Cabinet member answers our questions on 15-year transport plan for West Sussex

Joy Dennis, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, has answered our questions about a 15-year transport plan currently out for consultation until Friday October 8. Visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/wstpconsultation

Friday, 1st October 2021, 11:54 am
Joy Dennis, cabinet member for highways and transport at West Sussex County Council

Q) How does the plan respond to the fact that while many want to see highways investments to reduce congestion and improve capacity others see such action as contrary to climate change objectives?

The draft plan proposes to improve the efficiency of the county strategic road network (e.g. A27 and parts of the A24 and A259) to reduce congestion and rat-running on less suitable routes. In parallel, we want to support the shift to electric cars and more use of buses, trains, walking and cycling by making these modes of transport safer and more attractive to help meet our climate change objectives.

I would also highlight that West Sussex Highways is working with its contractors to explore innovative ways of working, which dovetail with the council’s drive to reduce carbon emissions.

A recent example was the £1.5million A24 Washington bypass carriageway resurfacing scheme. This project used the latest technology, allowing the resurfacing materials to be mixed at much lower temperatures than conventional asphalt. Also, recycled materialrecovered from other West Sussex roads was utilised.

Q) In light of the national ‘bus back better’ strategy, what does the plan say about the future of bus services in West Sussex?

We want to form enhanced partnerships with bus operators and work together to address their challenges.  We are well advanced in developing bus service improvement plans that will set out specific ideas.

Our plan for the next five years includes giving buses priority on parts of the A259 between Chichester and Littlehampton and trialling on-demand flexible services in hard-to-reach areas.

Q) What actions/improvements are most needed for the county’s rail network/services an how much influence will the county council have in this area?

We need to work with other transport organisations to have influence over the rail network/services.  We see Transport for the South East (the sub-national transport body) as the best way to achieve this as this enables transport authorities and local enterprise partnerships to speak with one voice on the improvements that are needed.  We think improvements are needed to the speed and quality of services on West Coastway, Arun Valley and North Downs lines and the capacity of services on the Brighton Main Line. We will also be pressing for modern trains to replace the 40-year-old carriages used on some West Coastway services.

Q) What actions/investment does the plan propose on cycling?

The draft plan proposes to extend and improve the network of facilities for cycling by delivering a programme of improvements that provide permanent, good quality infrastructure.  Our draft plan includes schemes across the county and all our major road schemes will also include facilities for cycling.  We will consult affected communities on schemes as they are developed and take their views into account before implementing them. 

Q) Are there any stand out innovations in the plan such as introducing actions or objectives that the county council hasn’t recently explored?

I’m really excited to see how our plans to trial new on-demand flexible transport services can improve access for rural communities. Although similar services have been tried before, new technology will make these services easier to use.  I hope this innovation will be successful and, if it is, then we’ll look to roll it out into other areas. 

Q) Are the aspirations and actions in the plan affordable?

This is 15-year plan so, at this point in time, we don’t know what funding will be available and can’t say that it is all affordable.  Our plan is ambitious, but we’ll need Government investment alongside county council funding and developer contributions to deliver it in full.  If all the funding isn’t available, then we’ll need to prioritise, and this may mean that some priorities take longer to deliver.