15/01/2017

Peter James & Partners News 29

TRANSPORT NEWS

A Transport Select Committee says that Britain needs more trams and light rail if efforts to tackle urban congestion are to succeed. The Committee remarked that workplace parking needs to be discouraged, improved links between planning and transport and vehicle sharing needs to have more of a push. Evidence has shown that trams are more effective than buses in encouraging modal shift, but Dr David Metz of University College London says that Britain has not been very forward compared with other countries on the continent, in particular France.

Vice chair of the committee John Elliot said that a lot of people currently drive to work, get a free parking space and clog up town centres, whereas bus journeys often cost more. “That doesn’t feel right; we effectively subsidise people to drive to work rather than encourage them to cycle or use the bus. Little changes are needed to make a big difference.” John Elliott added that there is “definitely a tension” between authorities which have targets for housing and those with responsibility for transport. “Most of these new housing developments are on the periphery of relatively small towns where alternative modes are not there. We are getting a lot more congestion that is not solvable with the current strategies in place.”

 Calls for urgent action as a busy street in London exceeded its annual pollution limit in just five days. A monitoring station on Brixton Road reported nitrogen dioxide levels in excess of 200 micrograms per cubic metre in one hour on 19 separate occasions, which is one more than is permissible in a year under World Health Organisation guidelines. Last year Putney High Street exceeded its annual nitrogen dioxide emissions limit in eight days.

The London Assembly Green Party Member Caroline Russell has responded by saying that: “The Mayor promised to restore London’s air quality to legal and safe limits and has a lot of work to do to come up with new measures to reduce Londoners’ exposure to polluted air,” She also mentioned that too many people have had their lives shortened and health conditions such as asthma worsened due to poor Mayoral policies. The mayor has now announced 10 additional low emission zones, one of which being Brixton Road.

A new travel App is to be trialed in the Midlands offering travellers access to various transport services in one simple smartphone application. The multi modal travel app called ‘Whim’ will be tested by volunteers in West Midlands. The pioneering ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) trail was developed in Finland and this will be the first trial of the system outside of the Scandinavian country. The app lets users pay for their required transport services on a monthly or pay as you go basis, and could help to reduce private car use in cities.

The system’s year long West Midlands trial will involve 500 customers and is due to get under way in the spring. It is a collaboration between Transport for West Midlands, Whim developer MaaS Global and regional transport providers. Bus and coach operator National Express West Midlands, rail information company SilverRail and car hire firm Enterprise have already signed up to participate in the scheme.

HIGHWAYS & INFRASTRUCTURE NEWS

The safety and skill of new motorists could be improved as its been announced that learners could be allowed on motorways. At present, only drivers holding a full driving license are allowed on motorways but Transport Minister Andrew Jones has announced that his intention is to let learners, with vehicles fitted with dual controls and those sat alongside an approved driving instructor, onto the motorways. Currently very few new drivers take motorway lessons after passing their driving test, but yet large amounts say that they are scared of driving on motorways and actively avoid them.

According to the Department for Transport motorways are the safest roads to drive on. The Department recognises that allowing learner drivers on motorways is not without risk and could lead to an increase in casualties. But on balance it says allowing learner drivers to access motorways “is more likely to improve road safety”. Andrew Jones says: “More and varied practice helps drivers to be safer on the roads. Encouraging more people to learn how to use motorways properly will benefit all drivers,” A consultation on the proposal is open until 17 February.

The Government has allocated £1.2 billion to local road funds that will be used to improve roads, cut congestion and improve journey times. Transport Minister Andrew Jones will soon be announcing councils share of the £1.2 billion fund for the 2017 to 2018 finacial year. The government has also published further information about what the funding will be spent on – the latest step in the economic plan to stimulate the economy and build a country that works for everyone. A key part of this is putting in place improved transport links including better roads, to help people access work, school and services.

In a further effort to reduce the number of potholes, the Department for Transport will begin trialing a new pothole-spotter system, mounted to refuse collection vehicles, comprising of high-definition cameras, integrated navigation system and intelligent software will be deployed to identify road surface problems before they become potholes.

STRUCTURES NEWS

The Government has proposed cutting the Severn Crossing Tolls after ownership of the crossing has returned to public ownership. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced the proposal following a recent visit to Wales with Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns. The government’s proposals would see the prices paid for all vehicles halved, making a significant difference to commuters, travellers, and small businesses in particular, with some drivers seeing savings of more than 75%.

The lower toll charges would be introduced when the crossings return to public ownership and will save drivers and businesses money helping boost the economy. It is expected that the new toll charges would be introduced in 2018. The government is also looking at removing toll barriers and introducing free-flow tolling on the Severn Crossings that will help cut congestion and journey times.

Major investment plans for the south-west A303 Stonehenge tunnel have been published as efforts to reduce the notorious congested area will receive funding from a £2 billion investment scheme. The plan to transform the A303 past the Stonehenge site will see the construction of a tunnel under the location of the current road. The upgrade will develop the A303 corridor into a high quality, high performing route linking the M3 in the south-east and the M5 in the south-west, improving journeys for millions of people.

The single carriageway section of the A303 currently runs alongside the stones and the proposed option is to construct a 1.8 mile dual carriageway tunnel to improve journey times, remove the sight and sound of traffic and enhance the world heritage site.

A 100m tall centrepiece to Sunderland’s New Wear Crossing project has arrived in the city. The white structure, which is constructed from more than 1,000 tonnes of steel and 550 tonnes of concrete, arrived into the Port of Sunderland with several hundred onlookers lining the banks of the River Wear to watch it arrive. It will be moored at the port for several weeks while final preparations are carried out before it is transported three miles up the River Wear to the site of the new bridge between Pallion and Castletown.

The pylon will form the centrepiece of the New Wear Crossing, which is on track to open in the spring of 2018. It will help attract investment into Sunderland, create new jobs and regenerate land along the River Wear.

MIDDLE EAST NEWS

Dubai will celebrate the eighth ‘Car Free Day’ on February 5, with over 1,500 government and private companies taking part in the event. The campaign aims to meet the objectives of the UAE National Agenda 2021 on air quality and reducing carbon footprint in the country.  In 2016, nearly 1,070 companies took part in the environmental initiative.

In 2015, Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority said the emirate has 540 cars for every 1000 people, making it one of the cities with the highest vehicle densities in the world. A number of companies from education, real estate, retail, hotels and banks will participate in the “green” initiative along with people with special needs.

Saudi Arabia hopes its plan to bring a further 1.3 million women into the workforce by 2030 will be given a lift from ride-hailing apps Uber and Dubai-based rival Careem. The cars, which the government says should only be driven by Saudi men, offer women, who are banned from driving in the conservative Muslim country, an alternative to being driven to work by chauffeurs, male relatives or the shabby taxi system.

Ride-hailing apps have come under intense scrutiny from governments and regulators across the globe as they disrupt traditional taxi businesses. But Saudi Arabia courted Uber and Careem, offering state investments, to support its Vision 2030 economic reform plan. With a budget squeezed by lower oil prices, the plan aims to draw workers away from government jobs by creating 450,000 private sector positions by 2020. Uber and Careem say they will create up to 200,000 jobs for Saudi men in the next two years.

Emirates president Tim Clark has said he expects a ‘flat’ 2017 for the airline, as external factors impact on its business. The Dubai carrier reported a 75 percent drop in net profit in the first half of the 2016-17 financial year, attributed to economic uncertainty and subdued travel demand. The airline’s net profit was AED786 million ($214 million), down 75 percent from the same period in 2015, when Emirates reported one of its best half-year performances.

When the more recent results were reported in November last year, the airline attributed the drop in profit and revenues to the unfavourable currency environment and increased competition resulting in lower average fares. In particular, it was impacted by currency devaluation and hard currency shortage in some African countries, as well as dampened travel demand due to ongoing economic uncertainty and security concerns across several markets in its network.

Sources : Local Transport Today, Transport Xtra, Jobs in Transport, Department for Transport, RAC Foundation, Highways England, Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation, Institution of Structural Engineers, LinkedIn, Transport Planning Society, ArabianBusiness.com, Gulf News, The Telegraph.