Signs of a Switch

When the Western Mail published a story about a 20% drop in the number of vehicles using the Severn Crossings last week it was presented as a "bad news" story: it would take that much longer for the tolls to pay off the construction cost. So it is good to see that they have now done a little investigative journalism to see what lies behind that fall.


Their findings, in this story today, are that a good number of people have switched from using their cars to using either train or coach services instead:

New facilities and extra parking spaces at Severn Tunnel Junction station are enticing more people in Monmouthshire and east Newport to park and ride, rather than drive to Bristol or London. The number of eastbound rail passenger journeys from Severn Tunnel Junction to the Avon or London areas has increased by 16.5% over two years – and 10% in the last year.

First Great Western has also seen an 8% growth in the last three months on its trains between Cardiff and Bristol, and 1.5% on its trains between South Wales and London.


In June, National Express added two extra return services per day between Cardiff and London, reflecting growing demand. It provides 28 return departures most days of the week, rising to 36 on Fridays and Saturdays.

Stagecoach managing director John Gould said demand for the Megabus services had grown steadily. “We put more services on about 12 months ago. We now have 11 per day,” he said.

Now it wouldn't be right to say that the fall in the number of vehicles using the crossings is entirely explained by the increased use of public transport—most of it has been caused by the recession—but it should be clear that part of it has. This is something to be welcomed. It's evidence that station improvements and park and ride facilities do work. And of course if they work one way, they should also work for journeys elsewhere, for example in the other direction to reduce pressure on the Brynglas Tunnel for those travelling towards Cardiff. That's good reason to build more of them.

It was also very encouraging to see the increase in rail freight through the Severn Tunnel:

The recession affected rail freight as well as lorries crossing the Severn last year. But rail freight firm DB Schenker said: “We are seeing an increase in demand to supply industry in South Wales. We are seeing some flows of goods switching to rail that otherwise were sent by road.

Freightliner Heavy Haul runs six trains per day through the Severn Tunnel, up from none five years ago. Each train carries as much as about 70 lorries.

That's 400 fewer HGV journeys a day, not only across the Severn but probably off the M4 completely, which again is a very welcome shift. And it is one more justification that shows the wisdom of Ieuan Wyn Jones' decision not to build a parallel motorway.

The lesson to learn seems to be that we may be forced to change our transport patterns because of economic hardship, but having changed them and having seen the benefits of doing so, the chances of moving back to the old pattern are that much less. If that applies to individuals, as Stuart Cole says, I hope it also applies to the way we look at our whole transport strategy. This evidence shows that shifts that we've made recently are working, so we need to keep doing more of the same.

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Anonymous said...

yes the fifth columnist welsh media ....whether print, television or radio.....doesnt do good news stories about wales!

Whatever the issue the likes of jason mohammed, the presenters of shows like dragons's eye and the sharpe end or websites like walesonline line up to put the boot in...and if they can rope the welsh governemnt in cardiff into the frame while their at it all the better!

frankly i doubt if there's any other nation in the world that that has a 'national' media that consistently seeks to undermine its own country as does the welsh media!

Leigh Richards

Unknown said...

It's the psychology of a media establishment that doesn't as a collective believe in itself or in Wales- not at all the fault of the individuals within the media.

It is great news that car use is falling and completely vindicates Ieuan Wyn Jones' role as Transport Minister, not only on the M4, but in being the first Transport Minister to invest more in public transport than in roads. We need to get that message to Green voters loud and clear- it might not seem significant but that's 20-30,000 votes nationally that could come our way.

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