Update on speeding traffic concerns

Speeding

In recent weeks both Cllr Ashley Evans and I have received a large increase in complaints about speeding traffic. This isn’t just a case of people driving a few miles of the speed limit, but some seriously dangerous and reckless driving with people racing around Halifax in some very fast cars. It’s clear that a state of lawlessness has existed on our roads with a minimum amount of Police enforcement. We have raised this concerns both with the local Police, and the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson. You can read the letter I sent to Mr Burns-Williamson on the subject here (PCC Letter). Other Councillors have also been raising this issue, and it was raised at our last full Council meeting.

The good news is that Colin Skeath the Halifax Neighbourhood Inspector has emailed Councillors to inform us that the Police have put operation Hawmill in action. I’ve posted up a section of Colin’s email so it can be explained in his own words:

As you know poor driving, speeding and anti-social use of the roads is one of our biggest concerns in the community. I am sure that you, like me, will have many complaints around this issue and recognise the dangers of poor driving and the need for us to act.

In response I have implemented Operation Hawmill which involves the deployment of a dedicated Road Traffic Officer in a high powered car (SRANS) in company with an NPT officer. This deployment is on overtime and is over and above normal policing.

Areas that will be targeted have been selected in relation to the area where we receive most complaints. They include:-Warley, Park, Town Centre / Boothtown, Skircoat

The operation has been running for two days and so far we have issued 16 endorsable fixed penalty tickets and seized two expensive cars.

Normal deployment of the Pro Lazer and Sid will continue along with various partnership road safety activities.

This operation is good news. However we are told the long term funding for such an operation is not in place. Cllr Evans and I will be campaigning for a continuation of a dedicated traffic officer for Calderdale, one that can also then be deployed in other areas across the Borough that have experienced problems. Give then cost to taxpayers when there is a serious accident (let alone the human tragedy involved) we think spending money on policing like this is a wise use of public funds.

Keeping up the pressure on rail improvements

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are calling on Calderdale Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to increase the pressure on the government to press ahead with the electrification of the rail line from Manchester to Leeds. The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, recently announced that a number of electrification schemes, including the Manchester-Huddersfield-Leeds line, would be ‘paused’.

Cllr Battye Liberal Democrat group leader said: “We are deeply concerned about this decision, and the knock-on effects it is likely to have on the electrification of the Calder Valley line. These schemes form part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ plan that was promised by the Conservatives during the election campaign. This plan now seems to be in serious trouble only a matter of weeks later. If the Conservatives’ ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is to mean anything, this work has to be done and it’s simply not good enough for them to blame Network Rail for any problems.”

“Electrification of the rail routes is an important next step in the improvement of public transport in the North as the lines are heavily used by an increasing number of people to get to work, as well as for pleasure.”

“It is important that Calderdale Council and the Combined Authority speak out clearly in support of rail electrification and that we all continue to make the case for it as strongly as possible. I have tabled a motion to next week’s Council meeting to allow the Council to publicly and forcefully make the point that this work needs to be carried out as soon as possible”.

Conservatives break promises on rail electrification

It’s less than two months since the general election, and already we have witness the Conservatives breaking their promises over the delivery of rail electrification and the creation of a’Northern Powerhouse’. George Osbourne’s promises of a Northern Powerhouse were a centrepiece of the Conservative’s election campaign in the North of England. Here in Halifax we had a visit from the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. During this meeting he met with the Conservative candidate Philip Allot and promised us 800 miles of electrification, including the Calder Valley line.

We are planning to do over 800 miles of electrification

Now the complete project is in disarray, with the Great Western route being prioritised and electrification of our line being ‘paused’. I think it’s right that we ask ourselves whether the Conservatives knew this project was in trouble when they made their pre-election promises. This is a massive set back for everyone who uses the trains here in Calderdale. It means we will be stuck with the outdated Pacer trains, slower journey times and fewer services for years to come.

Winter Gritting

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Some of the cold and icy weather we have had over the past week or so has raised the issue of gritting within the ward. Calderdale Council does comparatively more gritting than some of its neighbors such as Kirklees and Bradford Council. However there are still a number of roads across the ward that local residents want putting on the gritting list. Notably these include Westborough Drive and Paddock Lane. I think we need more gritting, but the Council needs to makes savings and one of those might be to reduce the gritting further. If the Council were to increase parking charges in a year or two’s time some of those savings requirements might be mitigated.

I’d be interested in hearing from you as to whether you agree, would you rather pay a bit more where you already have to pay to park, or have a reduced gritting service? If you have other ideas about how the Council could save money please do let me know. The cabinet announces its own budget proposals in a couple of week’s time and there will be opportunities for the Liberal Democrats group to try and make amendments and changes.

553 to Fountainhead – Problem on Bus Route at Gibbet Street

I’ve had complaints that the 553 is not currently going along Gibbet Street due to road works. This has resulted in several elderly residents who live in or around the nursing home there becoming effectively stranded in their homes. We understand that road works have to happen, but there should be something to help make sure folk don’t get stranded when routes change with little notice. I’ve contacted the relevant Council officer who is liaising now with Metro as this route is operated under contract.

More 20mph zones for Warley Ward

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Much of Warley ward is now covered by a large 20mph zone. Speaking to residents the 20mph zone gets a mixed response. Some people think it has reduced average speeds, and others think 20mph is too slow over such a large area.  Personally as a father of a young boy I think the increased safety slower traffic creates is worth going a bit more slowly for.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the Police are not enforcing the speed limit. This is despite assurance given by Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson giving assurances they would be. I do wonder if perhaps he had chosen to employ an extra traffic copy rather than appointing a Labour party colleague as his deputy on £53,000 a year then speeds might be better enforced. Anyway we are where we are with these 20mph zones now.
The Council has plans to roll-out further 20mph zones across the Borough. These plans include bringing in a 20mph zone for Warley Town with an estimated implementation date of November – December 2015 and for Fountainhead village in 2016.  There is a link to the time table of 20mph zone introductions below. In an email to Councillors the Council’s director for Public Health said:
The areas of Calderdale were prioritised using a combination of:
–          Road safety benefits (targeting areas with highest numbers of Killed and Seriously Injured)
–          Geography/Population (targeting areas which would enable existing/planned 20mph speed limits to be linked to each other at an early stage and will have an impact on larger numbers of Calderdale residents)
The default position will be that all 30mph residential roads will be expected to be 20mph.  Main ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads will be excluded but each area will be looked at individually and assessed.The roll out of 20mph will be phased over three years with the first phase (Siddal, Southowram, Manor Heath, Saville Park and extended Town Centre) planned for installation the middle of next year.  Each phase will take approximately 9 months to develop, consult upon and implement.

All stakeholders and service providers will be consulted at the start of each phase.  Area plans and legal speed limit orders will be published on the website and advertised in the local press.

phasing document

I did ask whether Mount Tabor would also be included in the 20mph zones, and also the scope of the 20mph zones in Warley Town and Fountainhead village, and got the following reply:

Warley and Fountainhead are included and need to be assessed. Warley is thevillage centre not the wider area, Fountainhead we need to review entry points. Mount Tabor not included as the route through is a major road and would therefore not be 20mph and the streets/roads off this are small and therefore inappropriate for signing up as 20mph.

HS3 will help unlock Economic Growth in the North

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There is some welcome good news today as a High Speed rail project to link Manchester and Leeds takes a step closer to becoming a reality. Improving Trans Pennine transport links will make it easier for freight and passengers to travel between the great Northern cities, unlocking economic growth that will bring benefits to Calderdale too. It will also help to reduce overcrowding on the Calder Valley line as more passengers from Leeds or Manchester will be able to choose to travel on this new faster line.

Electrification and improvements to the Calder Valley line are also a necessity too. Baroness Kramer the Liberal Democrat transport minister has confirmed that Calder Valley is being considered for electrification. There has been a massive electrification programme established by the Coalition Government with hundreds of miles of track being upgraded. Under the last Labour government from 1997-2010 just nine miles of track were electrified! 

There is some further good news as a  £1bn regional growth fund for transport infrastructure has been agreed thanks  to the Liberal Democrats in Government. It is from this fund that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority will upgrade Halifax Railway station. The third platform, and upgrading of the signalling system will enable more trains to run along the line. We also need to improve the car park there and get new rolling stock. It’s not fair we get the old trains from elsewhere in the country!

Key Points

  • £1bn of regional growth money for transport.
  • Improvements in Calder Valley line with signalling and station upgrade at Halifax.
  • A new hi-speed trans-Pennine trail connection boosting growth.

At last, a new sign up on Edge Holme Lane

I’ve been working for about a year to get the Highways Department to replace the ‘not suitable for HGVs’ sign on Edge Holme lane with a ‘not suitable for motor vehicles sign’.  I got told first off the sign had been replaced when it hadn’t, and then the department put up the wrong sign. Finally now the right sign has been put up!

These signs are advisory rather signs so they don’t prohibit a motor vehicle. However the intention is to warn people who don’t know how steep this narrow cobbled lane is not to go down it.There have been several accidents with delivery drivers losing control on the steep cobbled corner of this road. So hopefully the sign will deter motorists who don’t know the hazard to avoid the route.

Now all Warley Town needs is a 20mph zone, its roads and dry stone walls to be repaired and we will be on our way!

Update on Brow Foot Gate / Trimmingham traffic problems

Dangerous traffic down Churn Lane and around Brow Foot Gate Lane has been a real problem for local residents who live in the area. This area around Trimmingham contains a number of steep and narrow roads without pavements for pedestrians. Traffic rushes down these roads using them as a rat run to get onto the main road. I’ve nearly been run over there a couple of times myself delivering Focus leaflets!

Since getting elected in 2012 I have been campaigning for the Council to take action on this. Other ward Councillors have also been campaigning on this issue. Recently I’ve asked a question at cabinet about this issue and acted on behalf of residents to hand in a petition at full Council.

Asked a question at cabinet

I asked a question to the cabinet on Calderdale on 14th July 2014. You can read the text and reply I got to that question here – Cllr James Baker – Browfoot Gate Lane

Petition submitted to Council

On the Council meeting of 30th July I acted on behalf of local residents and submitted a petition to the Council calling for action to be taken on the road.  On the 18th August I received a reply from the Highways Department, that reply confirms receipt of the petition

 “In line with the Councils Minor Traffic and Parking Improvement Policy, details of which can be found here http://www.calderdale.gov.uk/transport/transport-improvements/improvements/index.html Brow Foot Gate Lane has been entered into the list of outstanding requests and is identified in the next batch of 10 to be investigated and scored against the prioritisation matrix. Once this procedure has been completed you will be advised accordingly.”

Awaiting news from Highways Department

I still haven’t had confirmation that the procedure to score the road against the prioritisation matrix has been completed. I will be contacting the department again today to check again whether this has now been done. My hope is that the road will be scored sufficiently highly that action will be taken. I also think there is a real issue about the departments capacity to work its way through those schemes that it then prioritizes.

Safety Improvements to Warley ward roads

I just wanted to let people know of three changes that look set to be happening in Warley ward.

Roils Head Road

The first changes relates to part of Roils Head Road, up from the Workhouse Lane junction into Norton Tower. Currently this stretch of road is national speed limit. However as Norton Tower will be part of the new 20 mph zone, there is a proposal to reduce the speed limit to 30 mph. National guidelines do not recommend that you go from a 60 mph limit down to a 20 mph limit, so reducing the speed of traffic coming into the new 20 mph should make it more effective. – Roils Head Road

Queensway 

There have been persistent problems with parking just outside of Mount Pellon Junior and Infants School. The proposals seek to restrict parking at times when children are entering and leaving the school. Along with zig-zag safety markings, this will help ensure that children are safer when walking to or leaving school.  – QueensWay

Doctors Hill

There is a blind corner at the bottom of Sandbeds Rd, which is inside the proposed Pellon 20 mph zone. In order to slow down traffic towards this junction it is proposed to extend the 20 mph zone along Doctors Hill. I know residents are concerned with HGV’s attending the building site at Fountain Head speeding along this piece of road so this in my view a welcome improvement.  – Doctor Hill