Since becoming Lincoln’s MP, I have frequently been told that Lincoln’s transport system does not work effectively for those who use it. Both residents and visitors have told me that traffic is one of the most frustrating issues both in our city centre and across Lincoln, and as someone who has lived in Lincoln all my life I have experienced the city centre gridlock at its worst!
One of my key election pledges was to work with local stakeholders to try to improve the traffic situation locally, and last year I took the lead in forming a Transport Taskforce. I’m working with organisations, including both city and county councils, local businesses, the University of Lincoln, Network Rail, Stagecoach, and cycling enthusiasts, with the aim of creating a vision of a better-connected Lincoln. But this is not just a job solely for us. I wanted to know how residents think transport in Lincoln can be improved.
I recently conducted a survey which provided my constituents in Lincoln, Skellingthorpe, Bracebridge Heath and Waddington East with a simple, user-friendly opportunity to express their opinions about local transport. I have received over 600 responses, representing all age ranges. I am currently formulating an in-depth report summarising all the responses, but the broad conclusions so far have revealed a lot about people’s attitudes to transport in Lincoln.
It is clear from the survey that car travel is by far the most common way of travelling in our city, and when asked how often Lincoln residents use public transport, the highest response was ‘very rarely’. This indicates that a significant number of people are currently not engaging with the public transport options available to them. Low engagement in Lincoln could be explained by the fact that a significant majority of respondents noted concerns with the value for money and punctuality of local transport.
So how can we make it easier for people in Lincoln to drive less and reduce traffic? When asked what would make residents more likely to use public transport, lower fares were by far the most popular first choice. This is perhaps not surprising; in the past year local bus fares in England have increased by 2.8%, increasing faster than wages and inflation, although multiple journey tickets can provide better value. Sadly, the government’s austerity agenda has meant that since 2010 bus budgets have been cut by 45%, leading to thousands of routes being cut or withdrawn, and last year saw the lowest level of bus journeys per head on record.
A Labour government will take steps towards a cheaper and more comprehensive service, such as by introducing free bus travel for under-25s. But there are immediate measures we can take in Lincoln to help improve transport options in our city.
Last week I held a Community Engagement event which focused on transport issues locally, and the best bit about that event for me was the fact that there was a substantial interest in better cycling provision for our city centre. A lot of people in Lincoln have had enough of clogged-up roads and pollution being pumped into our atmosphere. This was echoed in my survey, as cycle lanes were a popular option to help incentivise residents to cycle. This is something I am particularly interested in focusing on going forward.
Being responsive and listening to the concerns of my constituents is my number one priority as Lincoln’s MP. My transport survey and community engagement events have given me a lot of food for thought, and I will continue working hard to deliver improvements that are in line with the wants and needs of people living in Lincoln.