Workington Travel Survey

Guiver, Jo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6126-3662 and Davies, Nicholas orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9889-1205 (2010) Workington Travel Survey. Project Report. University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), UK. (Unpublished)

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The floods of November 20th 2009 destroyed or damaged four of the five bridges across the River Derwent at Workington, severing road and pedestrian access. Papcastle Bridge near Cockermouth, the closest road river crossing which involved a long detour, became a bottleneck with long delays for traffic in both directions. Many agencies worked hard to improve the situation and within ten days a temporary station had been built and a free train shuttle service instigated to make use of the remaining bridge. The army erected a footbridge in early December and provision was made for a shuttle bus between settlements on the north of the river, the new station and the footbridge. Thus, between December and April, there was an unusual situation with car journeys between the north and south of the area necessitating a long detour with considerable delays, while the half-hourly train service was free to use and pedestrian access was relatively easy.

Cumbria County Council commissioned the Institute of Transport and Tourism of University of Central Lancashire to research the impact this had made on people’s travel. A household survey gave data on 435 people’s travel patterns for typical weeks in October 2009, before the floods, March 2010 while road access was difficult and May 2010 once the temporary road bridge had been opened. The survey found that the number of trips for all purposes had reduced in March and although it had risen again in May, it had not reached the previous levels. Leisure and social trips were the most reduced, partly because of the extra time needed for other travel. Shopping trips reduced and often changed destination and work trips showed most propensity for mode change. Although respondents’ car trips fell by nearly a half, the majority of trips were still made by car. Train travel increased by over 500% and although it dropped in May there were still more trips made by train in May than in October.

The consequences of the new travel situation ranged from enjoying the physical exercise and sociability of walking across the temporary foot bridge to feelings of isolation, worry about elderly relations on the other side of the river and, for some, the loss of a job or earnings and severe stress. Household duties could be re-allocated to accommodate different schedules and longer travel times.

Most respondents recognised the efforts made by Cumbria County Council and other agencies, although officers themselves worried about the impact of the emergency on other aspects of their responsibilities.

Interviews with key stakeholders demonstrated how it was not just travellers adjusting to a new geography around Workington. Several employers redeployed staff so they could work on the side of the river where they lived to avoid a long commute. Services were provided in the north of the area: supermarket, mobile bank, doctors’ surgeries, while other public services (Police, Fire and Ambulance Services) re-aligned their administrative boundaries or practices to adjust to the new situation.

The findings suggest there is an ability to change travel patterns when circumstances change, but there remains a high car dependence, even when the alternatives are cheaper and more convenient.

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