A Virtual Stroll Along the Mickle Trafford-Shotton Railway

Recent Cheshire County Council press releases concerning the CDTS 'Guided Busway' project

Ref: 301/02 5 September 2002


Cheshire County Council Councillors will next Wednesday (11 Sept) debate four options to decide the future of the Chester Deeside Transport System (CDTS).
Members of the Environment Advisory Committee will consider a report from Environment Director Peter Cocker on the financial implications of the scheme now estimated to cost £16.949 million.
His report recommends that the County Council should confirm its support for the scheme and authorise its final design, construction and operation.
But the Director recognises that there is “strident opposition” to CDTS and, as with any project of this nature, inherent risks.
Mr Cocker states that the County Council has four basic choices.
Members can either approve the scheme….. or decide not to continue with the project.
But the County Council could also construct the project but ask the City Council to manage and fund the subsequent busway operation.
Alternatively, subject to the Secretary of State’s consent, the City Council could be asked to fund the construction of the project and to manage and fund the subsequent busway operation.
Today (Friday) County Council Leader Paul Findlow said: “We asked our officers to present us with all the alternatives and members will consider these alternatives in full, on Wednesday. We will have to weigh into account the perceived benefits of the scheme to Chester, against the considerable opposition which exists and of course, the cost implications to the council taxpayer. Quite obviously, no final decision will be reached until after we have consulted with Chester City Council”.
The financial review reveals that the construction cost of the scheme has increased by £3.76m since first estimated.
But it estimate that the impact on County Council budgets over the next 30 years has reduced from £6.5m to £3.9m due to the Government’s decision to fund 50% of the cost.
However, the Director warns that the Economic and financial cases for the project rely heavily on patronage projections made for the original public inquiry and re-evaluated in the current review.
“The patronage projections have been produced with the help of consultants who are prominent in their field – but they remain projections and not certainty” says Mr Cocker.
“Secondly capital costs for major construction projects have a habit of rising alarmingly after the first sod has been cut. Again the cost estimates have been scrutinised using all available data in ground information but they remain estimates and not certainty”.
CDTS consists of a 1,200 space park and ride site at the end of the M53 motorway and a guided busway allowing travel between the City Centre and park and ride without having to use the heavily congested Hoole Road.
The busway is planned to run along the now redundant Mickle Trafford/Shotton railway line sharing the track bed with a footway and cycleway.
Whilst described by the Chester Chamber of Commerce and Civic Trust as essential to enhancing the regional and local economies and protecting Chester’s historic environment, CDTS attracted 1104 objections from local residents.
But after a public inquiry, the Secretary of State ruled that “the benefits of the scheme outweighed by some margin its disadvantages”. He was satisfied it would be in the public interest to allow it to go ahead.
Added Councillor Findlow: “Events have moved on since that stage and it was necessary to evaluate the whole scheme in the interests of everyone concerned.”

Ref: 306 /02 11 September 2002


Cheshire County Councillors today (Wednesday) recommended against financing the £18m Chester Deeside Transport System.
Members of the Environment Advisory Committee voted by eight to five against funding the scheme after acute concerns over the reliability of financial and passenger usage projections.
Councillors were unwilling to gamble with the risk of escalating costs and felt other demands on Social Services and Education should take priority.
But after a two-hour debate, Tory members supported by one independent decided that the authority should indicate its willingness to enter into consultations with Chester City Council on all traffic issues.
The recommendation will be referred to the meeting of the council’s Executive on October 7th.
Councillors also voted by a similar majority to amend their officers’ recommendation to support the scheme for a guided bus and cycleway along the redundant Mickle Trafford- Shotton Railway line.
But council Leader Paul Findlow stressed that the project- which also included a new park and ride site at the end of the M53- was “peppered with projections and not certainties.” “Apart from the fact that park and ride usage is dropping we do not see how anyone can project costs and patronage over thirty years with any degree of certainty.
“Certainly, to quote our Environment Director’s report ‘construction costs have a habit of rising alarmingly once the first sod has been cut.’ ”
The committee heard that the scheme had attracted 1104 objections from members of the public and that the organisation formed to oppose it had nearly 2,000 ‘paid up’ members.
“I have been inundated with letters of opposition.” Revealed the council leader. “In fact, I have had more letters of opposition to CDTS than on any other topic during my experience in local government.”
“We have debated long and hard about the matter and at the end of the day we have reached a decision which we believe is for the good of all the people of Cheshire.
“Central Government funding for the Shires is abominable and Cheshire is already amongst the worst off Shire authorities in the country.
“We have a duty to consider priorities within a desperately tight budget – and against the ever-growing demands of social services, education and road maintenance, the busway is not top priority.”
Councillor Findlow accepted that Chester had problems of congestion and parking – common to many towns across the county- and indicated that his authority would be only to willing to enter discussion with the City Council on how to alleviate them.
A report before members from Environment director Peter Cocker described four options on CDTS-two involving the City.
One proposed that County Council could construct the project but ask the City to manage and fund the subsequent busway.
Alternatively, subject to the Secretary of state’s consent, Chester City could be asked to fund the construction of the protect and to manage and fund the subsequent busway operation.
“We are not suggesting either of these to the City Council but if they wish to talk to us on the subject we will be more than happy to do so “ said Councillor Findlow.

Ref: 307/02 11 September 2002


Bitterly disappointed but the fight will go on – that is the pledge of Cheshire County Councillors who support the CDTS proposal.
Just as the vote was taken after a heated debate at today’s (Thursday) Environment Advisory committee, Labour spokesman David Robinson declared: “This is an emotional moment because we will not be able to achieve a key piece in the jigsaw to make Chester a better place to live in and a better place to visit."
The committee decided not to finance the scheme and the issue will be discussed by the Executive on October 7.
Afterwards County Councillor Robinson said: “I cannot believe that 13 years of planning – of which I have been closely involved – can simply be swept away.
“Especially because the Government was going to finance 50% of the scheme.
“The fight to overturn this decision has now begun and I intend to take the issue to the next full Council meeting in October.”
Earlier during the debate he said: “Alderley Edge by pass is in the frame, Handforth cost £140 million, there has been Davenham and Wheelock – there was no mention then of where the funding was coming from. But suddenly we have been told by the Administration that one of our smallest projects is going to bankrupt the budget. Chester has to attract more people – it is an historic service centre.
“It has to compete with the likes of Cheshire Oaks, Broughton Park, Trafford Centre etc etc. Having prosperous shops in Chester is what pays for the upkeep of most of our historic fabric, in particular our unique rows. If we do not invest then Chester will die.
County Councillor Robinson continued: “Our report says that CDTS is good value for money - one pence per week on the council tax bill for Cheshire residents. Like most of our capital schemes the benefits that accrue are not just for local people but are Cheshire-wide.
“CDTS is part of a vision. It is a transport scheme fit for the new millennium – it provides exciting alternatives to car use and it makes environmental sense as it uses derelict or previously used land.”
Following the vote Liberal Democrat Environment spokesman Molly Hall said: “I am bitterly disappointed by what has happened inside the council chamber. So much hard work and planning - and do not forget £3 million - has been spent on a project which could now be shelved which had the potential to substantially relieve Chester’s traffic misery.”
She earlier told members: “As a local member I can see no justifiable reason why this scheme cannot gain the support of the Environment Advisory committee. The case has been made time and time again both economically and environmentally. CDTS is one of the central planks of Cheshire’s ten year Transport Plan – how can that now be supported if the scheme does not go ahead? If a decision is taken not to recommend approval it will do irreparable damage to the people of Chester and its economy. It will condemn Chester to the daily horrific traffic congestion experienced on every side of the city until Chester will grind to a halt. I fail to see what will be achieved by asking Chester City Council to manage and fund the scheme – except more delay – whilst the residents of Chester and especially my division – on Hoole Road and Hoole Lane – will be forced to endure the bombardment by traffic daily from the M53. On behalf of the residents of Chester I ask you to support the recommendations.”

For more information please contact County Councillor Robinson on 01244 319550, County Councillor Hale on 01244 571695 and Councillor Paul Findlow on 01625 828004 (Home), 01244 602118 (County Hall) or 07711 243532 (Mobile).

• But then, in February 2003, the long. long battle seemed to be at last at an end, if this remarkable statement by Chester City Council was to be believed- announcing their abandonment of the CDTS project! Also here is a spot-on editorial from the Chester Evening Leader, Lessons to be learned from CDTS fiasco..

Now you can see the place for yourself! Take 'A Virtual Stroll Along the Mickle Trafford Railway'

What the People Think!
A growing collection of letters to these pages and the Chester press in favour of the busway and- far more numerous!- letters against it.
A true and accurate indication of public opinion!

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