I was delighted by the announcement in Parliament this week of a £5bn investment in England’s bus and cycling services. This presents a massive opportunity for Cheltenham.
The investment will include at least 4,000 new zero emission buses, as well as more frequent services including on evenings and weekends. Crucially too there will be more affordable, simple fares and further ‘turn up and go’ routes so people will not have to rely on timetables to plan journeys.
The details of the programmes will be published in the upcoming National Bus Strategy later this year. The emphasis is on boosting bus services outside London, so I’ll be pushing between now and then for Cheltenham to be included. The Government, through Gloucestershire County Council, already subsidises bus routes in Cheltenham by nearly £1m every year, but further investment to boost this local lifeline is really positive.
I’m passionate about cycling and walking too, and travel to the overwhelming majority of my appointments on my Brompton bike. So I also welcome the pledge for more cycling investment, in the form of plans to make cycling safer with new “mini-Holland” schemes. These are essential if we are to encourage more people – and women in particular – onto bikes. Low-traffic neighbourhoods would work well in Cheltenham which, so long as you’re not pedalling up Harp Hill or Leckhampton Hill, is pretty flat.
Mini-Holland schemes should be focused principally on making residential areas safer to walk, cycle and play in, while maintaining the vehicle access people need to get around. They should not be about closing vital arterial routes which local people rely on.
Investing in public transport, as well as walking and cycling are crucial to building a cleaner, greener, healthier future. With vision and common sense, a historic opportunity to improve transport in Cheltenham can be seized.