Baroness Vere, Minister at the Department for Transport, on Transforming Transport in South East Dorset
Baroness (Charlotte) Vere, Minister for Roads, Buses and Places at the Department for Transport (DfT), tells us what the government is doing to transform how people access transport in South East Dorset and the whole country.
Nobody enjoys waiting in traffic. With some of the most congested roads in the UK, that’s what some motorists in South East Dorset have to face. Many people opt for the car because other options are seen as unreliable or impractical. Cars cut the distance between home and work, and friends and family. They are convenient, especially in rural areas.
But cars and vans represent one-fifth of our domestic CO2 emissions. And my department has committed to cutting out carbon across transport by 2050. One part of that effort will involve supporting greener energy sources and investing in the take up of Electric Vehicles. And another part will see investment in reliable alternative transport modes, making it practical and possible to swap a car journey for travel by foot, bicycle or bus.
The government is building better public and sustainable travel options for communities across the country. And we want to empower people in South East Dorset to choose quicker, greener and healthier journeys. That’s why we’re boosting the region through our Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) with a £79 million investment to link key transport hubs with new walking, cycling and bus routes.
Connectivity Corridors & Cycleways
We are supporting the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch Council and Dorset Council to deliver a package of public transport and active travel improvements across a congested conurbation. This will provide greener transport alternatives so that communities have the freedom and confidence to make sustainable journeys along Connectivity Corridors and Cycleways.
Connectivity Corridors is a slightly muted way of explaining something more colourful. We want to create more green commuter journeys through towns, villages, and suburbs in South East Dorset. And we want commuters in South East Dorset to make more journeys via these green transport options.
Right now, two Connectivity Corridors schemes linking Poole to Ferndown and North Poole to Christchurch via North Bournemouth are already under way. These will bring better bus services plus new and upgraded shelters. They will make use of smart technology and mobile apps to give passengers the information they need when they need it. And they will incorporate a pavement repair programme so that they meet the mobility needs of all residents.
There will be more than 40 miles of new cycle paths and walkways created between Bournemouth and Christchurch and Ferndown, Wareham to Poole and North Poole to Poole Town Centre. Construction has already begun to link Lansdowne and Christchurch. With each improvement, the region moves closer to a future where cycling and walking are a key part of the transport mix; an everyday option for anyone who wants to take the more active route.
Making active travel easier and safer
Active travel will play an increasing role across South East Dorset’s transport system. The new cycle paths and walkways will make more active travel possible. And if more people cycle or walk to work rather than drive, that means fewer cars on the road and more reliable bus routes. Not to mention the positive health effects for the individuals who put on their walking shoes or get on their bikes.
It is one of our priorities to promote a healthier, safer and carbon-neutral travel. To support this, we have created a new agency called Active Travel England to accelerate rates of cycling and walking across the nation. The organisation will help ensure that funding goes to projects that will make a real difference to increasing the take-up of cycling and walking. And Active Travel England will also look at safety on our highways and byways because cycling to work or walking to school should never be an act of bravery.
In South East Dorset we want to see an increase in active travel, and so we must ensure our roads are safe and feel safe for all users. Safety always comes first. Earlier this year, we updated The Highway Code in the biggest shake up in more than a decade, making the rules simpler and roads safer. These are important updates. Whilst we already have some of the safest roads globally, these changes will make active travel options more viable and more attractive.
The benefits of building back greener
The investment in this region is part and parcel of a wider strategy to build back greener. Last year, my department set out a plan to decarbonise UK transport. As we embark on this journey, the TCF will support South East Dorset to share in gains that net zero transport can deliver.
Greater numbers of people travelling along the Connectivity Corridors means fewer cars on the roads and reduced congestion. It means better experiences across all modes of transport. And alongside a suite of policies to cut the carbon from our communities – from supporting manufacturers to cut the sticker price of electric vehicles to providing grants for home charging devices – more sustainable options make our great towns and villages more attractive places to live and work. Better places to do business, build houses, and invest.
These are the advantages of our investment for South East Dorset. We are delivering a step change in local connectivity, giving a real boost to the local economy. This is a virtuous circle. With UK government supporting local authorities, this region can look forward to sharing in the benefits of a sustainable transport network for decades to come.
Our ambitious plans for transport will support the levelling up of our economy and bring the improvements to services that communities like South East Dorset have long called for. We are creating more reliable services, keeping our roads safe, reducing congestion and giving everyone the opportunity to choose the low carbon alternative at the heart of our future transport system.