Newcastle disconnected on transport matters

The campaign groups newcycling.org is unsatisfied with the state of transport affairs at Newcastle City Council. Whilst some matters are slowly getting better, important gaps still persist to exist, and aren’t necessarily narrowing. The various council departments involved in transport must get much more organised, start working together closely and effectively – including sharing with expert groups – to demonstrate a concerted united citywide effort.

Katja Leyendecker, chair at newcycling.org, says “Newcastle City Council now has millions to spend on walking and cycling infrastructure but still there is no programme. I wonder how the expenditure is going for the CCAF1 investment? The programme for CCAF2 is totally unclear. As a community group of experts we’d really like to get involved and stuck in, help and assist. A works programme would help us tremendously to understand council’s ambitions and plans and it would allow us to organise our own time and activities; we are time-poor volunteers after all. But under the current supercautious council arrangements it’s not possible. There is little sharing. We aren’t permitted to sit on the CCAF Programme Board. As a result of all this, the blackbox, that we discovered in 2010, is still very dark.

“We are currently carrying out an appraisal of the CCAF1 work, progress, spent and so on. So much is clear – very little is transparent. It’s not been communicated. It’s not good. Our working group will publish the findings once they have got their heads around it – if that’s even possible.

“Over the years, we have also recommended to the council to up their skills, employ a special team including an overseeing principal expert – the money would certainly be available for this sort of thing, for example from the LSTF budget. This is important, so the council can overcome traditional mentalities like silo working and also start trusting community interest groups with their knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to assist. I don’t even think they’ve done an assessment who their policy partners are. Which is a tad disheartening.

“Of course, there is all this free expertise out there already in the form of interest groups. After some months’ worth of lobbying, we recently heard that a sustainable transport forum may be set up by the council. And if it comes off, that’d be great – but we are worried about its composition, focus and organisation. Who to chair such of forum, inclusively, would be a crucial question to answer too. We have ideas, we want to be involved.

“I haven’t even commented on infrastructure project implementation. In any case, all this needs leadership. It’s not for one council officer to solve. There’s a wider picture to observe. We call on the cabinet to resolve these discrepancies. The sooner the better. Otherwise the path of the transport transition will remain uncomfortable and confrontational. Would it not be better to glide along gracefully, together, and stop the hobbling and stumbling?”

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