The Committee considered a Highway Footway and Road Safety Investment Programme Update report which provided Members with an update on the current investment programme in relation to road safety and associated infrastructure.
The report apprised members with information on the following aspects:-
· Local Transport Plan / Local Transport Fund
· Active Travel Act and Local Authority Obligations
· Safe Routes in communities
· Road Safety Improvement and Footway Improvement Programme
· Road Safety Grant (Capital and Revenue)
· Traffic Management and Accident Prevention Programme
Set out within the report was a summary of funding for road safety related and other infrastructure schemes for 2019/20 and the prioritised programme for road safety, footway and other infrastructure.
The following questions/issues were raised on the report:-
negotiations with landowners were still ongoing,
planning has been approved for West section,
planning has been applied for the Eastern section – delayed due to conditions in place with NRW,
construction has stated on the Western section of the path by White Mill,
further bids have been placed for the western section.
The Transport Strategy and Infrastructure Manager stated that he would liaise with the Local Councillor outside of the meeting on the matter.
· Reference was made to Safe Routes in Communities. It was asked, if it was feasible for wards to join together in order to be more integrated? The Transport Strategy and Infrastructure Manager stated that joint working was good practice and actively encouraged. In addition, it was encouraging to note that the letter received from the Minister of Transport urged that Local Authorities revise their Integrated Network Maps for active travel over the next year with practical support being provided to enable them to ensure that they reflect the needs of local communities.
The Executive Board Member for Environment explained that as a result of the legislative changes, the Executive Board at its meeting on 3rd February, 2020 had approved the establishment of a cross party Advisory Panel to carry out a general review of the authority’s school transport policy (minute 11 Refers). Members were informed that the Panel would undertake a high level review of the current school transport policy, review the changes to the application of Public Service Vehicle Access Regulations to local services and undertake a high level review of the costs school transport provision which would include supply chain challenges arising from the application of the Public Service Vehicle Access Regulations. Following the review, the Advisory Panel would make recommendations to Executive Board.
Notwithstanding the work of the School Transport Review Advisory Panel, it was expressed that that the Welsh Government, on a National Level should review how appropriate its current mechanism is in assessing safe routes and also urgently review the distances that is appropriate for pupils to walk/cycle to school. It was proposed that the Committee write to the Minister of Transport requesting that the Welsh Government undertake the aforementioned reviews and make available any additional funding required. The proposal was duly seconded.
In response to a query raised on whether the Local Authority had discretion to reduce the current statutory walking distance from home to school, the Transport Strategy and Infrastructure Manager emphasised to the Committee that previous consideration of the financial implications suggested that for every mile reduced would result in an annual estimated increase of £10m on the Local Authority’s revenue budget.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that:
5.1 the Committee write a letter to the Minister of Transport requesting that the Welsh Government:
a) undertake a review of the current mechanism of assessing safe routes;
b) urgently review the distances appropriate for pupils to walk to school;
c) give consideration to make any additional funding required available following the outcome of the abovementioned reviews.
5.2 the Highway Footway and Road Safety Investment Programme Update report be received.