Bradford-Shipley Route Improvement Scheme is due early in 2022. All our members and member organisations have agreed to ask you not to proceed without evidence that shows how the intended benefits of the scheme will be guaranteed, and that these benefits must include reduced traffic and a switch from car to other forms of collective and healthy travel. The health of our children and adults is affected not only by the catastrophe if global warming is not stemmed quickly, but by the particulate and other emissions of traffic.

If the reporting is accurate, your office’s suggestion that new cycle and walking facilities are enough to meet the Combined Authority’s carbon emissions commitments should be withdrawn. Instead an auditing and review of all travel, as part of the carbon emissions reduction research, must be undertaken before this road scheme is developed further.

The Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance is developing alternative uses of the £48m committed to the Bradford-Shipley scheme, uses which would reduce traffic flows and emissions and therefore improve the travel of all types, including by car.

We would appreciate meeting you in order to explore these options with you.

Best wishes,

Ludi Simpson, Secretary Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance, www.bsta.org.uk

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.

CERPs – an acronym to remember

There are many welcome promises to take climate change seriously, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 in Leeds and many other Councils, or by 2038 in Bradford, West Yorkshire and many others, or by 2050 for the UK government.

But rare are the plans that work backwards from a target like those, to lay out just what needs to be done to reach it in the time available.

All credit to West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) for their report last July, Carbon Emission Reductions Pathways, or CERPs for short.

It explored three pathways, none of which would reach the net zero carbon target of 2038 entirely. Each would leave between 18% and 27% of further reductions that required “a combination of specific, ambitious measures and innovative new technologies as they become available”.

The minimum requirements of the least ambitious pathway include a 21% reduction in car miles travelled. The most ambitious pathway reckons on a 37% reduction in car miles travelled. Both also assume a hefty shift to electric-powered vehicles. All the pathways say that a shift from car to walking, cycling, bus and train is necessary. Necessary to avert what Bradford Council called ‘the enormous harm’ associated with global warming by 2 degrees centigrade, in its declaration of a climate emergency in 2019.

All the pathways demand retrofitting 700,000 houses with insulation, shifting to renewable energy sources, restoring peatland, planting 420 football pitches of trees, and reducing food waste by over one third.

The July 2020 report expected public consultation by December 2020, and WYCA urged further work on measuring carbon emissions. It is nearly a year later and there has not been further public information. But the work is ongoing and shows the scale of change necessary to avert human catastrophe in Bradford as elsewhere.

The CERPs report is essential guidance to all that is coming.