The initial consultation details for the Melksham Bypass can be found in the following link https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/highways-a350-melksham-bypass There is a lot of information provided in the pack that will take some time to digest however an initial read reveals where the issues with this proposal are.
1, The provided documentation does not look at why there is significant car dependency in North Wiltshire and hence why a bypass is needed around Melksham. All the housing developments around here have car dependency ‘baked’ into the design giving people no choice other than to use their cars even when destinations are less than 1 mile.
2, Following from (1) the documentation describes options 1 to 3 as ‘Demand Management’ and 4 to 6 as ‘Public Transport’ that includes active travel. These options described are grossly underdeveloped with little or no imagination or ambition giving the impression that these are the ‘will never happen/cannot be bothered’ options which are there to make up the numbers before the serious business of designing a bypass option is undertaken. This just says that Wiltshire Council are great at designing bypasses but rubbish at understanding alternative transport options.
3, The modelling detail presented does not account for a potential modal shift to either public transport or active travel. I understand that the Saturn modelling system is poor at modelling active travel however there are options for this out there that could be accessed. There is no mention of the impact of a targeted modal shift from cars to active travel and the impact that would have on the modelling outcomes. There is mention of a cycle link between the town centre and the railway station but little else. I would like to see how the Saturn model changes if a modal shift to cycling of 27% was achieved in 7 years, (half a typical Dutch town e.g. Houten
at 55%) by the implementation of comprehensive active travel infrastructure. Also other authorities (particularly in continental Europe) consider that having continuous traffic survey data is essential in understanding traffic trends and ‘snapshots’ used by Wiltshire council are deemed grossly insufficient.
4, How has the impact of COVID changed the Saturn modelling? Its quite clear that the shift to working from home experienced during COVID will persist. How does the modelling change if 10% of commuters work from home or 40% of commuters work from home?
5, There is a significant rise in the take-up of ebikes, escooters and Electric cargo bikes which are increasingly used for utility, commuting etc. This trend will accelerate as ICE vehicles are phased out by 2030 and the second car option becomes a cargo bike especially if this is supported by the implementation of an active travel network. How does this affect the Saturn model? There will also be a shift to last mile delivery using cargo bikes.
6, There is no option for creating a localised economy where work, school, shops, cafes, restaurants etc are within a 15 minute walk or cycle. Note that Corsham to Melksham is a 20 minute ride on an ebike however this is only undertaken by the resilient. If a dedicated active travel network existed that linked adjacent towns and villages then these options would be more viable. The documentation only references an enhanced town centre to railway station link but what about implementing a cycle path link to Lacock and Whitehall garden centre, to Atworth, to Shaw and Corsham and upgrading the link to Devizes?
7, Building extra road capacity in the form of a bypass will induce extra road traffic unforeseen by the modelling. There has been little research done in the UK on induced demand allowing UK gov to claim that there is a lack of evidence however, the UK gov did undertake a survey of existing studies which showed it existed where congestion was already significant and where there was a lack of public transport etc see.
8, Building extra road capacity in the form of a bypass will impact Chippenham and M4 junction going north and Westbury going south. The north and south carriageways of the A350 will still be single. A cyclist travelling North from Melksham to Chippenham on the A350 would bring the north bound carriageway to a 10mph crawl given the proposed Highway Code minimum passing distance of 2m. The A350 would therefore still be vulnerable to delays unless it was continuously duelled to the M4.
9, The bypass would only encourage more car journeys and car dependency with impacts on health: cancer, heart disease, tyre 2 diabetes etc, social isolation, community breakdown etc. How much would that cost? What is the total cost of ownership? The affects of physical inactivity that would be promoted by the proposed bypass on health and well being can be found in the following link
10, This proposed bypass options do nothing to address climate change and reduce traffic which are stated UK government goals.
In summary, building a £140m bypass adds to car dependency, does nothing for health and well being and just adds to the grimness of high traffic volumes. The proposal should be abandoned in favour of a more healthy imaginative vision for how Melksham should develop.