When it comes to transport, the city struggles to get it right

The city council wants to build a bus lane the length of Sturry Road. The county council says that might not be possible.

The revelation that the planned additional bus lane for Canterbury’s Sturry Road has been postponed is little surprise for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it once again exposes the entrenched difficulty of a two-tier local government system. This is a city council idea which it is the job of Kent County Council, as the highways authority, to implement.

The idea of extending the Sturry Road bus lane was first mooted by Canterbury City Council in 2013 as part of a district-wide transport strategy.

Richard Moore was, as he is now, the council’s transportation manager and spoke of buses “zipping along” into the city centre while drivers in cars sat fuming in the constipated lane next to them.

We’ll leave aside for a second the fact that others sitting around the briefing table that day – including former leader John Gilbey and chief executive Colin Carmichael – had bulky car fobs on key chains splayed in front of them.

Chief executive Colin Carmichael

The aim of extending the bus lane and of other schemes such as the Westgate Towers traffic trial is twofold: to improve air quality and reduce congestion by getting people out of cars.

But Westgate showed us, as Sturry Road does now, a paucity of co-ordinated thinking. A city council idea ultimately undone by the county council.

The Sturry Road bus lane extension scheme highlights another uniquely Canterbury complication: namely, that any proposal to make a significant alteration to the city’s road system will always be met with a barrage of criticism.

We saw it with Westgate when attacks before its implementation in 2012 intensified after the launch, despite the efforts of council leaders to persuade people to calm down and wait for the scheme to “bed in”.

So here, too, we saw instant opposition to the idea on the basis that much of the city would be paralysed by 20 weeks of disruption due to road works needed to create the additional bus lane.

Now, Kent County Council has raised the issue of the underground infrastructure – pipes, cable, ducts – as complicating the proposed work still further.

The work, planned to start on April 9, has now been postponed. It is not clear in what form it will, if it does, go ahead.

So Canterbury has to ask itself a question: what price is it really willing to pay for cleaner, greener city?


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