A Public Transport Strategy for Southampton
ATKINS S, Southampton City Council and LAST A, MVA, UK
Southampton is a medium size city of about 200,000 population on the South Coast of England, about 75 miles from London. It is most well known outside the UK for its port, which is the home of several major cruise liners and a thriving container and gener
Southampton is a medium size city of about 200,000 population on the South Coast of England, about 75 miles from London. It is most well known outside the UK for its port, which is the home of several major cruise liners and a thriving container and general cargo-handling centre.
Historically, the port has been the most prominent factor in the City's development, but although the port and port-related activities are still a major source of employment the City has successfully diversified. Southampton is a key regional shopping centre, has a very substantial educational role through the University of Southampton and Southampton Institute, is the focus of regional media and cultural activities, and has cultivated a substantial financial and commercial services sector.
The main part of the City is located between the River Test and River Itchen, which restrict access to the city by road and rail. The City Centre itself is spread out over a large area to the west of the River Itchen, with the Eastern Docks taking up a substantial part of the waterfront.
Attractive and effective public transport is an essential part of the City Council's vision of the future. The availability of an acceptable alternative to the private car will be an increasingly important part of the life-style package that future citizens and visitors will expect from the City. But improved public transport could also be the only way in which aspirations for the Southampton of the next Century can be achieved. The City vision seeks to exploit natural assets such as its location, waterfront, and space, and its established position as a leading retail, commercial, and cultural cantr& The fear is that the required growth in the scale and diversity of activity in the City will be choked off by traffic congestion, unless appropriate steps are taken to encourage the use of alternatives to the car.
Against this background, a number of specific factors led to the decision to commission a Public Transport development study in the Autunm of 1997:
* the change of Government in May 1997 had given new impetus to new transport and planning policies designed to encourage public transport use and reduce the role of the car;
* the April 1997 change in local government structure had created a new Unitary Authority for Southampton, able to exercise a fuller range of transport and planning powers than had previously been the case;
* reviews of the policy base of the new authority had exposed some weaknesses in the extent to which the Council's aspirations for public transport were articulated, and there was a need to more fully develop this aspect of the Council's thinking.
A further, immediate stimulus for the Study, and a means of facilitating it, was the recent decision to develop a very large new shopping centre on previous industrial land just to the west of the established City Centre. The development, known as West Quay, will provide 75,000 square metres of new retail floor space accompanied by 4000 car park spaces. The development will transform the City Centre, bringing in new high quality retail facilities and ensuring that the City economy continues to benefit from large numbers of visitors.
However, the car traffic generated by the development has the potential to create problems for the City's road system, and the scale of car parking that accompanies the development will make it difficult for public transport to provide a competitive alternative. In recognition of these issues, the developers of West Quay agreed to contribute funds towards a study that could generate a public transport development strategy. The study reported here, which was commissioned from MVA in November 1997, is the result.
Association for European Transport