A Virtual Stroll Along the Old Mickle Trafford-Deeside Railway- now The Millennium Greenway

What the People Really Think (for the last time) part 19: Letters to these pages and the Chester press in opposition to the CDTS Guided Busway

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At long last, here's a selection of letters that have appeared in the local press since our last, much-delayed update...

27/11/03 Reading last week's Standard I was astonished to see that the city council is still refusing to acknowledge the benefits and popularity of the Millennium Pathway.
So many people give up their free time to keep the pathway clean and litter free and the Council will not even provide a few bins!
I was delighted to read that Sustrans are keen to extend the path to Delamere. This would be a fantastic, environmentally friendly resource that would result in many less car journeys in the region and would further encourage walking, cycling and fitness generally.
Also what a great extra benefit for Chester's tourism industry this could be.
I myself took three young children on the train to Delamere recently where we had a great day cycling through the forest. The journey was perilous however, as taking three young children on bikes over the Hoole bridge is a frightening experience. Also the train tickets were expensive and the train conductor has discretion over how many bikes are allowed on the train.
You can imagine therefore how excited I am by the prospect of a cycle path that could take us direct to Delamere.
Anyone else who is feeling excited by this prospect should realise that it will only happen with some financial support from The city council, and from past behaviour we know that they have a tendency to be short sighted and to follow their own interests and agendas rather than those of ordinary people.
The only way the council will listen is if enough people refuse to give up and continue to hit them with requests of support for The Millennium Pathway.
Please write to your local councillor or the local press on this subject. Remember the council would have changed this tranquil greenway into a concrete busway by now if it wasn't for people power so let's not give up now!
Sue Thompson 29 Shavington Avenue

28/11/03 A feature in the Chester Chronicle (21/11/03) celebrated the 20 year success of Chester's park-and-ride service. The feature concluded with council plans to construct a fifth park-and-ride site at the junction of the M53.
But does Chester really need another park-and-ride site? As the Chronicle made clear, Chester already has four sites (3,170 parking spaces). This is one of the largest schemes in the country. The new site (1,200 spaces) would increase provision by some 37%.
In addition to the 3,170 regular spaces, Chester enjoys the unique advantage of the use of some of the 5,000 parking spaces at Chester Zoo as an overflow for the Upton site during the Christmas and January sales periods.
There is little evidence that the present system is suffering from a lack of capacity. The Upton site has planning permission for a large extension, but this has never been implemented.
Some 300 parking spaces at the Wrexham Road site have been handed over for the private parking of companies on the business park. This does not indicate a system under stress.
The site proposed for the fifth park-and-ride is that chosen for the CDTS Phase 1 (Guided Busway) scheme.
Both the city and county councils dedined to finance the Busway following cautions by their officers that costs could rise alarmingly once construction began and that there were uncertainties about the expected level of patronage.
There are also questions as to how the new service would operate. Presumably buses would access the city via Hoole Road, the most direct route. This would add 90 bus movements each way along Hoole Road, which would not help congestion on this vital approach road.
The Busway scheme proposed to terminate in Frodsham Street.
If the park-and-ride service does the same then 90 additional bus movements will be added to this very busy street. Alternatively, if the service ends at the Bus Exchange (Market Square) then it will occupy one of the 15 bus bays in the replacement Bus Exchange which is part of the Northgate Development. This would displace one of the existing bus services - which bus service would be dropped?
Chester's transport needs are changing. During the next few years 6,000 to 7,000 new residents are expected to come to live in the city centre. For these, as for the present residents in the city and the suburbs, park-andride is largely irrelevant. What they need are cheap, clean and reliable bus services into, out of and across the city.
Park-and-ride services are only relevant to those who have the use of a car, they do not serve the whole community.
At a time when councifiors are expressing anger and concern at the loss of our existing bus services and parents are fighting to retain their school buses, does it make sense to put even more resources into park-and-ride?
Local Government finances are under pressure; Council Tax payers are stretched to the limit. Does it make sense to spend more of our money on yet another park-and-ride service?
Park-and-ride is an important part of Chester's transport network - but only a part. The time has come for a more balanced approach to Chester's transport needs, with more attention and resources given to maintaining and improving our own vital bus services.
W V Jones, Daleside, Upton Heath, Chester

1/1/04 Ticket to ride for city motorists?
Giving free bus travel to carborne visitors using the park and ride service may just encourage further patronage for a day. However, I do hope the figures, if improved dramatically during this period, will not be used as evidence that Chester needs or wants a further park and ride site eating into our Green Belt. This period of the year always is excessively busy anyway.
How about a free local bus ride day? Public transport is the only way forward and should be encouraged where possible. How about discouraging those who park all day and do little or nothing to keep the city vibrant?
Why not free the car parking spaces available in the city centre for those spending in the city? At the moment much of the car park space is what I would term stagnant parking. Let us spend local tax funding in a positive way, helping our environment and really encouraging less car use.
I still do not have much news for users of the Millennium Greenway regarding the much-delayed extension of the greenway eastward toward Guilden Sutton.
The county council would like to design and build this section. Sustrans are happy with this approach as long as they have the chance to comment on draft designs, and Railway Paths (the owner of the land) are kept informed of progress. Peter Lewis, in the Rights of Way section of the county council, has been looking at the status of the Park Farm track, which is good news as horse riders and cyclists would aced to use this to access the railway path.
The Millennium Greenway is a wonderful asset that already reduces congestion and pollution let us hope 2004 will bring further extensions to the route thus encouraging even more of us to take up the healthy options of walking and cycling.
Regarding the Elmwood Avenue access. The county council would like to see it built wider than the 1.8m specified in Sustrans application. Sustrans are resisting as the road embankment is gently slipping there which could undermine the road. A site visit has been arranged between Sustrans and Jeff Hernandez from Cheshire County Council. Hopefully I can give a positive progress report very shortly. I wish our council would keep everyone informed but sadly this does not happen at the moment.
Hopefully 2004 will bring a host of encouraging news for those willing to use their cars less and their legs more. Surely everyone now realises the consequences- global warming is not a figment of the imagination.
Audrey Hodgkinson, Hoole

4/2/04 What's going on over cycle route?
Why is Flintshire Council leaping. ahead with one extension after another to the Sustrans route when the Chester Millennium Greenway has not moved an inch since it was opened in 2000? Why is MickleTrafford left out in the cold?
A route is available which is already used by a great many people on foot, other residents would wish to use this tranquil route to cycle to school/shop/commute/etc. Could those in charge consider a walk/cycleway over the existing railway bridge down and alongside the single track railway linking into station lane Mickle Trafford?
There has been one excuse after another. I find it impossible to believe that funding is an issue, since Flintshire is able to improve and introduce further extensions in its area.
That the city council is now planning tranquil routes since the Chester Millennium Way proved it is possible to encourage less car use if people are given good facilities, should make the County Council get a move on. Walkersand cyclists do not add to congestion or pollution.
What is going on?
Curious Cyclist, Chester

25/3/04 Friends of Chester Millennium Greenway are described by Sustrans management as an informal group of active volunteers and an excellent role model for other projects! Friends are invited to Sustrans Ranger Training Day on Saturday, 27th March at the Quaker Meeting Room, Frodsham Street, Chester at 1pm. There will be a cycle ride earlier from Fairfield Road, Hoole along the Greenway into Flintshire. Let Peter know if you wish to attend (tel 01270 211030).
A big thank you to five-year-old Zoe and Ryan, seven, for considering wildlife and putting the litter picker stick to very good use along Chester Millennium Greenway. No tiny piece of litter, including elastic bands escaped them, said their grandmother, Mary.
The city council Area Committee for Upton, Newton and Hoole organised the new litter-bin at the access by Brook Lane shops. 1 am sure it will help to keep the area cleaner and we look forward to the provision of both types of bin along the route before too long and other improvements are in the pipeline.
We still need more 'Friends' in the Saughall and Blacon area. Do you have a few hours to spare to litter pick, whilst walking your dog perhaps, or work with Mark - Sustrans warden - pruning etc? Look out for our posters along the route giving further details.
Happy walking and cycling.
Audrey Hodgkinson

6/5/04 News about the much-loved (traffic-free) Millennium Greenway. I, along with other volunteers, had a really enjoyable time sowing wild flower Summer Meadow seeds last month. This month (12th and 15th May at about lOam meeting at Newton Lane Bridge exit point) volunteers will tackle the access from Elmwood Avenue, along with Mark (Sustrans warden). Everyone is welcome, staying as long as they wish.
Our litter pickers have been busy and hope the extra bins promised will arrive shortly. As Ralph and I were litter picking one morning an Oriental lady shook her head and said "Lovely walk spoiled by dirty people. Would not happen in my country drop litter - big find" It made me cringe, we do seem to be a very sloppy lot putting up with all the mess around us.
There should be some action preparing the way to construct the extension to Mickle Trafford at the end of the year, fingers crossed!
More good news. The county council has deleted CDTS from the Structure Plan but included improved facIlities for Chester Rail Station (Policy T3) for all users, pedestrians, cyclists and buses and taxis too. Hopefully, once there are improvements many will use their car less. The planned multistorey car park will help those needing to use a car. There is still time to support both of these policies your library should have the forms and further information, but if you have difficulty telephone 01244 343055 (office hours). I am sure many approve of both these plans and wish to support the county council as there are some still pushing hard for CDTS.
Audrey Hodgkinson, Secretary, Anti-CDTS Campaign Groups

3/6/04 The city council administration appears once agaii willing to shun public opinion, many of their own councillors, and county council administration by wishing to protect, not delete the CDTS busway scheme.
Will the city council heed warnings from experts that governments and councils have, over many years, concentrated on providing for the car at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists? Perhaps the council will actually listen to the combined views of health, environment and transport experts if not to local citizens? The need is to protect present tranquil greenways and provide more of the same. The last thing anyone should be contemplating is the destruction of a very popular greenway for two lanes of concrete to provide yet again for more car use.
Just how many times do these destroyers of green tranquil space need to be reminded - nobody wants more concrete? The need to encourage walking and cycling has never been so great. The city council should start to think about the environment, think child and adult obesity, think of the list of réasons to keep tranquil greenways that encourage healthy exercise. Time to consider countries suffering floods and other major disasters caused by global warming.
The last thing Chester needs is innovative busways or greenhouses. The word 'innovative seems to veave a spell on some, another word that fascinates them is twin. Just how many 'twin' cities is Chester to end up with and who pays?
Audrey Hodgkinson

2/7/04 Wildlife habitat is important to humans and not in a minority either.
Evidence the population considers environment and green space of value to quality of life has been made abundantly clear by the massive response to the BBC series Britain Goes Wild.
I do hope all councillors saw at least one of these programmes or have seen details ofthe. record number of people still contacting the BBC on this subject?
The programme pointed out the importance of wildlife corridors railway cuttings etc that may look like "unmanaged" scrub to some but are havens for so many creatures. A typical example of this in Chester and District is the old Mickle Trafford railway now a huge success as the traffic free Greenway (Sustrans Chester Connah's Quay Greenway).
It is a commuter route, cycle training area, family recreation walk/cycleway, safe way to shops, school and wildlife observation route as well as a lung for Chester and district.
To the large majority of residents and visitors it is a much loved nature route. Wildlife and open green space are of value to at least 70 per cent of the population, Chester Local Planners should note.
Brown field sites ought to be used with more care too, allocating areas for nature, if planners are seen to respect and use land carefully, it would teach the minority not to trash it.
Absenteeism through illness is uneconomical. Authorities and employers need to consider environment, health and quality of life by using less concrete and more of their own grey stuff!
A. Hodgkinson

2/9/04 There is great delight that Flintshire County Council is further extending its walk/cycle paths at a cost of millions. Flintshire certainly values those willing to use cars less.
However, the Chester - Connahs Quay Greenway (Millennium Greenway) is still awaiting the original route up to the by-pass plus a mile or so to connect Mickle Trafford. The cost would be in the hundreds. It appears the North West Development Agency is now overspent, so Anna Geroni and her colleagues are applying for a grant under the Revive scheme. This small extension would give those marooned by the mot9rway and by-pass a safe way to school and the city. It would give access to a wonderful traffic free country-walk/cycleway for those unable to trav-el too far under their own steam. Why are we still waiting, surely it is more important than ever that we are all encouraged to use our cars less?
Can anyone doubt the damage caused by ignoring global warming? Are authorities still not aware covering even more areas with concrete and other such materials, to accommodate cars, add to these problems?
The recent downpours in Hoole, for instance, saw drains filled to overflowing and sewers dangerously high. Fairfield Road pillar-box was completely isolated the kerbs not visible at all. With yet more unnecessary covering of grassland breaching the Green Belt for a further park and ride what will happen? Yes, there are still those aiming to push back the Green Belt at any cost to local people.
There seems no problem obtaining money for car accommodation or road transport but ask for longawaited improvements for the railway station and what happens? It seems city authorities are still blind to the fact encouragement of rail, bus and own steam has to be the answer not only to our local problems.
Audrey Hodgkinson Secretary, Anti-CDTS Campaign Group

21/10/04 Silent members?
As a seasoned campaigner I am sometimes asked why I use my valuable time in this way.
The answer is simple. Wildlife and our environment have no voice - they can only react to the deeds of mankind. Some of us have luckily been taught from an early age to observe nature, as a consequence we detect the results of human behaviour upon our fellow creatures, wildlife habitat and our environment. Sadly, it is nearly always detrimental these days. We have learned it is more productive to write to the local and national Press than a letter to the council. Councillors are silenced. There are confidential meetings to which colleagues, the public and Press are barred. Thank heavens we have the local Press.
Many individuals are not prepared to sit back and let green areas of Chester sink under concrete and luxury houses, etc, while the local rail network and bus transport are relegated to the backwaters time and time again. More trains to London there may be, but what about action? Opening existing small stations locally? Ignoring local demands for this while moaning about road congestion does not make sense. Constructive local action is needed to guide most people to travel on public transport or use their own steam.
Another nonsense is the hold-up to the extension for the Chester-Connah's Quay (Millennium) greenway. This traffic-free route is maintained and kept litter free by Mark (Sustrans warden) helped by a wonderful group of volunteers. We have also taken action - by leaving our cars at home too. Authorities should take action and extend the route since the need is even greater now a large housing development is taking place in Mickle Trafford. Autumn is upon us, preparatory work should have begun by now, as later the ground is likely to be frozen for some months. Then it is nesting time, and, hey presto, another year of frustration and dismay. What a way to treat those eager to leave cars at home.
Open government is a joke. Even at local level the public is kept in the dark until there is little time to challenge unpopular decisions. Those councillors unhappy about the state of affairs in Chester city can only, drop hints, confidentiality restraining them fiom openly informing the public about the concerns. The right to challenge, even at public Inquiry level, is being whittled away.
Audrey Hodgkinson

23/11/04 It was lovely to hear that the £3m promenade plan is likely to go ahead. I do hope it is not subjected to the years of delays we have experienced regarding the very small extension to Mickle Trafford? This being the only traffic-free pedestrian/cycleway we have this side of town it is much sought after by many not only the HoolefMickle Trafford area.
Opened in celebration of the Millennium (Chester - Connah's Quay Greenway) has proved very successful in reducing car travel considerably. However, it is still a sad fact that many are forced to take car journeys until this extension is constructed. Once again, those willing to use their own steam to access a safe (traffic-free) way to school, work or the city are left frustrated. It seems politicians are in a spin or spinning, words, words, words... global warming and the consequences. Again little is actually done to encourage us to leave our cars at home. Little or no improvement to rail travel including our own very sad station. Residents in Chester districts are still lacking sufficient bus services. Though it appears no shortage of money for encouraging car use - park-and-rides and road building. Hardly a way to cut down on pollution and certainly not a way to tackle obesity which costs the NHS £5 billion a year. We in Hoole are awaiting information regarding the 'secret plans' councillors have been discussing over the last few months regarding the Hoole Road area. Maybe they are part of the 'complementary measures', to force people to use a park-and-ride? Once again, residents are to suffer in order that carborne visitors may come to the doorstep of our city! Most could have been persuaded to come by rail or bus given encouragement, thus saving the Green Belt/wildlife habitat and funds. I don't see many signs, apart from words, vords, words - that )oliticians are considerng global warming noving long distance oods onto railways vould be terrific start!
Audrey Hodgkinson Secrerary Anti-CDTS Campaign Groups

26/11/04 Councillor David Robinson, during the Course of the Chronicle's interesting front-page article about the future of Gorse Stacks, bemoans the current state of planning in Chester, saying 'we are in a complete mess'.
Not, of course, that this was ever anything to do with planners obsessed with filling every spare corner with 'luxury' apartments, hotels and conference centres while working people are priced out of their own city, or an ever-compliant gang of councillors happy to sit in secret meetings and cow-tow to the demands of every rapacious developer that happens to come along. Oh no. According to councillor Robinson, Chester's problems are all down to one thing - the cancellation of the CDTS Busway. It would be laughable if it wasn't so sad.
Steve Howe, Lime Grove, Hoole, Chester

Hypocrisy corner? In May 2004, cycling enthusiast David Robinson, after over 21 years as a serving councillor and two failed attempts to become Chester's MP, was finally shown the door by the electorate. As part of an interview that appeared soon after in the Chester Chronicle (20/5/05) entitled, 'I hate losing' it was stated that "if he had remained in office he had wanted to promote Chester as a cycling city for tourists because of the network of cycleways it now enjoys.."
And this from one of the leading proponents of concreting over our local section of the National Cycle Network for the construction of CDTS! Good grief. Still, now that he's got time on his hands, we're sure that the good Mr Robinson will continue to promote our still-threatened section of the route, possibly by donning a pair of stout gloves and joining the dedicated community of volunteers, the Friends of the Millennium Greenway, in litter picking, fence maintainance and all the other tasks that do so much to make the place so very attractive for residents and tourists alike.

2/12/04 With the development of the so-called "slug' on Gorse Stacks car park, and the relocation of West Cheshire College to the car park behind Northgate Arena, am I a cynic to feel that this may be pure manoeuvring by the city council in order to resurrect plans for CDTS?
There will be a huge reduction in car-parking capacity, yet large numbers of students/workers will need access to these buildings. Is the council hoping that this will make a compelling argument for the concept of a dedicated busway running past the doors of both these buildings, and so validate their plans?
I believe that the route of the proposed busway is to be safeguarded in these developments, despite outward assurances that the scheme is no longer on the agenda. We should not be complacent about the future of the cycle/walkway that we now enjoy.
Cynic, Hoole

2/12/04 I am most concerned about the lack of car-parking space if the West Cheshire College and the 'slug' are built. The college principal has said that students want to use public transport and if the students are only 14-16 years old that's all they can use. They will be able to use the CDTS!
No one in your letters page has mentioned the academic or support staff of the college not being allowed to park there. Where will they be able to park? Some live miles away, some work across sites, some work in outreach centres - how can they carry 14 laptops on a public bus?
The city council is allowing anyone to build all around that area - there are apartments being built anywhere there is a scrap of land. I am sure at the end of the day the council will say it is going to bring back the CDTS.
Heather, Chester

2/12/04 Time to finally bury CDTS
Councillor David Robinson has be assured that the road access for the CDTS buses is still protected. The buses planned to enter city centre roads after travelling down the greenway and the Northgate Village Nature Park. The Chester-Connah's Quay Greenway a most popular walk/cycleway to be slotted alongside the two-lane concrete busway where there was sufficient space. This in itself is a retrogressive step, most other countries are providing more traffic free space, not less, for the greenest of transport - walking and cycling. The Greenway would be closed completely while construction work took place. Reverling the progress to healthiest of activities, a relaxing way to commute/shop for hundreds of people.
What a nonsense the whole CDTS scheme was/is? Most of us thought it had fizzled out once the logical decision by the present county administration, not to fund it was made. The many warnings about escalating costs given by the county's own treasurer and the record amount of objections received were sensibly heeded. Though obviously some including Cllr David Robinson still think costs are unimportant and this objectionable busway would be a "miracle cure" for Chester traffic problems. This is nonsense of course as the bypass and so many other "miracle cures" have failed. There is only one lasting solution to congestion, pollution and global warming - persuade people out of their cars.
Is it any wonder we all took to cars in the first place though? Whilst our public transport plummeted wiser countries improved theirs with much cheaper fares too. They provided excellent traffic free routes for walker/cyclists. Sadly successive governments have nearly ruined ours, in preference to everlasting spending on more roads and motorways heralded as "cures" for our traffic problems. Anti-CDTS campaign groups have frequently asked those in authority to help reduce car use by aiming to provide good alternatives for every district in Cheshire, helping to break the daily car habit where possible.
The present (Tory) county administration is trying to keep local tax down. The ever-increasing costs of maintaining existing roads must be a huge drain. I am puzzled by Cllr David Robinson petitioning for the number 26 (City Transport) bus service whilst still advocating the elite and costly car users CDTS busway scheme for which local taxpayers would be paying a considerable unknown and escalating amount. Time to finally bury the unpopular CDTS project - including the park & ride site for Mannings Lane, Hoole. This would eat into funds causing even more cuts in services? Cllr Robinson, and others, should stop waving the useless CDTS "cure all" flag, and start waving a green one, that way we all benefit.
Audrey Hodgkinson Sefton Road, Hoole

23/12/04 Study the Facts
In reply to Councillor Peter Bryne (Chester Chronicle December 17) like old times indeed councillor, you're still as muddled as ever.
Remember your statement - "I shall pay out of my own pocket if any property is devalued because of CDTS busway" - you corrected that immediately after the laughter that caused though didn't you?
These funds, whether Government or local ought to benefit all, should be value for money and be for sustainable transport, CDTS busway fails on all counts. Indeed how much better it would have been if the then Labour administration had made a funding application for schemes to improve all bus services instead of a car dependent CDTS busway, everyone would have benefited by now.
Benefiting all is the Greenway. I take great pride, along with others, in helping Sustrans (Charity) to keep the popular, much-loved Chester - Connah's Quay (Millennium) Greenway, litter free. This traffic-free pedestrian and cycle path reduces car use, promotes health activity, and protects quality of life along with wildlife habitat.
You obviously decide things after being told; I prefer to study all the documents, read reports of eight experts in the field of transport, and much other relevant
Thousands came to the same conclusion. Now if I was in agreement with a very small minority I would have questioned my judgment very closely indeed.
I could keep adding to the reasons we all object to CDTS - that other counties and indeed other countries had abandoned busway plans, that the Government, even back in 1997, became concerned about with escalating costs, but I am, too busy. Incidentally, The Dome was thought a brilliant idea by only a small minority too - they went ahead and look what happened - enough said?
Audrey Hodgkinson, Chester

23/12/04 Councillor Peter Byrne's response to Audrey Hodgkinson's letter was sadly bitter and contemptuous in tone.
It is not the way a councillor should respond to any resident.
Councillor Byrne is disappointed at the decision not to proceed with the CDTS Phase 1 (Guided Busway). He points out that as a consequence Chester has 'lost' Government funding.
This is only one side of the story. It will be remembered that the capital cost of the CDTS (estimated at £10.9m) was to be funded partly by Government grant and partly by 'borrowing permission' funding by the local authority.
The problem with borrowing is that it has to be paid back and there is the matter of interest payments.
It may be argued that although Chester 'lost' the Government grant, it 'saved' the element involved in the borrowing by not proceeding with the CDTS.
The capital costs of the scheme were always a problem.
The Government Inspectors inquiring into the County Structure Plan 2011 advised the county council to re-assess CDTS to see whether it did indeed represent value for money. This is exactly what the county council did.
The county council's own officers, who had keenly supported CDTS, nevertheless produced two telling cautions in their re-assessment: U That the construction costs could escalate alarmingly once the work began. U That figures of patronage were projections only and might not be borne out in practice.
Faced with these cautions, the county council wisely decided not to proceed.
The CDTS scheme was offered to the city council, but they too declined to fund it.
Councillor Bryne attacked Mrs Hogkinson as a 'nimby', portraying her as a lone voice concerned about her own property.
At the CDTS inquiry over 1,000 Chester residents made individual objections in writing to the scheme and paid out of their own pockets to be represented at the inquiry.
Any councillor would regard a vote of 1,000 at the local election as a strong degree of support.
It is now time to finally abandon CDTS and move forward to a more balanced transport policy for Chester with greater emphasis on, and more resources devoted to, improving local bus services and facilities; upgrading the railway station; rural transport initiatives, and good school bus services.
WV Jones, Daleside, Upton Heath, Chester

13/1/05 CDTS is still heralded by some as the answer to all problems, and once again most would disagree.
Lancashire County Council certainly gives many of us hope for the future though. It took a wider view encompassing all modes of public transport along with walking and cycling facilities when it applied for government funding.

* New bright, friendly bus stations, rail station improvements with CCTV security.

* Low-floor easy access buses. Valuable transport interchange. Offices for impartial travel information, selling the full range of tickets for both rail/bus. Better services.

* Using solar/wind power to inform waiting passengers of actual arrival time of bus ('Rural Real Time') with 19 per cent improved patronage on some routes.

* Quality of life improved. Better facilities for walking and cycling.

We could have had these improvements by now, but the 'priority' in Chester was the highly unpopular CDTS Phase One busway scheme. Still things are 'on the up' now - as value for money, integrated, sustainable transport is now the priority of most of our councillors too. We all welcome the lanned improvements to the railway station but when will the work start?
The disappearance of the notorious subways, so long a nightmare for pedestrians, has begun. Dora Taylor must be chuffed. She, along with AntiCDTS, campaigned long and hard to get something done about these dangerous subways. I believe she has arthritis and is unable to write. I know there are many who wish to say thank-you Dora, you have not been forgotten.
Audrey Hodgkinson

24/2/05 We have been asking all political parties to co-operate with ustrans regarding the Millennium Greenway.
Volunteers were asked to clear the area by Newry Court where rubbish blows in and we can't tackle easily due to steep slopes on both sides. I mentioned the fact that we volunteers were not looking forward to the task, and the reasons why, in my communications to councillors. The work was undertaken by the city council instead. We thank council leader David Evans and Cllr Rob Jordan and Colin Bain for their co-operation. Volunteers were depleted by 'flu this month but five of us replaced some fencing or cleared a section of the hollow area near Brook Lane shops. With more co-operation we hope to be planting bulbs and undertaking other exciting projects in future. Our greenway deserves better facilities for residents, users and volunteers. Rewarding those . willing to leave their cars at home helps our environment too. My plea for co-operation has been well received by all political party leaders and this can be of great -benefit to us all.
Audrey Hodgkinson

24/2/05 Steve Howe's recent letter highlighted yet another regrettable aspect of the "dead but won't lie down" CDTS busway saga.
Indeed, its continual existence somewhere in the depths of the city council's planning archives must surely question the capability of some councillors to manage the city's affairs.
There was a time when responsible councillors, to save time and public money, would withdraw an idea defeated in council in the face of clear evidence against it. In the face of the overwhelming evidence and public opinion on all fronts against the busway, surely such action would be the correct thing to do by its promoters. Sadly, today, such honourable action is missing - hardly an advert for those trusted with spending public money.
M.H.O. Hoddinott 19, Dicksons Drive Chester

18/3/05 Open letter to Steve Lewis, Chester City Council..
After receiving your letter, my husband and I have been to inspect the plans, regarding development of a bus lane and car park in Hoole.
We are shocked and horrified that this has all been proposed again after the overwhelming resistance in the past to these plans.
Firstly, encroaching on Green Belt should not even be entertained. Hoole, particularly, has hardly any green areas left. As you may note, there have been the recent protests regarding loss of green area with the proposed tennis club on the allotments in Hoole.
Chester City Council seems to be giving planning permission for every scrap of land to be used and disregarding open spaces.
The houses immediately located by the cycle track are losing their privacy, therefore reducing the value of their homes, plus being inflicted with noise and pollution from vehicles.
Is there no regard for the locals who enjoy this traffic-free walk/ cycle into Chester and beyond? It is a safe place to take children on their bikes and a place to exercise their dogs.
I am sure the Park & Ride at the zoo could be extended and the amount of buses to the city could be increased, using different routes from here.
The cost was colossal when this bus lane was first proposed and then, we, the Chester City Council residents were facing most of the expenditure.
It angers us that the Secretary of State agrees with the proposal, as he probably has never seen the area in question. On paper, it probably looks feasible.
We reiterate, NO, NO, NO, to any traffic of any sort on the cycle path.
Valerie Lowe

18/3/05 I find it quite remarkable that the county council is determined to keep the Mickle Trafford busway plan alive by the extension application to the original planning permission.
In spite of overwheiming professional evidence that its contribution to reducing city traffic would be virtually negligible (public inquiry), Cllr Bateman ('It's the answer to city gridlock') and his supporters seem to know otherwise.
Do they really believe this is the magic wand to solve the city's traffic problems? I think not, otherwise we must consider their judgment on these matters seriously flawed. In fact, even the most casual examination of the scheme has shown up its possible value as to be trivial in the extreme and expensive and destructive to build. Indeed, it is puzzling why such backing exists at all in the county council for such an obviously disastrous project To date no explanation has been forthcoming.
Over and above all this there is the apparently trivial matter of cost - just a mere £20m at the last estimate, some three times the original and no doubt by now risen more as the true cost of the engineering, etc has been uncovered.
And what is the upside of all this?
A rigid tracked diesel vehicle of debatable pollution, that wifi hopefully entrap the odd unwary motorist at Mickle Trafford, trundle him a few miles along what was once a traffic-free cycle/footpath and dump him/ her possibly a mile or so from their destination - a legendary failing of all tracked forms of transport (vide railways). Will it work? Of course not.
But to pay for all this white elephant - the total loss of a traffic-free route into the city that is already busy with its quota of city-bound walkers and cyclist.
Oh, and by the way, bad luck, Northgate village park! After many past years of verbal baffles, wemanaged to retain this little bit of greenery If the busway arrives it will effectively emasculate it with two monstrous concrete tracks and a large diesel bus tracking along it every few minutes.
Is this what Chester residents want? In my opinion, I think not
Hopefully this wifi all be remembered in the forthcoming May local elections when the electorate choose to retain those with their feet on the ground and with a declared aim at conserving our tax money for worthwhile and viable projects about the city and county.
M H O Hodinnott, Chester

Lying Lib Dems? From the Hoole All Saints edition of Focus, the Liberal Democrat's newsletter, April 2005...
"CDTS is back in the news. The Conservative County Council have recently applied for an extension to planning permission to 2007. We had thought the scheme to build a guided busway along the line of the old Mickle Trafford railway line had slipped away, but the Tories have now put it back on the agenda."
These people have got some nerve. Anyone perusing our selection of letters in favour of the busway will quickly see that by far the majority of those who have for years attempted to sell CDTS as the panacea for Chester's traffic problems are either Labour party members- David Robinson (out on his ear in May 2005), John Price, Sandra Rudd, Peter Byrne, Derek Bateman, David Challen- or, you guessed it, Lib Dems such as Beverley Eaton, Gordon Smith (now retired), Sue Proctor and Molly Hale... (we're told by a somewhat embarrassed Lib Dem non-busway supporter that it was in fact the last-mentioned lady who wrote the article.)

28/4/05 The greatest threat to the very existence of our much-valued and used vehicle-free 'country lane' the Mickle Trafford to city footpath/cycleway could emerge from the results of the Cheshire County Council local election results held on 5th May - General Election day.
While the General Election may well be making the headlines, here in Chester - and Newton in particular - a change in the political balance of the county council will ensure this cycleway and part of the Northgate Village park will be sacrificed to establish the proven inefficient guided busway.
To date, the present Conservative majority has served the county well in ensuring none of our council tax is frittered away on such ill-founded ideas.
So the choice for the electorate is simple: Ensure the Conservative majority is maintained by returning their candidate, or, elect a Labour or Liberal candidate who, by their stated plans, will ensure the destruction of this unique traffic-free route into the city and beyond.
Once lost and the 'guided busway' degenerates into its inevitable dereliction this 'country lane' can never be regained.
M. H. 0. Hoddinott 19 Dicksons Drive Chester

5/5/05 CDTS with its escalating costs and environmental damage, is all but sunk - the application for an extended time limit is only a formality and prudent housekeeping no doubt, but should it get approval improvements sill be delayed yet again.
Others not stifled by a busway project have these improvements to train and bus services and their facilities already in place encouraging more public transport use. While here, some are forced to use a car (if they have one!) to combat reduced services. The longer the minority cling on - the longer we all suffer along with our city.
It seems ludicrous a facility such as the greenway, which doubles as a safe and pleasant alternative to adding to congestion and pollution figures, should be threatened in such a way. We ask all those in authority please come and see for yourself. Stand by the Northgate Village access opposite Newry Court, Brook Lane at rush-hour times. Wonder if all these cyclists and walkers, a two-lane concrete busway, and a hedge would fit in the space as you walk up towards Fairfield Road bridge even with trees down? Wonder if the users of the greenway would revert to car use if faced with a narrow path, concrete and buses? Wonder why the path veers off, by the pavilion, Newton Lane playing field, instead of carrying on to Mickle Trafford and beyond?
The greenway is also used for leisure, families enjoying a day out, leaving their car at home, children learning to cycle, walkers listening to bird song and watching the wildlife.
Thank goodness we have some in authority able to look with an open mind, and, like us, wish to protect this much-loved asset, seek value for tax payers' money and preserve green space.
Audrey Hodgkinson Founder of Friends of Chester Greenway

2/6/05 Predictably, by a majority, the city planning committee voted last week to retain the plan for the CDTS Busway on their 'books; for possible resurrection again in the future.
Is it really not surprising that political analysts in this country wring their hands over the lack of public interest in the poll turnouts? I understand that at a recent meeting 'concerning this project there were well over eighty objections and one in favour - a monumental public rejection. Yet, apparently, one illustrious adviser there made the incredible statement - "I can see no reason why the plan should not be carried forward!"
With such an utter disregard for interested public opinion and bad judgment is it really surprising that Chester today is probably suffering from some of the worst planning rind subsequent redevelopment in its history?
MH 0 Hoddinott, 19 Dicksons Drive Chester

6/6/05 We thank our Area Committee and other councillors and acknowledge the hard work involved by those speaking so capably to oppose the time extension and also to protect our beloved Gateway.
We thank all the councillors of both county and city, who did listen; take note of public opinion and the need for a traffic free multi-user path encouraging green travel.
The small City Centre-Rail Station bus has been a resounding success carrying half a million passengers whilst the four park and rides can only muster one million between them.
It is evident that park and rides are not the answer. Choice should be the aim. Our local rail network could take much traffic out of our roads but improvements for greener travel will again stagnate, brought about by an ever-dwindling number of councillors and - believe it or not - non-elected officers hypnotised by CDTS.
Public bus/train services are constantly facing cuts, and facilities neglected and, whilst many people would like to be able to travel with the environment in mind, the choice is just not there. There is little encouragement to leave cars at home but plenty to use our car to a park and ride site.
A compact city like Chester has four subsidised park and ride sites. Why, when we all see so many empty car spaces? The need for another 1,200 car space park and ride site, on greenbelt land does not exist. No expansion has been required for the two sites where planning permission already exists.
This would be the much cheaper option. Approaching Hoole roundabout most car drivers have passed park and ride signs. Why? Do these signs warn parking is very limited in the city centre?
Residents in Chester and districts could be enjoying the improved bus/rail facilities. Other counties already have. Our much- used and loved Greenway extension is again left in limbo at bole instead of extending to Mickle Trafford, then Delamere, as Sustrans had planned. We are left watching the route continually extend into Flintshire whilst choice in Chester is not available. CDTS, oldfashioned, immensely costly and environmentally damaging is still dragging us down. It is all the more annoying knowing that as far back as 1984 Sustrans expressed an interest in providing a path down this route.
We believe the CDTS application should have been withdrawn. Since the reason given - good housekeeping in the event another political party took control and wished to put CDTS back on the agenda after the county May elections - no longer applies. Surely good house keeping ought to mean no more local funds spent on CDTS?
As more and more people living around Chester realise the implications of CDTS objections are rising more rapidly than ever. We can all measure the results. Public opinion should be respected. We seem to have more concern for our environment and global warming consequences. Our continual fight to protect our green spaces, save our environment, and local taxpayers money will never cease.
A word to all councils: putting all your eggs in one CDTS basket is risky, costly and damaging. It is also discriminating against non-car users and those willing to travel under their own steam.
To be fair most of our county and city would like to see CDTS in the waste bin since global warming is such a threat but there are a few councillors and council officers still backing this discredited project. They are the ones holding improvements back for all of us and sacrificing the environment. They are the ones we should blame for bus cuts and poor facilities.
Audrey Hodgkinson, Secretary, Anti-CDTS Campaign Groups, Hoole, Chester

16/6/05 Regarding Chester City Council's continued support for the CDTS scheme, otherwise known as the concrete bus route. This will, with the passing of time, go the same way as their 'trams for Chester' scheme and it is regrettable that council tax payers have to pay for the hours spent masterminding these schemes.
Your paper does draw attention to the fact that the original consent given was for outline permission and it is worth adding that during I the three years of that permission the city council did not submit for approval the outstanding details of the scheme.
Your report of 26th May highlights, and I quote, the 'Tory-led county council and the killing off of the scheme by 'the Conservativeled Cheshire County Council and your paper is obviously making a point. Yet the Standard does not identify the political identity of the several councillors who supported planning officer Steve Lewis' assertion that there were no planning grounds on which the application for time extension could be refused.
The city council now has a further, two years to come forth with a plan which will be considered to be a viable, sustainable transport prospect for this corridor with joint use as a cycle and footpath and a slow moving narrow guage railway, which would not have a car park on the southerly by-pass. We have to look at the network as a whole and not just the section between the Northgate and the Southerly bypass road.
There is a gap in the market for a narrow guage route into North Wales and beyond Frodsham.
We should be encouraging people to leave their cars at home and to travel this route at little more or less than a cycle speed from nearer their homes and enjoy the scenery and a visit to North Wales, Chester and, who knows, Liverpool and Manchester
Old Wavertonian

24/6/05 Chester's Park & Ride was featured on breakfast TV and BBC regional programmes last week and reported on by the Chronicle ('City's P & R in TV Debate').
This followed claims by the Campaign to Protect Rural England's Head of Transport Paul Hamblin that increasingly large areas of countryside are being buried under tarmac in the name of sustainable transport by Park & Ride car parks.
Spreading more and more acres of cars over Chester's Green Belt is not the solution to Chester's transport problems. Chester already has four large Park & Ride sites north, south, east and west of the city, able to accommodate more than 3,000 cars and an overflow facility if needed, into Chester Zoo's 5,000 space visitor car park.
Chester's Park & Ride is already one of the largest in the country. The council is proposing a fifth site for another 1,200 car parking spaces on yet another 25 acres of Chester's Green Belt.
The long promised extension to Chester's popular cycleway/greenway from Hoole to Mickle Trafford and Guilden Sutton remains unfunded. While it is acknowledged that Park & Ride has a role to play Park & Ride is totally dependant on travel by car and encourages car use.
CPRE believes that investment in alternatives to the car are needed in a more balanced transport strategy for Chester, with more travel choice.
Ann Jones, Vice-chairman CPRE Cheshire Transport Campaign Group

In response to the above writer, that seemingly-endless font of pinhead wisdom, Bob Clough Parker, treated us to one of his predictably reactionary comments in his Chester Chronicle column. (Why on earth did they bring him back?)

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