Leighton Buzzard Station Travel Plan

Context

Leighton Buzzard station is a medium-sized station located in the urban area of Leighton-Linslade, Bedfordshire. The station, a 4 platform station with an overbridge and ticket office, is located on the West Coast Mainline, the main rail line between London, Birmingham, Manchester and the North West, and handles in excess of 1.4 million passenger trips every year.

Being just over half an hour away from London Euston, it is not surprising that the station is very popular with London commuters, with around 69% of all trips heading to Central London. There is also a significant non-commuting market at the station, with 55% of station users travelling for leisure activities. However, leisure travel only generates 29% of trips to and from the station.

The station itself is located within the boundary of the Leighton-Linslade urban area, which has a population of around 36,000. Much like many railway stations in Bedfordshire, the station itself was originally located outside of the town. This means that the station itself is located some 1.5 miles to the west of the main retail core of the town, and is on the opposite side of the town to the majority of the residential and employment areas, with the primary vehicular access to these areas being a single river and canal crossing, although there are several other pedestrian and cycle crossings.

Need for a Travel Plan

Whilst the station is located within the urban area, it's location within the town means that it can be difficult to access the station by non-car modes, particularly from Leighton Buzzard and areas to the east of the Grand Union Canal. While some buses do serve the station, many more terminate in the town centre or bypass the station completely because traffic congestion makes it difficult to access within a reasonable time.

The relatively narrow approach road and conflicting crossing points outside the station means that pedestrians and cyclists come into conflict with vehicles, while further away the walking and cycling routes can be of a poor quality or, even worse, not there at all. The station car park is also massively over-subscribed, leading to on-street parking problems in residential areas close to the station.

A Station Travel Plan is seen as a good opportunity for improving access to the rail station, and the uptake of non-car modes as a means of accessing the station, enhancing rail travel's credentials as a more environmentally-friendly means of travelling. Not only this, but we also see it as a means of promoting the rail service locally for inter-urban travel, particularly to non-London destinations such as Milton Keynes and Watford, and make much-needed enhancements to the station to provide a high quality interchange which is able to meet the future demands placed upon it.

Description of the process

Bedfordshire County Council, which has since been superseded by Central Bedfordshire Council, has taken a well-structured and comprehensive approach to pulling together a Station Travel Plan. The stages are a good example for how to do this, and are listed below:

  1. Stakeholder engagement: It is important that the Station Travel Plan has the buy-in of a range of stakeholders interested in the station. A number of local stakeholders have been involved in the Station Travel Plan, which together make up the Station Travel Plan Steering Group:
    • Arriva the Shires and Essex
    • Bedfordshire County Council (now Central Bedfordshire Council)
    • Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity
    • Buckinghamshire County Council
    • Grant Palmer Passenger Services
    • Greensand Trust
    • Go-Cycle
    • Leighton-Linslade Town Council
    • London Midland
    • Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership
    • Network Rail
    • Passenger Focus
    • South Bedfordshire District Council (now Central Bedfordshire Council)
    • South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth
    • Southern
    • Wing Parish Council
  2. Review the relevant policies: National, regional, and local policies were reviewed to ensure that the Station Travel Plan conforms with these key documents.
  3. Identify the high level aim and objectives: The group felt that it was important to identify what we wanted to achieve from the Station Travel Plan from the outset, as it would help to guide the research we were to undertake. The high-level aim and objectives identified here would be reviewed at a later date.
  4. Undertake a programme of research: All Travel Plans are based upon quality research, so a significant programme of research was undertaken to identify key travel patterns associated with the station, levels of current non-use of the station, and to quantify known issues.
  5. Analyse the results: By analysing the data collected so far, it has been possible to identify and quantify the current situation.
  6. Refine the aim and objectives: Following the data collection exercise, the high level aim and objectives were reviewed to determine whether they were achievable given the current situation.
  7. Identify indicators and targets: By developing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) targets, we will be able to determine whether we are achieving our aim and objective
  8. Devise an Action Plan: Achieving the targets will be dependant upon delivering a number of actions, ranging from marketing initiatives to on-site infrastructure. To co-ordinate such actions, an Action Plan has been developed.
  9. Monitor Progress: We have to make sure that progress on the Station Travel Plan is continually reviewed to ensure that we are on-track. A regime for monitoring has been set up for this purpose.

Action Plan highlights

  • Encourage existing users to travel more sustainably by providing onward travel information in the ticket office, and individual marketing to station users.
  • Encouraging the use of cars with lower CO2 emissions through promoting London Midland's Eco-Friendly Vehicle Car Park Season Ticket Discount Scheme, where cars with lower CO2 emissions can buy cheaper car park season tickets.
  • Enhance the utilisation of the existing bus services that serve the station, by promoting them to station users, many of whom do not even know they exist.
  • Investigating whether bus services could be re-timed to better meet busy peak hour trains
  • Encourage Leighton-Linslade residents to use rail for inter-urban journeys in particular to Milton Keynes.

Key lessons learned

Funding: The recent changes to local government in Bedfordshire have also resulted in significantly less money being available for transport projects. Through a tactic of delivery of many schemes in partnership, and fasttracking certain schemes when short-term funding becomes available, we hope to maximise the funding available to the Station Travel Plan.

Political support: Many local politicians and the local MP have expressed a keen interest in the Station Travel Plan, and are supportive of its actions. It is important that this political interest and support is maintained throughout the life of the Station Travel Plan. To achieve this we will ensure there is continued liaison with elected members throughout the Station Travel Plan.

Staff time: Whilst the willingness to deliver Station Travel Plan schemes is there, sometimes the time to do it is not. This can lead to schemes being delivered late, or worse not being delivered at all. We will therefore ensure that work is adequately planned in advance to ensure that staff time requirements are identified and budgeted for.

Continuing partner support: All partners in the Station Travel Plan have been very supportive of its development, and are committed to its successful delivery. It is important that this enthusiasm is maintained. We will therefore ensure that all partners attend Steering Group meetings, and maintain full involvement in the delivery of the Station Travel Plan.

A- A A+