Plans to make catching the bus, walking and cycling easier, and reduce congestion on routes between rural areas of Bath and North East Somerset and Bristol are set to take the next step. 

Details of a £15.2million scheme to improve walking, cycling, wheeling, public transport infrastructure and reduce congestion along the A37 and A367 have been set out in a report before Councillor Sarah Warren, deputy council leader and cabinet member for climate emergency and sustainable travel.

Councillor Warren is being asked to approve £1.744m to develop the Full Business Case, final preliminary and detailed designs for the ambitious Somer Valley Links scheme.

The funding comes from a £1.414m West of England Combined Authority grant and £330k match funding from developer contributions.

The single member decision report before Councillor Warren says journey times from the towns to Bath are too long because buses get stuck in traffic and access to bus stops is hampered by footways being overgrown or non-existent.

Incidents occur on the fast sections and junctions of both routes and the report says cycling along the A37/A367 can be challenging, even for confident cyclists due to traffic volumes, including large vehicles, passing close and travelling at high speeds.

The report says there is little infrastructure that links cycling and bus services together along the routes making interchange between the two difficult.

Narrow sections of the A37 through Pensford and Temple Cloud are not wide enough for large vehicles to pass each other, leading to delays for all traffic.

It also highlights air quality issues in Farrington Gurney and Temple Cloud which have been declared as Air Quality Management Areas.

Following public engagement carried out last year an outline business case was approved and now the cabinet member is being recommended to agree the next step to receive funding so the full business case and detailed designs – including further consultation – can go ahead.

If agreed the project would make catching the bus or walking and cycling easier by offering improved bus facilities and delivering safe, easy-to-use walking and cycling facilities.

Feedback from a public consultation last summer will be taken through into the next stage for consideration in updating designs of specific interventions and the overall scope.  Further engagement with communities will be undertaken. 

CounciIlor Warren said: “We want to provide people with greater transport choice and reduce reliance on cars, but if routes don’t feel safe to walk or cycle, or if they don’t easily connect, then it puts people off. We also need to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions, so I welcome this report which I will consider carefully.” 

Somer Valley Links is a strategic corridor project within the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) programme, funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) through the West of England Combined Authority. The Council is now to take the lead on management and delivery of this project following the approval of the Outline Business Case (OBC) at the Committee meeting on January 26, 2024.

The report can be found on the council’s website.