PR: Anti-park & ride campaigners say one of biggest causes of congestion in eastern Bath is school-run

 Campaigners against a Park & Ride on Bathampton Meadows have evidence showing that the school run accounts for as much as a third of the morning traffic on the eastern London Road, which is far greater than the 10 percent that council officials have suggested. Campaigners say this proves yet again that a controversial multi-million pound proposal to build a Park & Ride on the east of Bath will have little or no impact on congestion levels coming into the city. The Bathampton Meadows Alliance, which is campaigning to stop council plans to build a 1,400 space Park & Ride on Bathampton Meadows, commissioned the Transport Data Collection company used by BANES to carry out an automated count of traffic on the London Road at Batheaston High Street over a five-week period running up to and during the Easter holidays.
 The period during which the count was conducted included the three weeks of term-time leading up to the Easter holidays, the first week of the holidays when all independent and some states school were on holiday, and the second week of the holidays when all the schools in BANES were off. The count showed that, between 7am and 9am, traffic fell by as much as a third during school holidays. In the afternoon, the drop was less, and more in line with a council estimate provided at the Scrutiny Day in March, at around 9 percent.  However, the morning figure is consistent with what the owners of the Toll Bridge, on Mill Lane, which runs between Batheaston and Bathampton, have found: around 4,500 cars cross the Toll Bridge on an average school day, but  takings drop sharply, by 40%, during school holidays.
 Alliance campaigner, Fiona Powell, who analysed the data, said: “These new figures will help councillors make a more informed decision when they finally decide whether to build an eastern Park & Ride. This is such a huge investment, at a time when money across public services is scarce, and it is essential that it is based on facts not estimates.”
 “The council’s consultants Mott McDonald have estimated that this Park & Ride would take 5% of traffic off the London Road during the morning rush hour, at a cost of £12 million. But this new evidence shows they can make a far bigger reduction in traffic around the city by tackling the school-run, and for far less money.”
 Mrs Powell, who is a Bathampton resident, said the fact that the school-run accounts for a far bigger proportion of morning traffic than the council previously thought would certainly make a Park & Ride much harder to justify.
 “Parents aren’t going to use a Park & Ride to get their children to school, they’re going to stay in their cars,” said Mrs Powell. “So now we know that one in three cars entering Batheaston from the east at the busiest time of day will not use this new facility, it would be an alarming waste of taxpayers’ money.”
 Mrs Powell, who was responsible for measuring customer experience at Sainsbury’s, said: “If the council is serious about making the traffic situation in Bath better, they must address school traffic. The council has recently closed its ‘Safer Routes to School’ team, despite school and workplace travel plans being a core part of the Transport Strategy. But council officials should be working closely with all schools in the city to get pupils in the private and the public sector out of cars. That’s what will really make a difference to congestion.”
 Campaigners have for months now been posting photographs on social media of a virtually empty London road at peak times during the school holidays. By contrast during term time, over the past year, queues of traffic on the eastern London Road have consistently been backing up right along Batheaston High Street, as cars wait to go down towards the Toll Bridge.
 Mrs Powell said the reason that the percentage of school-run traffic appears far higher in the morning rush hour than it is in the afternoon is that pupils often leave school at different times or have after school activities. Anecdotal evidence suggests pupils are also more likely to use public transport to go home, rather than in the morning when it is critical that they get to school on time.  Parents who are picking up their children after school may also be going on to other activities rather than straight home.
 Mrs Powell said the afternoon traffic was also mixed with day-trippers and shoppers which made it harder to gauge the impact of the afternoon school run. Mrs Powell concluded: “What we need is more research. One of our greatest frustrations through this whole process is that the Council has not done the research that will tell us why people use their cars, rather than other modes of transport. And until we know that, it is impossible to evaluate what will actually work to reduce congestion into the City.”