Introduced by Jeff Kenyon, Henrietta Sherwin and Bob McPherson on 8 June 1999

Jeff Kenyon, speaking as a Bath resident, but with four year's experience as Transport spokesman for the Liberal Democrat party in B&NES Council, opened the discussion.

He pointed out that London had more public services _ railway station, underground trains and buses than almost any other city in the world but still suffered badly from traffic congestion. The Manchester Metro rapid transit rail route was successful but only reduced traffic on adjacent roads by 6°%. In Bath, when Badgerline introduced half-price fares on a route for a year, the number of passengers increased by 25%, which reduced revenue by 37%, and these extra passengers were existing users or those who previously walked, none were car drivers changing to public transport.

No one method will affect the traffic situation on its own. Residents parking areas, controlled parking zones, park & ride, parking charges, and all other ideas must be used together to achieve a useful result. 650,000 cars a year use the P&R sites in Bath and it has made no difference to the traffic in the City.

Henrietta Sherwin, representing the Council for the Protection of Rural England, emphasised that their interest was as much in improving the quality of life in towns as in preserving the rural countryside. She pointed out the P&R sites were conceived in the 1970's as a politically achievable means of `doing something about traffic in towns; but that land use planning would be a much more effective method. The use of modern technology to inform passengers about the current state of the bus service would be a better method of persuading them to use public transport. She raised the questions: "What do we do when all the P&R sites are fully used?". [Rob McPherson supplied the answer].

P&R is of no help to people who have no car (20% of the population) or do not drive (49 % of women) but use of normal bus services which pass P&R sites, instead of dedicated non-stop buses would improve services for non-car users by increasing the frequency. It should be noted that the number of passengers on Bristol buses increased by 20 % when the bus lanes were first operated before the P&R site opened. She criticised the DETR for employing WS Atkins, who build P&R sites, as consultants to write a report on their value.

Rob McPherson is now a consultant but was previously with Bath Council and Avon CC involved with installing the P&R sites in Bath and Bristol. He had written a report for the English Historic Towns Federation which is mainly supported by local authorities, but which they had not been able to publish. He pointed out that the original objective of P&R in Bath was to increase the number of people visiting the City, not to provide out-of-town parking for commuters. He took the objections which had been made to P&.R and provided answers or comments on each point. His answer to the question posed by Henrietta Sherwin was: "Build another ring of P&R sites further out". EHTF's primary objective is "to promote and reconcile prosperity and conservation in historic towns" and they felt that P&R, taken in conjunction with many other measures, was a good way of achieving this.

The discussion covered a wide range. P&R sites were useful for getting commuter parking out of towns in the rush hour and then for shoppers during the day. The opening hours needed to take account of both.

Property developers should contribute to traffic improvement schemes, one of which was P&R sites; the £2.9m offered by Southgate developers for Lambridge was in their view a way of improving parking for shoppers but would be generally be beneficial too.

Instead of an `outer ring' of more special sites, use of small Village Pay & Display sites, for example at pub car parks during the day, combined with normal bus services could provide a better site at lower capital cost

When a P&R site opened, the number of car parking spaces in the town centre, especially on-street spaces, should be reduced by the same number as was provided by the site.

The use of P&R would be encouraged by high quality buses operating in bus lanes or under bus-priority schemes so that they overtook cars.

Don Lovell