Many thanks to Professor Les Lumsdon and Councillor John Harrington for their very interesting and useful discussion at the recent online HGN Transport Gathering. We were delighted that over 40 people attended and are working on a recording for those who wanted to attend but couldn’t be there.

HGN Steering Group member, Toni Fagan, has written this great report of the discussion:

Hereford is a city ideal for modal shift in transport  according to Herefordshire Council’s transport chief, Councillor John Harrington.

Speaking at an online meeting hosted by Herefordshire Green Network in August Cllr Harrington agreed with transport forecaster and tourism expert Dr Les Lumsden that if we want to reduce carbon emissions we need to embrace electrification of vehicles and that it was also essential to reduce vehicle trips and mileage by improving cycling and walking infrastructure.  

Cllr Harrington, who ordered a transport strategy review when a new administration took control of Herefordshire Council last year, said that the time was right to look at the issues of congestion and carbon reduction and “to do the thing we were voted in to do.”

“We are a city where over fifty percent of people travel less than two miles daily. Hereford is a compact city… an ideal city for modal shift to take place,” the audience of 40 heard. Cllr Harrington added that the bypass question was Hereford’s equivalent of Brexit, and whilst many believe there should be another river crossing not everyone agrees that should be a bypass, saying:  “that is the point of the review”.

Dr Lumsden told the meeting that having spent years trying unsuccessfully to communicate with Herefordshire councillors he was grateful for the change in direction and excited about proposals by the new administration to allocate £39 million towards an electric bus fleet, saying in his extensive experience of cities across Europe with populations of less than 100,000 this had been a “game changer”. In cities where transport had been made free the benefits of the change in behaviour had been substantial.

In the 1980’s Hereford had a successful hopper bus system but Cllr Harrington said deregulation had driven down efficiencies and the hoppers had left the town, creating a situation where people could stand out in the rain waiting for a bus that might not arrive and was likely to cost more. Admitting that the funding for a new bus service in Hereford was yet to be secured, Cllr Harrington said: “We are looking at ways of making this work, including being quite radical.”

Referring to walking and cycling as hidden giants” Dr Lumsden said very basic changes to infrastructure could make a significant difference to people in Hereford city and the market towns. Cllr Harrington told listeners cycling infrastructure has always been an “add on to road projects,” and Department of Transport documents, whilst weighty on sustainable transport options, allocated most funding to roads. “You could spend significantly less than you would on roads providing really good cycling infrastructure and achieve the same outcome,” he said.

Addressing to the public and media backlash to Covid related town and city road closures Cllr Harrington said bad communication was being addressed but it was important to listen to businesses and that “being brave, but also being sensitive and reactive” was important.

“People don’t like change,” he said. “Covid is a classic example of us saying we can’t do things without being in a car and suddenly we are doing things differently. There is always a different way of doing things differently if we give people the option.”

Please email admin@hgnetwork.org.uk if you would like to be sent a link to the recording when it is published.