Busway Route Too Narrow for Wheelchairs


The footpaths around the bus stops in Houghton Regis have had their kerbs raised and footpaths relaid to make it easier for the elderly and people in wheelchairs to gain access to the buses without a ramp.  We won't know if this will always be possible because it's likely that on occasion wheels will get stuck in the gap.  In any case this particular path in my ward, in Parkside Drive, would be too narrow to get a wheelchair along.

The capital costs of the busway scheme are around £90million, (DfT £80m, local councils and private sector funding about £10m [reference]). The busway will run between Houghton Regis and Luton town centre and is due to open next Spring. Watch out for the spin. There'll be plenty of over-bearing, gushing, ministerial and council officials making announcements.

The government gave the go ahead for this project hours before the Spending Review announcement was made to review all capital projects. Echoes of "Yes Minister" in my head.  In the region there is no popular support for the concrete busway and many commentators have said as much. As much as it is a lame duck, that skirts around the edges of housing estates with very few bus stops, I am committed to promoting it, because if it's not promoted and used local Councils are going to have very high annual maintenance bills for it, with little coming back in to balance the books.

It would have been far more prudent, in my view, to have spent the DfT money on the A5-M1 link road (recently approved) and the Woodside Connection, a new arterial route proposed to take traffic from Dunstable to a new M1 motorway junction 11a (and supply local roads in a major new housing development).

The A5-M1 link road will cost between £156m and £212m. In part this is being financed by £45 million from the private sector and £5 million from Central Bedfordshire Council. The Woodside Connection is going to cost some £45m, and I don't think anyone seriously knows how they're going to pay for it, yet.

Of this private sector finance, the cost is, of course, bound to be loaded back onto the cost of the 7,000 new homes the developers want to build, and the way I see that is that it will mean less cash available for new community facilities like doctors surgeries, community halls, churches, sporting facilities.