Route: Malvern to Worcester

Ideas for a cycle route between Malvern and Worcester have been in discussion for many years (“since turn of the millennium” has benn mentioned). Now is the time to move this forward.

Working together for a suitable route

Cycle Malvern has set up a Working Group to focus on this route. The aim is to push for speedy implementation of a safe route between Malvern and Worcester suitable for cyclists of all types and abilities. While working to the LTN 1/20 standards (see below) should ensure a decent quality, there still needs to be a strong commitment from Worcestershire County Council to get the scheme delivered. With the history outlined below, this is well beyond time.

Once created, the route should form part of National Cycle Network route 46. There is also now the ‘Active Travel Corridor’ concept, whatever that might imply. (A map under Funding shows other proposed ATCs.)

Please do use the contact form to get in touch or join the Cycle Malvern Facebook group if you would like to add your support, or get involved with our work. Greater numbers add to the pressure. Also help by using the hashtag #malvern2worcestercycle on relevant social media posts.

Key documents and some notes for the Working Group are referenced in a separate web page.

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Story so far

We don’t know exactly when the first ideas for this route were floated, but the Sustainable Transport Unit at County Hall was able to say in October 2006: “Sustrans are currently negotiating a National Cycle Route 46 between Worcester and Malvern. Once a route is negotiated then we will focus resources on this route.” (South Worcestershire Cycle Forum was liaising with County.) In 2007, there were serious efforts around a route rather different to that outlined below – Cycle Malvern has a copy of one of the maps. However this ran into problems. Suggestions and support for a route continued to be made by local residents and cycling groups.

In 2012, Sustrans carried out a route consultation on behalf of Malvern Hills AONB, with an outline map. A Feasibility Study was also done, looking at alternative routes too, but came down on one largely alongside the A449. It would use space on one side of the road or the other, switching over just once.

This old study does give rise to a number of tricky points. For instance:

  • How to get round Halfway House pub on to the short section of road behind it (away from the A449), with a level change. A ramp/trough at the side of steps would be less than ideal.
  • Where and how the shared cycle/footpath switches side of the road, as space disappears along one stretch.
  • The real ‘pinch point’ in Powick, near the petrol station and crossing lights, where the existing quite narrow shared use path has various obstructions, often including parked cars.
  • The path doesn’t cross too many side roads, but how is cycling made as continuous as possible across those few?
  • Connectivity in to various parts of Malvern, for instance a route to the hills.

The treatment of these choices can make a huge difference to whether the route would be attractive for the widest range of cyclists, including those with non-standard cycles e.g. cargo bikes or adaptive cycles, or with youngsters in tow.

Merged plan pages from 2012 AONB/Sustrans feasibility study – not current scheme. Map base Crown copyright.

Current Scheme

As far as we know it.

The Sustrans work is referenced in Worcestershire County Council’s Local Pinch Point Fund bid to the Department for Transport, in January 2020. We expect that the 2012 plan formed a basis for the current scheme, which the bid clearly states as having been fully costed in 2013/14 with updates in 2018 – that surely would have included further design work.

At November 2020, it appears that the scheme is being looked at again in the light of the government’s new guidance, issued July 2020 (see LTN 1/20 section below). Cycle Malvern would welcome this move as it should mean that the route, when completed, is suitable for all types and abilities of cyclists. Design work is contracted out by WCC to Jacobs, effectively what was Halcrow Group up to 2011.

Note that the Pinch Point bid talks confusingly about both off-road and on-road provision. A clearer statement is on the county’s Emergency Active Travel Fund phase one page, which says:

Worcester – Malvern Active Travel Corridor – Surfacing improvements have been made on Old Road, Worcester, to ensure the link between the new bridge over the A4440 and the city is in good condition. This links to a further bid to the Local Pinch Point Fund to deliver a continuous, separated active travel corridor between Malvern and Worcester alongside the A449.

Funding

The Powick pinch point work is one of four schemes bundled together for the outline funding bid. Download the application details here (pdf, 3.21MB). A decision for which schemes would be invited to submit final bids was expected autumn 2020. However, due to the impact of the pandemic the Department for Transport has not been able to make the announcement yet.

Also see the Active Travel report to a county council scrutiny panel on 9th November 2020. This includes the Malvern map, extract below. It is missing the Bastonford/Halfway House wiggle off the main road (probably an oversight), but otherwise matches the 2012 map. (ATC = Active Travel Corridor)

Extract from WCC Active Travel report – Crown copyright re base mapping

The November report states: “Creation of a cycle link between Powick and Malvern (Newlands): In feasibility. Funding some amounts of s106 funds are available – currently awaiting outcome of DfT Pinchpoint Expression of Interest. It is likely that further funding will be required to deliver this route in line with the latest government guidelines LTN1/20. Obstacles such as “Powick gyratory” and limited footway widths may require significant, bold design work.”

s106 = payments under section 106 of 1990 Town & Country Planning Act, made by site developers to the planning authority (Malvern Hills DC) as a condition of planning permission – see our Glossary. We understand that around half a million pounds is associated with the major Newland development, although not payable until much of the scheme is built and occupied.

Existing/new provision

The new pedestrian/cycle Powick Hams Bridge at the A449 Malvern Road/ A4440 Hams Way roundabout near Powick has opened on time, 18th December 2020. This does highlight the lack of an onward link to Malvern.

The bridge replaces two sets of toucan crossings (traffic lights for pedestrians and cyclists), which were installed summer 2008 – see copy of leaflet below. A further pair of toucans, across the northern arm of the roundabout, remain in use – linking Temeside Way to the Powick Hams bridge or the route into Worcester. (Note that Temeside Way cycle path alongside the A4440 closes in January 2021 for upgrade – including widening to 3 metres – as part of the Southern Link road works.)

There is an existing small section of separated cycle path from the roundabout south west to the edge of Powick. There are further stretches of cycle path through and beyond Powick towards Malvern but these disappear. (Haven’t currently got precise location of the last bit.)

From Powick Hams to centre of Worcester

In 2020, some of the Emergency Active Travel Fund (round 1) money was spent on this: “Surfacing improvements have been made on Old Road, Worcester, to ensure the link between the new bridge over the A4440 and the city is in good condition.” This is the road over old Powick Bridge – to access the city centre, there is the option to use the cycle route via Diglis cycle/pedestrian Bridge.

LTN 1/20 and other design matters

As stated in the intro above, Cycle Malvern wants to see a “safe route between Malvern and Worcester suitable for cyclists of all types and abilities”. It should also be designed for future maintenance and consider how the area and needs may change, where possible. ‘All types’ encompasses commuters, tourists, leisure cyclists, those with adapted trikes/bikes, cargo bikes and others which have different widths and handling. ‘All abilities’ includes, for instance, those who would have difficulty getting off and pushing, or negotiating sharp changes of level.

The government’s Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20, Cycle Infrastructure Design document was published in July 2020, alongside its Gear Change policy. This gives guidance on a whole range of design issues when developing facilities for cycling, and following it properly should address our concerns. Some key items from it:

  • Shared use routes (adjacent to highways), recommended minimum width for up to 300 pedestrians an hour: 3 metres up to 300 cyclists/hr, 4.5 metres for higher flows (Table 6-3, page 68). NB. Chapter 8, from page 83, looks at motor traffic free routes (away from the highway) separately.
  • For non-shared tracks, one way – 2 metres for up to 200 cyclists/hr; two way – 3 metres for less than 300 (Table 5-2).
  • Cycle lanes (on carriageway), one way: 2 metres recommended, 1.5m absolute minimum (Table 5-2 page, page 43). Para 6.4.2, page 61: “A 2.0m wide lane allows space for overtaking within the lane and is the minimum recommended width.”
  • While the use of shared paths is discouraged, para 6.5.6 page 67/8: “Shared use may be appropriate in some situations, if well-designed and implemented. Some are listed below:
    • Alongside interurban and arterial roads where there are few pedestrians;
    • At and around junctions where cyclists are generally moving at a slow speed, including in association with Toucan facilities;
    • …”

The Newland development of some 800 homes, outline planning approved January 2019, would need to be taken into account – all vehicle access is funnelled via a remodelled roundabout adjacent to the retail park with only limited alternative pedestrian (possibly cycle?) access. Current pedestrian activity around Powick needs to be considered too, but generally the A449 route would seem to attract low levels of walkers along most of its length.

Next steps

Watch this space! Do get in touch or join the Facebook group if interested.

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