A NEW taskforce designed to monitor how Chester's controversial new bus and cycle lanes are operating is to be launched early next month.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has announced the first meeting of the new taskforce, which will include resident groups, representatives from motorist organisations, the business community, haulage companies, cycle groups and parish councils, will take place in early November.

It comes as part of the council's consultation into Active Travel lanes in the borough, and follows the activation of bus and cycle lanes on October 5 on the A51 Boughton and A5116 Liverpool Road.

Residents and motorists have reported numerous instances of traffic jams in Boughton, between The Bars Roundabout and the junction with the A41, next to the Boughton Heath Park and Ride.

A Facebook group launched in protest against the travel lanes has amassed more than 2,000 members.

The role of the new taskforce is to listen to any concerns and issues from residents, road users and businesses to inform decision-making about active travel across the borough.

The taskforce will meet regularly and analyse the latest highways road use data and ongoing feedback from the consultation to see how the experimental roads are operating.

The message from residents during the summer in the Council’s Stronger Futures consultation and the Walk, Ride Thrive consultation was for more active travel opportunities, reductions in speeding and to tackle the climate emergency for a greener and sustainable future.

CWaC says it consulted with residents on plans for active travel initiatives, including trial active travel lanes across the borough.

The A51 and A5116 were both identified as immediate suitable corridors for this purpose and the council received funding of £161,000 from the Department of Transport for these and other active travel schemes.

As part of the initiative, Chester’s Park and Ride Service returned last month from Chester Zoo to Chester Bus Interchange, with the council making the decision to offer half price fares and free travel for NHS employees travelling to the Countess of Chester Hospital in support of NHS staff in the face of rising COVID infection rates.

The council also announced the Boughton Heath Park and Ride will be upgraded this winter.

The Park and Ride buses have strict COVID-secure measures in place to protect both customers and staff, including perspex screens to separate passengers from the drivers, compulsory wearing of a face covering and contactless payments.

The experimental active travel lanes came into operation on October 5. The six-month trial is being monitored on a daily basis and will have a review after the first two months of operation.  

Over the past few months journeys into Chester by Park and Ride have been increasing from 3,806 passengers in July to 15,926 passengers in September.

The 2019 Department for Transport figures recorded an average daily flow of buses and coaches on the A5116 Liverpool Road of 189 buses/coaches and on the A51 Boughton an average daily flow of 433 buses/coaches.

CWaC's highways and transport initiatives aim to improve health, tackle the climate emergency and the dependency on private car travel.

Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport said: “We are listening to residents and businesses and are mindful of the difficult circumstances that Covid is posing for everyone.

"The measures we have in place are aimed at making the journey into Chester as easy, quick and environmentally friendly as possible. If more people cycle and travel by bus, we will all benefit from better health, less pollution and protect our environment.

“At the same time, to encourage visits into the city centre and support our business sector, we have introduced measures to make it quicker and cheaper to travel into Chester.

"Our Park and Ride service costs only £1 per person for all-day parking, and the experimental active travel bus lanes are in place for buses, cyclists and ‘blue light’ vehicles such as ambulances. We are also keen to balance this with the needs of people travelling in cars.”

Concerns have been raised by some residents and to help the council in its consultation, the council says it is keen to hear feedback throughout the consultation period to balance the needs of all interested parties.

  • To have your say on the new routes, email  transportstrategy@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk