MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND TRANSPORT SELECT COMMITTEE HELD AT COUNTY HALL, NEWPORT, ISLE OF WIGHT ON WEDNESDAY, 20 AUGUST 2003 COMMENCING AT 9.30 AM
Mr G P Price (Chairman), Mr J R Adams, Mr A C Bartlett, Mr M J Cunningham, Mr J Effemey, Mr J Howe (deputising for Mrs B D Clough), Mrs M J Miller, Mr V J Morey, Mr A J Mundy, Mrs E Oulton (deputising for Mr R A Sutton), Mr R C Richards
Mrs B D Clough, Mr R A Sutton
Portfolio Holders :
Mr E Fox
Also present (non voting) :
Mr A A Taylor
THAT the minutes of the meeting held on 29 July 2003 be confirmed.
26. DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS
There were no declarations made at this stage.
27. LOCAL TRANSPORT PLAN - ANNUAL PROGRESS REPORT
The Head of Engineering Services referred to the Annual Progress Report (APR) that had been submitted to the Department for Transport and the Government Office for the South East. This outlined the Council=s performance in delivering strategies set out in the Local Transport Plan. The APR would form the basis on which the Government allocated funds for transport schemes.
The Select Committee was reminded of the level of funding achieved for 2003/04 and it was hoped that this would continue in future years. The APR also contained a supplementary bid in respect of works to the Ryde St Johns Road over rail bridge and a major bid for the A3055 Undercliff Drive. If no additional funding was forthcoming for the Undercliff Drive scheme funding of works on the alternative routes would be required thereby limiting funds available for other highway schemes.
In considering the APR members were made aware of the national and local targets. Members noted that although the number of slight casualties arising from road traffic accidents had decreased, the target for those killed or seriously injured had not been achieved. The number of under 15's killed or seriously injured was also above target. Concern was expressed by the Select Committee that the number of safe routes to school initiative had not been delivered. This issue had been raised at the previous meeting and the Head of Engineering Services and the Portfolio Holder indicated that the number of schemes proposed for 2003/04 would be met. Difficulties had been encountered with land acquisition, consultations with schools and insufficient staffing resources within the Traffic Section to deal with such schemes. The Head of Engineering Services undertook to advise members of the start date of the six schemes contained in the capital programme.
Discussion took place on traffic growth on the Island and the balance required with tourism and the effects of improved Cross Solent ferry services. This highlighted the need to develop Green Tourism. The lack of facilities for coach traffic was an area that possibly required further investigation. Members debated the impact on the local economy if any form of congestion charge was imposed on vehicles coming to the Island.
Despite the additional funding received in recent years for highway schemes the general condition of Island roads remained poor. The Executive was due to consider a report on Public Finance Initiative which might assist in addressing this problem.
Members were advised that the number of passenger journeys made by bus was declining. The Council would be working with Southern Vectis to promote bus patronage and it was intended that a Quality Bus Partnership agreement would shortly be finalised. The importance of public transport in developing Green Travel Plans was emphasised together with improved facilities to assist in the operation of such services. Information on the recent bus initiative introduced on Guernsey would be obtained. With regard to train passenger journeys the targets had been exceeded. The Portfolio Holder indicated that the Strategic Rail Authority would not be deciding upon the future franchise of the Island line until 2005. The existing operator had been given a temporary franchise until then. This was a most unsatisfactory situation and presented difficulties in deciding whether any long term investment should be made in its infrastructure.
The importance of seeking contributions from developers towards highway improvements was identified as an area warranting further exploration by officers. The APR contained details of where external contributions had been secured. The Head of Engineering Services was requested to ensure that the scheme in respect of Old Road, East Cowes was agreed with the developer soon or the contribution towards works would be lost.
THAT the content of the Annual Progress Report be noted.
28. BEST VALUE REVIEW - CONSULTANT=S PROGRESS REPORT ON HIGHWAYS AND TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PLAN
The Head of Engineering Services reported on the audit undertaken on progress made on the Improvement Plan arising from the Best Value Review on Highways and Transportation. The audit had been carried out by the Consultant originally involved in the external challenge of the Plan.
The audit concluded that good progress was being made on a number of key areas. These included the Member/Officer Protocol, prioritisation of schemes in the capital programme, public transport information strategy and the bus strategy. Other initiatives, such as the strategic corridor works, Military Road scheme, PFI and reorganisation of the highway inspection service, demonstrated the good performance of the service. Members noted that Investor in People Status had been achieved but the Quality Management System would be delayed as the result of staffing pressures.
The Select Committee was advised of difficulties in filling vacancies, mainly as the result of insufficient revenue funding. The workload involved with dealing with Corporate initiatives, such as the headroom exercise, GAGS, review of IT systems, development of the website and the procurement strategy, would affect the ability to delivery of schemes and services contained within the LTP=s Annual Progress Report and associated capital programme. Members were concerned that this could have a detrimental effect on any future Government funding.
(a) THAT the Resources Select Committee be requested to consider the impact of officers dealing with Corporate Initiatives on service delivery and the effect on meeting targets and objectives.
(b) THAT the Engineering Services Departmental Management Team be responsible for reviewing progress in the implementation of the Improvement Plan on a quarterly basis and set revised priorities and targets where slippage occurs or new activities intervene.
(c) THAT the Department be more proactive in adjusting the scope and timescale of some Corporate Initiatives to better suit its own imperatives.
(d) THAT the Executive give consideration to the organisational and staffing issues highlighted by the Consultant=s progress report.
(e) THAT the Department continues to examine the possible application of a PFI approach to asset maintenance and development but other short term opportunities to improve existing contractual practices should not be put on hold in the meantime.
29. SIGNALISATION ON COPPINS BRIDGE GYRATORY SYSTEM
The Chairman indicated that he had asked for an item to be placed on the agenda relating to this issue due to recent media publicity. It had not been possible for the Head of Engineering Services to prepare a report due to the timescale and work pressures.
The Head of Engineering Services explained that it would not be appropriate to switch off the traffic signals, either on a full time or part time basis, on road safety grounds. This was due to the visibility from the entrances onto the gyratory system, the shape and width of the carriageway and position of exit routes. This would require drivers to use their own judgement as to when it was safe to proceed.
The pedestrian crossings were fully integrated within the system. Changes to the style of crossings had been made to accord with latest safety requirements. The Head of Engineering Services however undertook to investigate the installation of a secondary indicator for pedestrians to overcome problems of the existing set being obscured when large numbers were waiting to cross.
There was limited scope to increase capacity on the system due to the short lengths of carriageway available for queuing traffic. These were below the standard length normally available elsewhere, mainly as the result of the gyratory system not being a purpose built scheme but developed within the existing highway network over a number of years. An additional lane around the system could only be achieved through the acquisition and demolition of adjacent properties. This would not provide a cost benefit solution especially if the entrances and exits were to remain in the same locations. The Head of Engineering Services indicated that some preliminary investigations had been undertaken on widening the carriageway on St Georges Approach.
It was explained that the costs of the SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset OptimisationTechnique) System, ,100,000, had been provided by B&Q as part of the planning consent. The money could not have been utilised for any other purpose. The operation of the system was briefly explained and it was noted that it constantly monitored traffic flows and could respond within seconds so that traffic flows were maximised. Maximum capacity was reached very quickly at peak periods, especially when wet weather was experienced during the holiday season. It would be possible for the Select Committee to receive a quarterly report on traffic flows.
Members discussed the incorrect use of the yellow box junctions on the system and its approaches and how this could lead to the disruption of traffic flows. It was believed that one contributing factor was traffic changing lanes on the dual carriageway. The Select Committee suggested that better advance signing should be investigated. In certain locations it was also possible for drivers to preempt changes in lights and the Head of Engineering Services said that he would ascertain if hoods should be fitted on appropriate signals to prevent this. The Police could also be requested to enforce adherence to the signals. An issue was also raised with regard to buses being unable to access the bus stop in Fairlee Road, due the presence of parked vehicles.
THAT the operation of the signalisation on Coppins Bridge Gyratory System be noted and the Police be requested to undertake regular enforcement of the yellow box junctions, failure to comply with the traffic signals and the protection of the bus stop in Fairlee Road.