Tuesday 26 July 2022

NCC Debate - Norfolk Transport Plan - 19/07/22


My speech to Norfolk County Council 19/07/22
Picture is of Stuart Terry and Terry Land at one of the bus stops on Woodlands Drive which gets to see not a single bus!
"There’s an area in Thetford known locally as Woodlands Estate – along its main roads, there’s a whole number of bus stop signs. But like many areas of Norfolk, there’s now not a single bus service for Woodlands. Residents have been telling me recently how people moving into the estate often stand at the bus stops waiting for the services that don’t exist. As I’ve been reading this transport plan, I can’t help but think how these experiences beautifully demonstrate the plight of so many Norfolk residents – forever waiting in vain for the transport services that never come.
And Woodlands Estate in Thetford is not alone –I’m sure many of us have similar examples in our own communities across Norfolk. Residents tell me that with the increasing cost of taxis, they would love to be able to use public transport and they can just about manage the walk to the bus stop, but there is not anywhere for people to sit down and to rest as they wait for the bus – something so simple, but a major barrier to many from accessing public transport.
For all the talk of progress and achievements in this document, for many, services have deteriorated and options have reduced. Cars and roads continue to be prioritised to the cost of all else. As data recently revealed, my own District of Breckland is now regarded as the most isolated in Norfolk. Saham Toney is ranked 43rd in England for the long length of time it takes to reach services by public transport, followed by other Norfolk wards.
For many, driving a car in Norfolk is sadly still a necessity, not a choice. But plenty do not have that choice with 20% of Norfolk residents not owning a car and a greater number still being forced to limit their car usage for financial reasons. I fail to see how this plan will do anything to address the needs of those residents, and what a tragedy as we face not just the cost-of-living crisis but an environmental emergency. How poetic that this chamber will no doubt vote through a ‘car is king’ transport plan in our air-conditioned room as we hit record-breaking temperatures just outside these doors. It’s fortunate that so many like to bury their heads in the sand, we’re creating more of it in our county!
But it’s not just non-car users in Norfolk that are getting a poor deal. Even if you have a car and can afford to use it, we’re seeing deteriorating standards. As the papers for the Infrastructure & Development Committee confirmed, the backlog of repairs to our highways network is now £57million, an increase of £10m on the year before. With inflation levels rising, this backlog will inevitably increase as what funds we have will not go as far as they once did. The funding for the next two years will be at the same levels, with no increases for inflation. In real terms, this could represent a 20-25% reduction in funding for repairs and maintenance. Recently, this Council has spent nearly a quarter of a million pounds on highways related compensation payments, mainly linked to pot hole issues.
This Transport Plan fails to deliver for car and non-car users alike, it fails to recognise sufficiently and respond to the cost-of-living crisis that we’re in. This transport plan does not sufficiently acknowledge and respond to the climate emergency, and it will accelerate carbon emissions not reduce them. It will continue to leave Norfolk residents forever waiting in vain for the transport services that never come. I will be voting against."

No comments: