Forecasting how people will choose to travel in future is one of the many challenges of creating a transport strategy spanning the next 25 years, a Lancashire transportation adviser has warned.
The government has tasked the county with creating a single long-term plan for the region to replace the five-year visions historically drawn up by Lancashire County Council and the standalone authorities in Blackpool and Blackburn.
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“How do people get about in 2040? Who knows what the effect of disruptive technology could be by then?” Dave Colbert, transport specialist at Lancashire County Council, asked members of the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
“The presumption was that the more we do online, the less we travel. But the result of internet shopping is that there are more vans and lorries on the road,” he added.
The LEP’s transport committee also heard details of specific issues which will need addressing over the coming decades - including the potential effect of the high speed rail route HS2 on Preston station.
Although the line will not extend to Lancashire, members were warned that it could still have an impact on the county’s biggest station - as could other plans for rail travel across travel across the North.
“Preston station could potentially have to cope with additional trips, but also displaced trips, if HS2 trains serve fewer destinations than the current West Coast Mainline [between London and Scotland],” Mr. Colbert said.
“For example, from Windermere, it may be in future that you change at Preston in order to connect to HS2, whereas [connection to the West Coast Mainline] is currently via Oxenholme.
“There could be a lot more use of Preston station in future and it’s barely able to cope now,” he warned.
The meeting was also told of the need to focus on better connectivity along the East-West corridor in the county, as well as the difficulty of creating integrated ‘smart travel’ on the county’s bus network because of the number of different operators.
The importance of reducing the environmental impact of travel and the links between transport and the health of a population would also be considerations for the strategy.
A draft of the Lancashire-wide plan is expected to be published in the summer, with a consultation to follow later in the year. The final version will be adopted in April 2020.
While the strategy has to set out a vision for 25 years, it will still be reviewed at five year intervals.
The meeting heard that the trend for acquiring government funding for major transport projects was via devolution deals and related pots of money.
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver said that it “showed the government’s thinking” on the importance of devolution.
“So perhaps we [in Lancashire] had better get our act together,” he added.