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04/04/2023

Reading time: 6min

Ed Whittaker

Principal Transport Planner

Next stop: climate adaptation – as Sweco evaluate sites for £4m EV bus depot relocation in Peterborough

Sweco is proud to have provided evaluation studies to drive plans forward for the relocation of Peterborough’s bus depot, which will lead to the electrification of the city’s fleet, power eco-friendly travel and ultimately unlock a future-proofed, accessible and sustainable public transport system across the region.

Below, Sweco’s principal transport planner Ed Whittaker takes us through the process of choosing the best site for a depot which has the potential to grow the area’s economy, improve the lives of its residents, and make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change by enabling the adoption of EV public transport.

Our priority is reducing the carbon footprint of the city and making Peterborough a greener and cleaner place.

Wayne Fitzgerald Leader of Peterborough Council

Location
Peterborough
Client
Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority
Result
£4M grant now unlocked for relocation

What was the challenge?

“Our role in this project was ultimately to help the council relocate the Peterborough bus depot to the most optimal place. The current depot is about 100 years old – originally a tram depot to paint a picture of the original site feasibility requirements might have been for our distant predecessors!

It’s in a residential area and It’s totally unsuitable for a 21st Century electric bus hub – there are space constraints, power constraints, and it’s logistically in the wrong area for a bus depot, with lots of issues with noise and so on which impact the surrounding residential and retail community.”

 

Key potential site requirements

  1. Ability to support electric buses (utilities infrastructure, charging point spacing, etc.)
  2. Suitable siting for intended use (currently residential and retail properties are impacted by noise
  3. Increased capacity (other parking areas in the city have often had to be used over the last two decades)
  4. Sufficient floor space (each vehicle charger requires barriers to guard against collision)
  5. Flexibility to expand in the future (meeting demands of growing population)

How did Sweco provide support?

“We basically provided two reports. One being an options appraisals report, where we discussed the current situation – effectively interrogating the merits, or lack of, where the current site is concerned in order to identify the ‘must-haves’ of the future depot.

During this ‘option generation’ exercise we sat down with the client and tried to tease out what possible sites there could be for a new bus depot. We did a initial sifting exercise to to to try to reduce that number by looking at various constraints. We also did a full assessment of the remaining potential sites and we then identified the preferred spaces for onward ‘shortlist’ consideration.

Subsequently, we carried out a Strategic Outline Case which explored the strategic economic, financial, commercial and management implications of each site in our shortlist. So effectively, all the more detailed information that will eventually feed heavily into a full business case when the time comes.

 

What I love about transport planning is that doing the right things is just the start. You need to do the right things in the right places. But it’s also about making a meaningful difference to people’s lives, beyond simply helping a transport infrastructure run more smoothly. It’s about behavioural analysis, not just geographical, which for people-first technical engineer is a dream challenge to try and overcome every day.

Ed Whittaker Principal transport planner

“Applying the DfT’s EAST assessment tool and a Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) to our short-listing process, we made use a lot of open bus data for this project, along with heatmapping of bus travel and dwell times, SIRI-VM/GTFS, open data service and Department for Transport information and even census indexing of multiple deprivation data. We made use of timetable data too, all of which combined meant we were able to paint a much fuller picture than others might have had the technical or experiential track record to paint. Key assessment tools included:

  • Accident data (STATS19)
  • Accessibility (travel-time isochrones)
  • Affordability (location in relation to census IMD data)

I am proud that we went beyond simply providing recommendations for stakeholders to make an informed decision…our partnership and direction is helping them make a viable, community-enhancing decision…right down to considering the working patterns and handover parking requirements of bus drivers.”

What I believe sets us apart is our ability think and apply innovative ways in appraisal and business case development. For example we developed a bespoke Multi-Criteria Assessment Framework (MCAF) tool which is scalable across the project as it develops, so while it will initially be used to compare options to identify the Scheme Specific Objectives (SSO), it can then be re-applied to provide comparative analysis of options at later phases including the more detailed level of design and option consideration required to support statutory consultation.

Saumil Patel Appraisal and Business Case Lead on the project

A new bus depot will help us to achieve our ambition to develop a future-proofed, accessible and sustainable public transport system for the region with affordable buses that people want to get on. We want to create a more connected region, which will encourage active and sustainable travel, improve health and wellbeing, and reduce private vehicle journeys. A new bus depot for Peterborough will play a big part in achieving this.

Cllr Anna Smith Deputy Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

What will the future benefits of this project be?

“Ultimately of course this is all about improving public transport. A new, electrical fleet means you get newer, cleaner buses – zero-emissions buses – which will not only help deliver the Combined Authority’s pledge to use such buses on all services by 2030, but will also give travelers a much more enjoyable experience day-to-day when it comes to moving around the area.

Peterborough is planned to benefit from railway infrastructure improvements over coming years – bringing train journeys to within 35 minutes of London – and with the city’s university expecting 12,500 students by 2030, future-proof, scalable depot is critical to the overall growth and associated economic success of the region.

You are also moving the bus depot out of its unsuitable base in a residential and retail area, so community life itself will become much more pleasant.  Poor air quality, traffic, noise and other downsides of having the depot in a built-up area will be significantly mitigated – even the amount of road traffic accidents should drop drastically.”

 

It is great that through the work of the Sweco project team on the central government funding bid we helped the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority secure some £4 million of funding to progress the bus depot relocation, helping to find somewhere more appropriate to accommodate electric vehicle infrastructure charging. For a relatively modest fee we have really delivered for our client within tight timeframes something  that will have such a tangible benefit, especially regarding reducing carbon emissions.

Karl Jarvis Transport Modelling & Appraisal Lead

Sweco project leads:

 

Ed Whittaker (PM, data analysis)

Saumil Patel (Appraisal and Business Case Lead)

Karl Jarvis (Project Executive)