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Number of cars ‘would not fall if buses were free’ – Chief Minister

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FREE bus travel would not help reduce the number of cars on the Island’s roads, the Chief Minister has said.

Senator John Le Fondré

Speaking for the first time about the new Sustainable Transport Policy, Senator John Le Fondré said, based on evidence he had seen from other jurisdictions, offering free buses led to more people who currently cycle or walk getting the bus and did not cut the number of people in cars.

This week Deputy Rob Ward, whose rejected proposition calling for free buses last summer led to the agreement to publish the STP by the end of 2019, described it as a ‘failure’ and a ‘missed opportunity’. The Deputy said efforts should have focused on free bus travel for young people to create a ‘culture of bus use’.

And the Chief Minister added that there was a ‘much greater focus’ on sustainable transport now compared to when the last policy was released in 2010. That document, widely regarded as unsuccessful, aimed to reduce peak-time traffic by 15% by 2015. It in fact dropped by about 5%.

The new policy includes plans for reports about the bus service, active travel and parking in the Island to be released later this year.

There are also a series of initiatives to be acted on before 2021, including introducing traffic-free days, more cycle parking and addressing and improving school travel. Asked about his confidence in whether the policies for this year would be introduced successfully, the Senator said: ‘The STP is not just a one-year fix. Let’s put it this way, I think there is a much greater focus on sustainable transport now. We are very much focused on this being a delivery year.

‘Whether we achieve all of those objectives is another matter. The point is what can we achieve medium and long term. The point is shifting people away from their cars.

‘I think the [Infrastructure] minister and his department are very focused on it and now they have the money to do it.’

He added that, in his opinion, the 2010 Sustainable Transport Policy, released by then former minister Mike Jackson, had produced reductions in traffic which had been ‘disguised’ by the growing population. Since 2010 the population has increased to 106,800.

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Asked, on that basis, if the new Sustainable Transport Policy should have been delayed until the Island has a population policy, the Chief Minister said government had to work with the deadline set by the Assembly of producing a report by the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, a government spokesperson has shed more light on some of the policies planned for this year. One of the flagship elements is so called ‘traffic-free days’ in town.

The spokesperson said: ‘The aim is to run events similar to those in places such as Bristol and Brussels where some streets are given over to people and cyclists to give the community a chance to see for themselves the benefits of other means of transport.’

It is proposed that a ‘programme of activities’ will be established this year.

Another policy is to introduce covered cycle parking at five locations in town. The spokesperson said one of the sites was Sand Street and work had begun. Three other locations have been identified.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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