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The completed South West Transport Study, commissioned in England, has been welcomed by environment minister Sue Es...
The completed South West Transport Study, commissioned in England, has been welcomed by environment minister Sue Essex as a step forward to solving transport problems on the main road and rail routes from the South Wales boundary with England to London.

The minister said: 'This study has identified the issues and potential ways forward. It has developed and appraised a preferred strategy and set out detailed measures to implement the strategy. I am pleased that it study reinforces our position on how essential it is to see an early and comprehensive improvement to services on the Great Western Mainline. This is another study that has concluded that wholesale motorway widening is not an option. '(Note 1)

There are 10 separate elements to the preferred strategy including proposals for reducing the demand for travel, intermodal freight, and dealing with tourist transport. There are also several 'corridor' studies.

On the London to Severn corridor (up to the Severn Bridge) the preferred strategy includes:

Proposals for more services on the Great Western rail line with substantial increases in the frequencies of local and long distance rail services along the corridor;

Substantial infrastructure works are also recommended to allow for these services and for better reliability.

Road improvements and the use of technology to increase the capacity and reliability of the M4 east of Wales including:

M4 Climbing lanes at J18 (Bath);

additional lanes J19 to J20 (M32 to M5);

upgrading of junctions at Swindon and Bath;

improved technology to allow control of traffic and speeds.

Better interchange opportunities for both rail and bus, including:

strategic park and ride in the Bristol and Swindon Areas;

improved facilities for long distance coaches with interchanges at Cribb's Causeway, Swindon and Chieveley.

There are some issues that have not been completely dealt with in this study. These include transport issues in the Greater Bristol Area (where a further study is to be commissioned) and some issues at the London end of the M4 and M3 which are being considered as part of the Thames Valley Multi-Modal Study which will report later this year.

Ms Essex added: 'The Welsh assembly government will now examine the implications of the proposed study for Wales and how the conclusions in the study relate to the Welsh Transport Framework. It will seek the views of interested groups including the members of the Welsh Transport Forum.'

Some of the issues to be considered by the assembly in response to the study are:

Relief of congestion on the M4 between London and South Wales and the emphasis it places on its primary role as a strategic route. The study concludes that if the proposed measures are fully implemented journey reliability problems on the M4 will be relieved. We will need to examine the evidence in more detail - especially on the matter of peak hour congestion around Bristol.

Integrating the assembly's proposals for improved frequency and reliability of rail services between London and South Wales with those identified in the study.

The impact of development proposals in the Bristol and Swindon areas on congestion on strategic routes, both road and rail.

Opportunities for increasing the role of coaches for long distance journeys from and to Wales.

(Note 1): This reflects the results of a consultation on options earlier in the study and also the results of appraisal.

A series of multi-modal studies have been commissioned in England following the review of transport and trunk roads in the 1998 White Paper 'A new deal for transport'.

The SWARMMS study looks ahead to 2016 and covers the corridors:

London to Bristol and Exeter including the M4/M5/rail lines to Severn Tunnel via Bristol Parkway and Bath/and the Reading to Taunton rail line;

London to Exeter via Salisbury including M3/A30 and A303/Waterloo to Exeter rail line

West of Exeter including A30/A38 and rail line into Cornwall

The Study Area includes parts of both the SE and SW Regional Assembly Areas. Although the M4/Great Western corridor is the main interest to Wales proposals for the London to Exeter corridor are also significant because this is an alternative to the M4/GW corridor.

The proposals have been developed by the consultants, Halcrow.

The preferred strategy consists of 10 plans covering:

Four multi-modal corridors - London to Severn Estuary; London to Exeter; Bristol to Exeter and Exeter to Penzance.

Two Principal Urban Area Plans - Bristol and Swindon.

Four Thematic plans - Reducing the Growth in Travel Demand; Tourism; Inter-modal Freight and Rural Access to the Transport System.

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