We've all got a responsibility to travel sensibly - Councillor Paul Prescott
We want to inspire you to think differently about how you travel, not just for our own wellbeing but for the benefit of the environment too.
In 2019, we declared a climate emergency and we know that transport is the largest contributor to this in the UK.
Cars take up a lot of space on the road, which leads to congestion, poor air quality and people feeling less confident to walk or cycle.
Too often, the car is seen as the most realistic or convenient choice, despite some journeys being relatively short, which is why we need to prioritise sustainable travel options that are fit for purpose, ranging from bus reform through to improved cycle facilities.
Over the last couple of years, we have been working closely with TfGM to build new infrastructure as part of the regional Bee Network, which will make active travel safer and more attractive to our residents.
The Bridgewater Canal Towpath in Astley was the first scheme delivered as part of the Network, which saw the former ‘Muddy Mile’ transformed into a resurfaced cycle way, providing an off-road alternative connecting the borough to Salford.
Not too long after, we applied this approach to the Mineral Line in Standish, making the 1.45km route easier to navigate by turning it into an established, well-lit bridleway.
Our roads were originally designed to be places where people lived, played, grew up and grew old, but in the last decade alone before the pandemic, TfGM figures suggest road traffic had increased by 30% across the city-region - most of that on residential roads.
However, when we went into the first lockdown in March 2020 and traffic was effectively turned off, people took these spaces back by walking and cycling, which is an upward trajectory we look forward to continuing with our new, fit-for-purpose infrastructure.
But sustainable travel encompasses more than this. The Leigh Guided Busway has been a great success by providing a useful alternative to people who used to drive into the city centre for work or leisure.
In 2018, a new and improved Wigan bus station was also unveiled, offering better facilities for bus users in the area.
We’ve also prioritised the creation of new highways like the A49 and pending M58 link roads to ease congestion, redirecting traffic from residential areas.
We were also the first local authority area in Greater Manchester to launch a ‘School Streets’ initiative, which sees the road outside schools closed to traffic during pick-up and drop-off times in order to make this a safer and cleaner space for school children.
Parents are encouraged to park outside of the designated zone and to finish the journey by foot, bike or scooter.
School children themselves act as junior travel ambassadors who we work with to promote and monitor the scheme. We’ve found it to be a real success and now have three School Streets live in the borough with another five in the pipeline.
But there are more opportunities we can take hold of. We’re keen to bring the buses back under public control for more affordable fares and are working with colleagues across Greater Manchester to accelerate this.
In a few years, Golborne will also benefit from a new railway station with direct services into Manchester and Wigan and we look forward to HS2 arriving at Wigan North Western rail station.
Ultimately, we need to create more choices, which will lead to increased economic opportunities.
Improving streets, local neighbourhoods and town centres will help local businesses to thrive and could lead to further employment.
Together, we can build an affordable, reliable, sustainable public transport and active travel network that people choose to use.
Posted on Thursday 16th September 2021