County's transport plans criticised
A TRANSPORT authority is failing in its bid to stop people using their cars in favour of cycling or using public transport, a new report reveals.An inspection, carried out by the Audit Commission, strongly criticised Suffolk County Council's Local Transport Plan, saying there had been no significant shift in travel patterns across the county.
By Danielle Nuttall
A TRANSPORT authority is failing in its bid to stop people using their cars in favour of cycling or using public transport, a new report reveals.
An inspection, carried out by the Audit Commission, strongly criticised Suffolk County Council's Local Transport Plan, saying there had been no significant shift in travel patterns across the county.
It also said it was uncertain whether the authority would meet Government road safety targets and offered a series of recommendations that would help it improve.
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Overall, the council's transport services received a one star rating out of a possible three, and were described as "fair" with "promising" prospects for improvement.
Inspectors said road safety had improved, public transport and community transport were well supported, and described performance in street lighting, winter gritting and highways as good.
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But the report indicated that transport planning was not strong, customer service and comparative performance was variable in quality and said key targets for halting road deterioration and road safety were not on track to be achieved.
Edwina Child, senior manager with the Audit Commission, said: "The council's transport services show a mixture of strong and weak aspects. Public satisfaction with the services is variable as a result.
"However, the council has worked hard to improve and we anticipate further improvement in the future."
The inspectors found the council had made significant reductions in the number of road casualties that resulted in people killed or seriously injured.
It said performance for maintaining roads and footways was generally good. But it added that although deterioration in road conditions had been halted for classified roads, it said it was still deteriorating for unclassified roads, which made up half of the network.
Julian Swainson, executive member responsible for environment, planning and transport for the council, said: "This is a very rigorous audit, which looks at all aspects of the county's transport services.
"The audit identified many strengths but there are areas that we accept need to be improved and we are already taking action. The Audit Commission rightly pointed out that there are promising prospects for improvement and I have asked Lucy Robinson, director of environment and transport, to ensure that such progress is made and maintained."
Peter Monk, executive member responsible for Public Protection, added: "Reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads is a major priority for us. We have promoted many accident reduction campaigns and introduced various safety engineering works to improve road safety in Suffolk."
The report found the number of bus passengers has increased, and targets agreed with the government are on track to be achieved, or have been achieved already.
It said that, compared to other councils, performance was mixed.
It also found public satisfaction appeared to have dropped for bus information and service quality and despite network improvements, cyclists' needs were not yet sufficiently well planned for.
Included in the recommendations made by the inspectors was that planned major schemes were completed, particularly those that have suffered past delays, ensuring they are in line with government policy on environmental impact.
They also urged the council to set realistic but challenging targets to increase performance in key areas of service.