Time for a coach congestion charge says BPT.

Time for a coach congestion charge says BPT.

B&NES new coach parking strategy for the city comes under fire – from heritage watchdogs –  Bath Preservation Trust –  for increasing pollution and congestion and impacting badly on central heritage sites.

It goes on to call for an end to ‘coach cruising’  where vehicles tour the city’s attraction and then leave to go straight on to their next tourist destination. They suggest a congestion charge might help reduce for such activity.


The existing coach station.

In a response to the Council’s new Parking and Coach Parking Strategy the Trust questions why such a policy does not mention heritage, air quality and congestion?

In a statement – quoted below in full – BPT say they are critical of both strategies.

‘For many years BPT has supported Council initiatives which claim they wish to reduce traffic and congestion in Bath’s city centre. Bath needs a sustainable and effective transport system underpinned by affordable public transport and a walk/cycle culture.

But the Parking Strategy proposed intends to increase the amount of short-term parking in the centre which actually increases the flow of cars, and directly contradicts the aims of its Getting Around Bath Transport Strategy adopted in 2014.

BPT instead suggests more ‘Park & Link’ opportunities using smaller sites where people live plus improvements to public transport and the provision of incentives to use it, alongside cycling and walking options.

Bath deserves the best in parking technologies including digital messaging signage, responsive charges and frequencies, and creative out-of-town event parking management.

The new Coach Parking Strategy appears even less well considered. Initial consultations seem to have bypassed properly canvassing the views of residents and city groups and are skewed towards satisfying the convenience and wish lists of tourists and the coach business stakeholders.


The drop off point BPT are worried will become more congested and polluted.

The Trust opposes an increase in bays at Terrace Walk (Bog Island) and Green Park where parked coaches already impact the vista of these sensitive historic areas and where more would simply increase the number of coach movements, leading to yet more congestion and pollution.

The Council has a financial interest in parking, and a greater one in short term parking than longer term. Yet the two strategies are not transparent – are in fact silent – about the financial consequences set against the traffic consequences.

Similarly, the Council should be dissuaded from tolerating more coach companies ‘cruising’ the sights of the upper town before racing to the next holiday attraction. Instead, the Trust is calling for tighter regulations and consideration of a congestion charge for those coaches who bring no economic benefit to the city.

It is telling that BPT observes the phrase ‘environmental impact’ only once and the total absence of the words heritage, air quality and congestion in the 10 page summary document.

The Trust’s detailed responses to these consultations can be found at:

Bath Newseum has asked B&NES to comment on this statement.


Meanwhile the Chairman of the Federation of Bath Residents’ Association, Robin Kerr, has sent Bath Newseum a copy of a letter sent to the Leader of B&NES, Cllr Tim Warren.

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Robin Kerr

It welcomes the Bath Air Quality Action Plan but warns that unless the council actually implements these measures ‘nothing will change.’

However the Federation is also critical of plans for coaches. Here is the part of the letter dealing with them.

” 8. By contrast, the coach parking strategy is totally flawed. It fails to recognise the severe adverse impact of coach traffic on the city, to analyse the contribution that coaches are claimed to make to the economy, or to attempt to strike any kind of balance between the two. Essentially, the approach has been to ask what the coach operators, drivers and passengers want, and accommodate them without regard to the impact on the city or its residents. Surveys were conducted of the views of coach companies, drivers and passengers, but none of Bath residents. In the view of many residents (and some businesses), coaches are a plague.

9. The strategy proposes that coaches should continue to come into the very heart of the city and drop off just metres from some of the Key Elements of the World Heritage Site such as the Roman Baths, the Abbey and North Parade. Coach demand is forecast to increase by 24% by 2026, but the strategy seems to suggest that this increase is simply to be accommodated. These proposals are completely incompatible with Council’s policies to cut air pollution and reduce traffic, especially

in the historic core, and a wasted opportunity to improve our city. Coach drop-offs should be provided at locations outside the city centre, within a reasonable walking distance of it. We do welcome the creation of a coach park at Odd Down.

10. The proposal to put four to six new coach bays on Green Park Road is particularly egregious. It would gobble up a valuable green space and ruin the riverside setting of Green Park, which is used by young children including a growing number of visiting school groups.

11. The strategy should be widened to cover all aspects of the presence of coaches in Bath, including illegal parking, engines left running, and the movement of coaches through the historic core of the city. Restrictions should be placed on the streets that can be used by coaches within this area, such as High Street. The coach ban currently in force in Brock Street should be extended to Bennet Street and Gay Street. Coaches are not generally permitted to come into the historic core of York, an excellent model for Bath.

12. We strongly urge you to reject the draft Coach strategy and direct that a revised one is prepared which is consistent with the traffic reduction aims of the Core Strategy, PMP, Transport Strategy and the PRMS, and with the requirement which has been placed on the Council to bring air pollution inside the legal limit as soon as possible. Coaches must be managed, not simply accommodated.”



A message – and point of view – from Bob Draper…..

‘Come on Bathonians – Get out your angle grinders & welding torches….!

Having seen someone almost swept off their feet on the lower pavement on the north side of George St. by the front overhang of a tourist bus coming up from Queen Square  I wondered who controls these behemoths of Bath’s narrow streets? 


One of Bath’s bright coloured tourist buses on its way down Milsom Street.

 Is it the local council or the Traffic Commissioners?

At every corner & junction these gargantuans of the tourist trade have to stop and wait for opposing traffic to clear so that they can swing out on tho opposite side of the road in order to make the corner. there is an irony in the in the winter months that the load factors are often so low a Smart car would be sufficient!

 For the sake of pedestrian safety maybe buses should fitted with some of these:



Maybe Bath Newseum readers would like to suggest what would be a suitable size of vehicle for Bath’s clogged arteries’?

Bob Draper, Bath.

Ben urges B&NES to sort out the traffic.

Ben urges B&NES to sort out the traffic.

Bath’s city roads are now operating at maximum capacity – says the city’s MP Ben Howlett – and that means any accident or obstruction within the system is causing chaos.

He’s jumped into the traffic issue fray by urging B&NES  to pull its finger out and take measures to ease things.

london road 1

London Road traffic.

Mr Howlett says Bath city centre has seen even worse congestion than normal in recent days. 

In a statement he says, “It is increasingly clear that the city’s roads are at maximum capacity and that any accident, or obstruction causes widespread traffic issues.  I am therefore calling on the Council to place renewed energy behind the Integrated Transport Strategy, which has received cross party support, to improve cycle paths, create safer non-car routes to schools and facilitate a stronger focus on walking in the city.  

I also urge the Council to take the long overdue decision on the park and ride to the East of the city to reduce the volume of traffic entering the city from that side.  The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership received £2.3M on encouraging more people to leave their cars outside of the city and I would like to see these fund spent to the benefit of Bath residents, businesses and commuters alike.

Ben Howlett MP

Ben Howlett, MP for Bath.

I strongly believe it is also time to get on and build the long overdue A36/46 link road to relieve the volume of through traffic and therefore begin to relieve congestion to the eastern side of Bath. 

Plans for the A36/46 link road are already being discussed with Highways England, Local Authorities and the West of England Combined Authority following a meeting with the new Transport Minister last month.  My own petition has now received over 2000 responses and announcements are due shortly on the next steps towards this vital infrastructure project. 

I hope in light of the severe traffic issues seen recently that the Council will take urgent remedial action to address the situation, alongside implementing longer term strategic initiatives and infrastructure projects to bring Bath’s roads back from their current capacity status”.


Making Bath roads work.

Making Bath roads work.

A recent meeting of the full B&NES Council found plenty of opposition groups vying for attention outside the Guildhall. One of them was a group of cyclists concerned that trader pressure for additional loading bay spaces was going to rob those on two wheels from a cycle track which provided them with some protection from the dangerous London Road.


Protestors gathered outside Bath Guildhall.

Within the city is an organisation called CycleBath – a community of bike riders who campaign for making space for cyclists so that – according to their online website – ‘cycling – a truly democratic form of transport as well as exercise, sport and leisure – can be enjoyed by anyone, from 8 to 80+.’

cyclebath adam reynolds

Adam Reynolds who is Chair of CycleBath.

The Chair of the organisation is Adam Reynolds who has kindly written a piece for Bath Newseum in which he states his concerns for the provision of cycling space, expensive and ineffective proposals to ease congestion and what he thinks is a lack of enthusiasm for doing anything new and invigorating on the transport scene.

His article can be read below. I am sure he would welcome your comments.


As Chair of CycleBath, you would think that I spend most of my time campaigning for cycle infrastructure and addressing cycling related issues. These days it’s more about fighting for segregated space for the most vulnerable road users. That means campaigning for separate space within schemes for walking, for cycling, and for driving. You do not share.

Spending years trying to understand this area has lead me to learning how you design road space within urban and rural environments to deliver good ‘livable’ streets that create cohesive, good community spaces. Primarily it’s keeping up with what does or does not work around the world and applying it to “what if” scenarios, primarily to the City of Bath.

The Political Void Bath suffers

With every, and I do mean EVERY successful scheme, it comes down to one thing. A political leader with a vision to push hard, really hard, against what people are comfortable with. A political leader supported by other politicians, able to push for what they want within the Council’s senior officers.

We live in a fantastic city. A city that is world renowned for its beautiful Georgian architecture, the fabulous Roman Baths, horrendous traffic, and poor air quality. A city dominated by, what can only be described as, a plague of cars.

A city measured by its Outstanding Universal Value that must be protected to retain its world heritage site status. A city that has been threatened with losing its world heritage status as the OUV degrades due to congestion. A city that needs a strong political class with a vision for what the city should be and prepared to protect and increase the OUV.

Yet, politically, the decisions we make are not for the city of Bath. They are made for Bath and North East Somerset, and of more concern, decisions about the city, the decisions that should protect and enhance the OUV of the city, are made by a council cabinet, where only one member lives within the city.

At a fundamental level we have a city, where decisions are made that cannot impact external wards negatively. A city that operates within a political void where the OUV of the city is sacrificed at the altar of votes.


So when 8 different working groups at the recent Transport consultation day proposed congestion charging, something proven worldwide to reduce congestion, we have a Council who will not act upon this proposal as this has a negative effect on external wards while increasing the OUV of the city.

London Road

London Road

They can, however, propose a £10million park and ride that would at most reduce the number of cars driving down London Road by 1 per minute. Politically that works with the rural wards but fails miserably for the city. In fact, it will reduce the OUV of the city.

We have a cabinet member for Transport living in Colerne stating that he wants to make it easier for cars to travel north to south through the city of Bath, something that would reduce the OUV of the city. A policy that encourages car use. 

Something that is known in transport as “Induced Demand” where you end up with more congestion at the end of the day. Sustainable cities around the world are making it harder not easier, to get around cities by car. That’s not to say they make it impossible.

A cabinet member that has instructed council officers to consider walking and cycling a key part of schemes. Then cancels a pedestrian crossing 14 years in the making on Bathwick Hill, connecting Combe Down to the University, despite every objection being countered by officers stating how the large numbers pedestrians and cyclists showed the need for the crossing. A decision where car traffic flow was prioritised over walking and cycling. A decision that reduced the OUV of the city.

A decision where car traffic flow was prioritised over walking and cycling. A decision that reduced the OUV of the city.

We truly have a city with a political void. Where decisions are made that do not negatively impact wards outside of the city to preserve the power base of the Conservatives.

So how do we fix Bath politically? How do we move forward into a place where brave decisions can be made about Bath, and only Bath, without interference from councillors who need to pander to their wards outside of Bath. A decision process focused on increasing the OUV of the city.

The only way I can see this happening is to have each community forum have transport decisions devolved down to them, with ward councillors from each community heavily involved in the decision making. 

Fixing Bath’s problems in other counties

A council likes playing in its own backyard. It’s known as Localism. It keeps things simple. So during the Transport consultation, many people proposed the idea of small satellite park and ride sites near to places like Corsham using existing bus services. 

The advantages to this approach are that it significantly reducing road miles by discouraging people driving to the edge of the city. It’s also very cost effective and very quick to implement. In fact, it can be simply a case of identifying an existing underused car park/wasteland area and creating a new bus stop with special ticket prices.

B&NES is quite happy opening up Saltford train station, but a more effective station to open would be Corsham.

Talk to the council about any of these and the response is, “Oh but that is Wiltshire”.

Suggest sorting out the Gorse Lane/Freezing Hill dog leg with two mini-roundabouts, with better signage up by the M4 to direct people to the Lansdown Park and Ride.

Talk to the council about doing this,  “Oh but that is South Glos. We don’t give money away”.

Bath has many transport issues, but let’s be clear, a hell of a lot of the problems are solved in other counties. A council unable to see beyond this because of a pigheaded “We only play in B&NES” attitude will never get to grips with Bath’s transport problems. This results in proposals like the East Park and Ride. A sub-par solution that negatively impacts the OUV of the city. Let’s not forget it’s also a vote winner with external wards.

Focusing on real congestion solutions

It’s all well and good me criticising but you should also be prepared to offer solutions.

The title of Bath’s Transport Strategy “Getting around Bath” implies making it easier to travel around Bath for all modes of transport. We are at peak car. Nothing we can do to our road system will help get more cars around Bath without paving over the river.

Even the proposed A36/A46 bypass completely ignores the big congestion issues on the western side of Bath, particularly, the A4 to A36 city through traffic.

Bath’s Transport Strategy should be renamed “Getting Bath Active” with a focus on walking, cycling and public transport. A focus on reducing car use in the city and reduction of through traffic. A focus on protecting and increasing the OUV of the city. A strategy that sets targets. A strategy that asks of the council “What type of city do we want to live in?”

The current focus within the council chambers and council departments is around managing the current volumes of traffic and making the roads more efficient. They are trying to build dams inch by inch while the flood waters rise foot by foot.

We should be open to solutions that have worked around the world and adopt them. When you look around the world at what has truly worked at reducing congestion, there are really only three ideas that make significant in-roads into congestion.

Parking control.

When Bristol introduces the RPZ in Clifton, P&R use shot up 20%. Nottingham is using the Workplace Parking Levy to deliver its £9m tram system. Zurich set a legal cap on car parking in the city, then built underground car parks, forcing the removal of much of the on-street parking in central districts.

A radical solution would be to introduce Bath wide parking control with 90% discounted resident permits, commuter permits, and use of the workplace parking levy. Providing a phone app to enable residents to police their own roads and summon a parking officer as needed. This recognises the inherent value of on-street parking and encourages people to use park and ride facilities.

London Road cycleway

A distant van blocks the very poor cycleway provision on the London Road

Congestion Charging

A A36/A46 bypass would reduce traffic on London Road by about 30% and cost £90m. The introduction of congestion charging in London, reduced congestion by 20%. Introducing congestion charging in Bath could reduce congestion by similar levels. This may not sound much, but consider that the school run is considered to be 23% of rush hour traffic. A more intelligent approach to congestion charging, say by only implementing a “congestion through charge” could also be considered where driving through the city in under an hour would result in a charge.

Making a city livable

When we look at a city, we need to understand how we make it more livable. How we tame the streets. How we remove the dominance of the car on our streets. This is why Lower Borough Walls works so well, but Seven Dials fails so miserably. LBW uses filtered priority (bollards) to restrict car access while Seven Dials is a through road. Businesses on LBW objected to the filtered priority during the consultation process, now they complain if the bollards are down. Making a city livable is profitable.

Closing residential roads using bollards can completely and utterly change a community. Many of these roads are rat runs. Many are roads where parents do not let their kids play. By making access to homes more convoluted for vehicles, it changes the space into “living streets”. It makes it a quiet street. A place where children can play safely. A place where walking in the road is possible. Where popping over the road to chat with your neighbour feels like running the gauntlet.

Show me the money

As with anything done within the council, it comes down to money. Congestion charging and parking control are profitable. By ring-fencing money generated to transport, in particular supporting better cheaper public transport links, we encourage people to switch from car to public transport. Even making streets liveable is indirectly profitable. 


During the recent transport consultation, 8 different working groups proposed the same solution to Bath’s traffic. A congestion charge to discount public transport and deliver more walking and cycling infrastructure. It’s cheap and immediately effective and provides a revenue stream that enables the council to deliver better transport solutions.

london road 2

Rush hour traffic coming into Bath on the London Road

However, a Cabinet of councillors mostly living in wards external to Bath will never act in the best interests of the city of Bath. It would impact their voter base too much. Bath operates within a political void where the residents are not in control of their own destiny. Where decisions are made to try and increase the conservative vote in the city while preserving the votes in the external wards.

We have senior council officers who will not consider what’s best for the city if it means paying another council to deliver the solution. Officers wed to the principles of maximising traffic flow when the evidence backed solutions from other cities around the world are focused on modal equality (providing segregated walking, cycling and driving space) and reducing traffic flow in cities).
We need a Bathxit. We need devolved decision makers that can make the brave decisions that will deliver a sustainable, beautiful city, and not the car-choked city it currently is. Decisions that are politically hard but are proven to work. We need to protect and increase the Outstanding Universal Value that makes this city a world-renowned heritage site.

We need to protect and increase the Outstanding Universal Value that makes this city a world-renowned heritage site.

London Road squeeze

London Road squeeze

The new trees arriving on the London Road

The new trees arriving on the London Road

We’re nearing the end of the London Road upheaval but l see more problems ahead.

Trees and multi-coloured pavements do not solve the continual traffic problem that makes this one of the most polluted streets in the UK.

The new and striking rust-covered and sculpted plant containers do add something in terms of street furniture. They soften the harshness of a noisy and choked thoroughfare.

The summer greenery will also play a token role in absorbing some of the carbon produced by all those cars and lorries – but l loved the comment about how the ‘improvements’ were like ‘putting lipstick on a pig.’

With respect to pigs everywhere – and as one who doesn’t eat them – it’s a great way of illustrating how the traffic issue has been just played with over the years.

How much further can these plants dangle?

How much further can these plants dangle?

Getting down to finer detail. I am sure the original planting spec was for an edging of box privet hedge for the planters.

Instead we have a pendulous ivy-type plant which is already hanging down to the pavement. How much further can that grow?

A bigger issue to come is the arrival of a lane for cyclists. Some of the white markings have gone down but – as yet – no cycle symbols.

White stripes marking the new cycle lane?

White stripes marking the new cycle lane?

I was amused watching drivers darting up the inside only to be caught by the ‘scoop’ – that little baseball-type ‘glove’ meant to ‘catch’ cyclists and take them back onto the cycle-lane on the newly surfaced pavements.

I drive and cycle and say Bath has to accept the fact that motor traffic does not have the final say any more. Dealing with it – and lessening its central city effect – is a big issue and will take time and determination.

However – in the meantime – let’s open up Bath to people on bicycles and on foot.

Not in an arrogant way – l have seen plenty of cyclists going too fast, shooting through red lights and not even having a bell on their handlebars – but in a genuine and thoughtful determined effort to offer a healthier alternative to getting about in the city.

Maybe its time for some enterprising person to bring back the sedan chair but maybe this time handled by robots?!