Everyone agrees that Canterbury is a highly congested city, with all the concomitant issues that result: poor air quality, health problems for its citizens, delays and a host of other related challenges. Various transport plans and strategies exist to offer solutions, but they are contested and often a future nirvana when the difficulties are absolutely in the here and now. The only recent attempt to ameliorate traffic conditions in the city was the Westgate Towers experiment which was resisted by a vocal anti lobby and seemed temporarily to increase congestion. Overlapping responsibilities between Canterbury City Council and Kent County Council add to the difficulties.
Recent proposals to ease congestion involve a new slipway off the A2 into the city at Wincheap, and a relief road at Sturry. It’s not clear how these changes will improve matters. There’s a danger that new roads and alterations simply increase traffic and worsen congestion, removing pinch points from some areas and recreating them in others.
We need a radical new approach to transport and traffic in Canterbury. It’s not so much a matter of punishing car and vehicle drivers for wanting to visit and work in the city, but encouraging and rewarding them with alternatives, especially those who merely travel in the rush hour at both ends of the day and don’t use their vehicles at any other time.
There are any number of possibilities, implementable in a coherent, joined-up strategy, including: –
- A congestion charge, with exemptions for residents and other key groups
- More effective car-share arrangements
- Liaison with employers to institute parking charges and maximise income from them in order to improve alternative travel arrangements (buses, trains, cycle routes, safe walking)
- Incentives, financial and otherwise, for drivers to use alternative travel modes
- Liaison with bus and rail companies for coherent timetable planning
- Rewards for the use of e-cycles (which have huge potential) and cycles
A radical, alternative, community-oriented approach can make Canterbury a beacon for other cities in the UK and beyond. Infrastructure and environmental improvements, initiatives to change travel modes, and organisational development in relation to transport can create new attitudes to work, personal fitness and road safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. It will acknowledge that climate change is real and now, and that Canterbury can make a contribution to mitigating its dangers.
Canterbury is a transport hub, with two railway stations and a bus station. It is perfectly placed for a transport revolution. The biggest irony of all is that the Sloman report, commissioned by the Canterbury Society in 2013, advocated all this and more. It’s time its research and recommendations are revisited.