Revealed: The multi-million pound projects which could transform transport in Norwich
PUBLISHED: 15:19 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:45 09 October 2019
Archant Norfolk 2018
A major revamp of Norwich's Castle Meadow, the expansion of Thickthorn Park and Ride, quicker buses and new transport links to Norwich Airport, the University of East Anglia and Norwich Research Park.
Those are among projects on a wishlist to transform transport in and around Norwich, which councillors are set to submit for a share of millions of pounds of government cash.
The Greater Norwich area was awarded just over £6m in the first tranche of money from the government's Transforming Cities fund, but Transport for Norwich officers hope millions more will follow in the next round.
A dozen cities are likely to get a share of that £1.2bn fund, while Greater Norwich could also get a share of a separate £90m Future Mobility Fund to cut single occupancy car use.
Money is to encourage people to travel via low carbon, sustainable means of transport, with a significant focus on public transport, cycling and walking.
However much the government ends up awarding, it is likely to mean one of the biggest transformations of transport in the city centre which Norwich has ever seen.
For comparison, work to improve cycle lanes across the city in recent years - which has seen major changes in areas such as Tombland, Golden Ball Street and Westlegate - came about thanks to £14m worth of funding.
So, if the government awards £50m, it would mean a far bigger transformation than the city centre has already seen.
Norwich city centre is at the heart at the bid, with a focus on speeding up bus journeys, improving traffic flows, making it safer for pedestrians and cyclists, cutting carbon emissions and tackling poor air quality.
One proposal is to remodel pavements and bus shelters in Castle Meadow, St Stephens Street and Red Lion Street.
That is likely to see pavements widened and lay-bys created for buses to pull into, which officers say would stop buses from queuing and increase efficiency of the services.
Following on from the recent Beryl bike launch, money is also sought to expand the successful Norwich car club, to encourage people to think about whether they need to own vehicles.
More than 30 new 'mobility hubs' could be created - where people would head to use various sorts of public transport.
Wymondham railway station and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital could be among the locations.
Thickthorn park and ride could be expanded, so new bus services could run from there to Norwich Research Park, while pedestrian improvements could be made between St Stephens Street and City College Norwich.
That could see pavements widened or changes to the St Stephens underpass, possibly by opening it up, so the current roundabout becomes more of an open air plaza. Already mooted changes to Tombland are included in the bid.
A new public transport route could be created to connect Norwich Airport to the airport industrial estate, providing a key link to the International Aviation Academy.
Cash is also sought for new bus priority measures to and from Norwich Airport, from Wymondham to Norwich, on Dereham Road towards Easton and in the Sprowston area.
A new cross-valley transport link to connect the UEA to Norwich Research Park is also considered.
Some schemes would need planning permission and each would be brought to councillors, but whatever money is awarded must be spent within three years.
Council officers acknowledge that the schemes would bring disruption, but say that would be carefully timed.
Martin Wilby, chair of the Transforming Cities joint committee said: "This funding bid has the potential to deliver investment in our sustainable transport infrastructure on an unprecedented scale which could transform how people travel around Norwich and deliver real benefit in terms of health, employment and the environment for years to come."
The bid has the backing of bus bosses.
Paul Martin, commercial manager at First Group, said: "Operators have been working closely with Norfolk County Council and other stakeholders, in preparing a highly significant bid that has the potential to transform the future of bus travel in Norwich and is something we look forward to playing our part in."
Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council's cabinet member with responsibility for transport, said: "Investment in public transport is vital to support Greater Norwich as it grows.
"This is a great opportunity to work with our local authority partners and the DfT on plans that could make a significant difference to the quality of major bus routes into the city.
"Building on recent investment in the pedalways we can also look forward to an even better sustainable transport network for Norwich."
South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller said it would be a massive boost for the local economy.
He said: "The funding has the potential to greatly increase access to jobs, reduce congestion and improve our air quality.
"It will enable us to improve public transport links to our key employment sites around Norwich, such as the Norwich Research Park, the University of East Anglia and the hospital, and provide better integration of the tech corridor with the city transport network, giving local people much greater access to employment opportunities."
And Shaun Vincent, leader of Broadland District Council, said: "This opportunity is another step in the right direction to drive economic success in the Greater Norwich area and match the demands of the business community.
"Economic growth is our priority and the potential for improved connectivity through this funding can only support this."
If approved by councillors on the Transforming Cities committee and cabinet, final plans will be lodged in November, with the government decision expected in March next year.
What else could happen?
The bid for funding also includes a string of other potential changes:
- Exploring whether to make Thorpe Road, between Riverside Road and Lower Clarence Road, at Norwich railway station bus, cycle and pedestrian access only.
- Consider removing the traffic lights on Grapes Hill roundabout
- Restrict through traffic from St Andrew's Street so pavements can be widened.
- Potentially switching general traffic from Chapel Field North to Chapel Field East, to stop buses getting caught in queues.
- Improved pedestrian crossings in Magdalen Street.
- Improvements to the Heartsease Fiveways roundabout
- Step free access to the Cambridge-bound platform at Wymondham railway station.
- Extended cycle track in Newmarket Road from Christchurch Road to outer ring road.
- New pedestrian/cycle bridge over the A47 at Longwater
- Getting tougher on emissions in the city centre
- Improving the purple pedalway between Marriott's Way and Bowthorpe Three Score
- New bus lanes on Cromer Road and Aylsham Road
- Possible new park and ride sites off the Northern Distributor Road at Norwich Airport and Sprowston Road
- New bus lane on the approach to Kett's Hill, with cars no longer able to park there
- Bus lanes in Yarmouth Road and Thorpe Road
- A new highway bridge over the railway line at Rackheath to serve new housing
What is a mobility hub?
One of the ideas which council officers want to introduce are 33 mobility hubs across Greater Norwich.
Council officers say these would be key places within the city where people can head for various forms of transport - be it buses, trains, car club vehicles or hire bikes.
Key features of them would be:
- Easy to reach on foot or by bicycle.
- Close to shops, schools, libraries, places of employment and at the heart of neighbourhoods, suburbs and settlements.
- Well designed, so people feel comfortable, secure and informed.
- Buses able to pull up alongside the kerb in the right place and at the right angle, so people can get on and off easily.
- Regular bus services , as well as interchanges between services
The hubs could, potentially, be marked with a totem, to make them more visible.