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  • Gareth Davies

When a Relief Road Becomes a Bypass - The Hereford Transport Package. November 2019

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

(for “Transport” read “Road”)

The two most notable points about the Hereford Transport Package are:

  • What was previously labelled a Hereford relief road has now become a strategic bypass

  • This shift to the regional from the local has led to measures to solve Hereford’s internal transport problem fading into the background.

The emphasis is now on Hereford’s connectivity in the wider regional context. This it is hoped will improve the economic, employment and housing development of the city. But will it? In the regional context, as indicated by both the plans for the Midlands Connect Growth Corridors and the Marches LEP Strategic Roads Corridors, Hereford is just a small city in the way of good communication between the core West Midlands Conurbation, the South Wales Development Area and the Northern Powerhouse. The fact that a bypass is now supported by these three powerful regional economic influences is leading some economists to consider that Hereford will lose not gain in the development game as a result of a bypass. In simple terms, people and industry will bypass the city.

This consideration is linked to the fact that Hereford has a poor internal transport system with little concrete evidence of or plans to significantly improve it in the near future. With a tired and run-down city retail core, a poor outdated bus network, a poor health, safety and air quality environment and an overemphasis on providing for the car, there is not much to encourage relocation of quality industry and a population influx of professional people. Yet Hereford should be thriving as a standalone city.

The lack of attention to positive measures to modernise and improve Hereford’s internal transport system is therefore a fundamental flaw in the current Hereford Transport Package. Couple this with a deteriorating environment in terms of carbon emissions and road safety and Hereford falls far short of being an attractive place to relocate or visit.

Recent work by the London School of Economics points to the fact that overall, the economic benefit of new roads is relatively small, even smaller for a city the size of Hereford. At the same time, Department for Transport studies into the benefits of Integrated Transport Block funded local transport schemes revealed that 56% of schemes had a high to very high Value for Money (VfM) return and 25% had a medium VfM. Of these local transport schemes, 42% were public transport and accessibility based whilst other related directly to road safety, reducing pollution and localised traffic management (pinch point road improvement). All these uses of public money are in line with the aims of Herefordshire Council’s Local Transport Plan yet are not pursued in the Hereford Transport Package.

With a business case yet to be undertaken for a Hereford bypass, all the indications are that it will present a poor VfM return. A simple example demonstrates the fallacy that new roads are vital to economic development.

A Simple Example

The Hereford Enterprise Zone was created on the old Rotherwas munitions factory site. To aid the development a new link road was built from Rotherwas to the A49 trunk road to Grafton. This gives reasonably good road connectivity to the motorway network via the Ross spur and the M50.

The reasoning behind this road was that it was essential to the attraction of new firms to the Enterprise Zone. The result however has been minimal. The Hereford Business Board can offer no evidence that new roads lead to growth and it is difficult to see how a western bypass can improve the situation. The hoped-for high-tech relocation is dependent on far more than just expensive new roads covering the countryside with tarmac.

A City of the Future

In an uncertain world we all need vision. Is Hereford to be a city of clean air; a city where mobility is not dependent on the car; a city of safety for all ages; a city of open space and not car clogged highways; a city of culture and recreation; a city of retail individuality? Above all a city of good internal connectivity without the use of the car.

Missing the mark as well as ignoring the need for a vibrant and attractive city in the modern relocation game, transport inertia inherent in planning new roads pervades and stifles attempts at modernising Hereford as a sustainable city of the future.

The government’s recent announcements on their plan for de-carbonising transport should now provide the impetus for a total re-think on the way our economy and society work, travels and plays.

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