Connecting our county

Close up of School bus in London

We need truly sustainable transport policies, founded on the principles of smarter travel: reducing the need to travel and increasing travel choices.

Herefordshire presents some agonising choices if we examine connectivity. We are one of the least populated counties and we have only around 5 miles of dual carriage way, around 2000 miles of small roads and no large conurbations. Rail links are also very few in the county.

It is easier to see how trams, electric buses and encouraging people to walk and cycle in the City of Hereford will work. Through road schemes and pedestrianisation, it can also be made safe for all.

The widely spread farms, hamlets and small villages present a very different problem for the county. Rural life in Herefordshire is today dependent on the car. With narrow lanes, hills and in most cases significant distances to cover the majority of people do not find cycling or walking a suitable alternative to using their cars. We have few bus services provided and it is therefore not possible to look at an across-the-board solution. With help and sponsorship, community transport, organised by the people for the people, may be a practical solution.

Search for a solution we must, but it has to reflect the real world. A weekly shop for the average family needs a vehicle for transport. Many over the last year have resorted to ordering online and this has caused an explosion in vans crisscrossing the county and in some instances at higher speeds than local communities would like.

Agriculture has also impacted on transport across the county. Farmers are no longer surrounded by their own land. Many large agribusiness units have thousands of acres spread across the county. As a result, ever larger and more powerful tractors and trailers travel backwards and forwards along our roads, sometimes at great distances and through our county City of Hereford.

There appears to be much more domestic travel taking children to school by car than ever existed thirty years ago. Could more school buses help this situation? Should planners think more about where new housing is placed in conjunction with schools? Could a better planning overview reduce the need for travel? Much is talked about sustainability but how is it being judged and applied?

The search for solutions and answers is truly under way but they must work for all the local communities, the old and the young, the wealthy and the poor. Our very wellbeing is dependent on connectivity and isolation is our worst enemy.