Have "New Town" Planners Bungled Road Transport?
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LAST week I outlined the plans for the creation of four new towns in the south of England at Stevenage, Harlow, Crawley and Hemel Hempstead. Each presents its own special problems in design and in the provision of adequate road transport services for its ultimate population of 60,000.
RI" way of contrast, let us now go to the other end of LI England and consider two interesting developments in County Durham, where work has begun on two new towns to be called Peterlee and Aycliffe.
The objective in the case of Peterlee (named after a famous miners' leader) is the complete opposite from that applying to the new towns in the Home Counties, in that the aim is not to disperse population and locate industry close to people's work, but to concentrate the building of houses for mineworkers in a town of about, 30,000 population, thus forming a regional centre. Hitherto the problem of housing mineworkers in Durham has been dealt with by the building of accommodation close to the pits, with the result that all over the county there are small villages round the pitheads which have not the population to provide real amenities or adequate public service, and which, at the same time, disfigure the countryside and interfere with its orderly development. It is, therefore, intended to provide
114 accommodation primarily for men working in the pits at Murton, Easington, Borden, South Hetton, Blackball, Wheatley Hill, Wingate, Thornley, Deaf Hill and Trimdon.
A secondary object will be the introduction to the district of industries suitable for the employment of women, so as to stem the tendency for them to drift away to the Midlands and the south. The site chosen is bounded on the south by the Eden burn and lies in the triangle formed by roads A19 (Stockton-Sunderland) and A1086 (Hartlepool-Easington), which meet at Easington. It does not include Horden and does not reach quite as far as Easington. The principal physical feature of the site is the course of the brook, which runs through an impressive gorge in the central sector to join the Eden.
The Eden itself is included in the site right down to the sea. Of the two boundary roads, Al9 runs on a ridge, and another ridge separates A1086 from the site, the ridges forming, in effect, a wind-break, so that the new town will be reasonably well sheltered. As everywhere in the coalfields, subsidence is a major problem, but the Corporation expects, with the co-operation of the National Coal Board, to be able to deal successfully with this difficulty. Any factories that may be built will probably be at the north end of the town and will not, in all probability, be raiI-connected
The nearest railway line is that along the coast from Seaham to Hartlepool, which, at the nearest point, is two miles away. There is an exit from the north-east side of the town which might be used for a rail link, but .as the aim is to attract light industries it seems unlikely that the expense would be justified. It should be pointed out, too, that when the Jarrow tunnel is built, A19 will be diverted away from Sunderland to make :L 'sew north-south link, via the tunnel. Easington is already a nodal point for roads to Newcastle, Durham
and the west, so thatTeterlee will be very well situated for road communications.
On the passenger side, three different types of service will have to be given—one to serve the town as a regional centre, a second to take miners to and from their work, and a third to deal with internal movement inside the town. :Although the first and' third really present no operating_ difficulty, there is a local complication in that seven operators are concerned. They are United Automobile Services, Ltd., Northern General Transport Co, Ltd. Sunderland District Omnibus Co., Ltd., Express Omnibus Co. (Durham), Ltd., Triumph Motors of Darlington, Trimdon Motor Services and Gillette Bros. (Motor Services), Ltd., :Ferryhill.
Will There be an Area Scheme ?
It may be that by the time • people are actually beginning to lie in Peterlee an area scheme under the Transport Act, 1941, may be operating and the problem will then be simplified. If not, the Licensing Authority will have to designate one of the operators to provide the internal services and to arrange with the others for services to Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Stockton by diversion or extension of their existing services • The question of, how to deal with the miners is not so simple, unless the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers agree to stagger the hours of the various collieries, so as to minimize the number of buses required This may not be easy to do without dislocating the working of existing services, as it by no means follows that all the men at the pits mentioned above will be living in Peterlee. The number of men to be carried may be some 5,000, spread over three _ shifts and distributed among 10 pits. Inside the town they may live at anything up to 1-mile from the town centre.
The Development Corporation has not yet had time really to get down to this question in detail, but it seems to me that if pit hours be not staggered it may be necessary to arrange an interchange point near the western edge of the town,. where miners could change from the internal services to buses running direct to the pits. The layout of the town may lend itself to the running of a circular route. If the pit hours were staggered, it might be possible to work direct buses to and from the pits over the circular route.
Housing for Local Workers , At Ayclitfe the position is extremely simple, as the new town (which will house only 10,000 people) is being built solely for the benefit of workers on the Ayclitre Trading Estate, which adjoins the site to the south. The eastern boundary will be the existing Al and the western boundary the new north-south motor road. The Darlington-Bishop Auckland road will pass between the Trading Estate and the new town and will be cut across by a main connection between the town centre and the estate. There will also be a• ring road round the town, whilst across its centre will be a twin carriageway forming a link between the western by-pass and Al. This central thoroughfare will be 150 ft. wide between fences for most of its length, with two 22-ft carriageways; the central reservation will be expanded to 120 ft. at the town centre.
If it be decided to provide the town and estate with a railway .station, it will be sited. at the junction of the
Weardale mineral line with the Darlington-Bishop Auckland branch, and possibly combined with a bus station. At present the new town site is badly served as, most of the day, it is necessary to walk up to It miles to and from the Great North Road. There is a frequent service along that highway by United Automo bile Services to Newcastle and to Spennymoor, also by A.B.C. Motor Services to Sunderland. Five times daily the Eden Services of Summerson Bros. run from the Trading Estate to Coundon and Shildon, whilst at peak periods P. J Coulson and Son run a service from Heighington to the Trading Estate. This is the only service actually traversing the site of the new town. United Automobile Services run workers' services which filter through the Trading Estate, and these, presumably, will be adapted to deal with the needs of the new residential area.
Section 21 ,(2) of the New Town,s Act, 1946, envisages the possibility of a development corporation Wishing to operate trolleybus services. It empowers the Ministry of Transport to authorize a corporation to do so by means of an Order instead of by promoting a Bill. Nothing is said in the Act about motorbuses, and although, generally speaking, development corporations are empowered to provide, but not to operate, public utilities, Section 2 (2) Might be construed as giving the corporations powers to operate buses if they fail to find suitable undertakers. This difficulty, however, has not yet arisen in connection with any of the new towns I have visited, nor have I found any of them interested in the possibility of running trolleybuses.
THE practical reader who has carefully followed these two articles will, I think, observe one singular omission—nowhere is there any mention of a terminal for road goods services. In fact, I can say categorically that (except for a passing thought at Crawley) not one of the new town corporations has in mind the construction of such a building, or even the allocation of a site for it. This is a serious omission from any design that purports to strive after perfection.
The attitude in each case when I mentioned the matter was that if the transport undertakers wished for such a building a site could be found for them in one of the industrial areas. Personally, I think this is a wrong attitude, but it may be due to the fact that the R.T.E. has not yet become properly organized, and no doubt its development department is busy on plans for co-ordinating existing services rather than looking far ahead.
Nevertheless, the question is one that should early engage the attention of the Executive. Ayeliffe, of course, is not involved, but in each of the other towns have described it is hoped to attract a great variety of light industries producing the type of article that has to be distributed in small lots. Thus, a collection service in each town will be necessary for the manufactured goods, without thinking of incoming traffic which will have to be delivered.
I can see no point in putting such traffic on rail when the market for much of it will be within 25 or 30 miles. Moreover, where is the sense of taking smalls from the Midlands. North and Eastern Counties right down to London when Hernel Hempstead, Stevenage and Harlow can be developed as centres to cover a large area?. The existing " smalls " depots at St. Albans are quite unsuitable as .stopping places for long-distance vehicles, and it would be a far better proposition to build a really first-class depot on virgin ground at Hemel Hempstead to serve all West Herts from there.
The whole question of freight depots in the new towns needs the attention of the Road Transport Executive at a very early date.