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Connecting communities! Southampton residents invited to measure the success of a UK-wide travel project

Published: 27 April 2010

Residents in Southampton are being invited to take part in a nationwide study to evaluate the benefits of a travel initiative from sustainability charity, Sustrans, which is designed to revitalise walking and cycling across the UK.

Sustrans won a national TV vote for money from the Big Lottery Fund for 79 communities across the UK taking part in its Connect2 project. The project invests in walking and cycling networks, improves existing routes, helps overcome barriers and creates new crossings over busy roads, railways and rivers – thus making walking and cycling safer, easier and more accessible.

The Southampton Connect2 project aims to create a raised walkway alongside the River Itchen, from Horseshoe Bridge by Empress Road and Mount Pleasant Road, to continue a riverside path right through to the Southampton Football Ground and city centre. This route will connect the edge of the city to the centre, linking residential areas to places of work and connecting people to the river and Southampton water and beyond.

A group of independent researchers led by the University of Southampton are undertaking a major five-year study called iConnect to assess the impact of the Sustrans’ Connect2 programme. Southampton has been selected as one of only five case study projects where more detailed research will take place.

Survey questionnaires will be mailed to residents in Southampton and neighbourhoods around the Southampton route from this week, asking about local travel, recreation and exercise. The research group from the University of Southampton is keen to encourage as many residents to take part as possible, offering the chance to win a £25 gift voucher if they return their completed questionnaires and consent forms.

Professor John Preston, from the University of Southampton’s Transportation Research Group, who is leading the study, comments:

“This is a unique opportunity for an interdisciplinary group of researchers to measure and evaluate whether major investments in physical infrastructure encourage changes in travel behaviour, which will also be beneficial in terms of the environment and public health.”

Lorraine Brown, Executive Director of Environment and Transport for Southampton City Council, says:

“This is a great opportunity for Southampton and we are delighted to be involved with the iConnect survey - one of only five case studies being conducted nationally. This important research project will help to look at the impact of the Connect2 River Itchen walkway in Southampton. The Connect2 walkway is a shining example of everything we are trying to achieve in the city in terms of getting people thinking about sustainable travel. It will open parts of the city to walkers and cyclists, as well as opening up the waterside to our residents.

“Southampton City Council became involved in the project when it was part of a national initiative organised by ‘Sustrans’ to revitalise walking and cycling across the UK. This project will hopefully show how investment into cycling and walking schemes is changing the way people think about their everyday travel. We would really encourage all residents to take part in the survey and give us their views.”

Andy Cope, Director of Research and Monitoring at Sustrans, adds,

“Sustrans’ Connect2 project aims to radically change how people travel within their communities and iConnect will help us really see the impact these new routes will have on people's everyday travel behaviour. The project represents both an exciting challenge and an opportunity to highlight the impact that investment in cycling and walking infrastructure can have through a UK-wide programme.”

For more information about iConnect, please visit www.iconnect.ac.uk.

Notes for editors

1. The attached image shows the proposed Southampton Connect2 walkway (Image courtesy of Sustrans and Southampton City Council). Further images of the walkway route and artists impressions of the walkway are available from Media Relations on request.

2. The multi-institutional iConnect (Impact of COnstructing Non-motorised Networks and Evaluating Changes in Travel) study, which has received £2.3 million Government funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), involves the universities of Bristol, East Anglia, Loughborough, Oxford, Southampton, Strathclyde and West of England (UWE) and the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge. Researchers from these institutions will work together to investigate the impact of the Sustrans’ Connect2 project across the fields of transport, carbon emissions, public health and energy consumption.

3. The iConnect sites:

- River Itchen Walkway (Southampton)

The Southampton Connect2 project aims to create a raised walkway alongside the River Itchen, to continue a riverside path right through to the Southampton Football Ground and city centre. At high tide the water will be lapping close to the level of the walkway and at all times the route looks out over the estuary. This route will connect the edge of the city to the centre and will link residential areas to places of work and also connect people to the river and Southampton Water.

- Ely River Connection (Cardiff)

This proposal to open a bridge over the Ely River will complete a 6.5 mile (10.5 Kilometres) circuit around Cardiff Bay. It will make for a glorious walk or cycle ride and become a favourite promenade for residents and visitors alike. Following the formal opening of the route across the Cardiff Barrage as part of the Coastal Access path, the crossing of the Ely River is now the only break in the circuit and would make an essential link between the city centre and Penarth. Both Cardiff and the Vale have been waiting for this bridge, which will serve as an excellent leisure and commuter route.

- Kenilworth (Warwickshire)

The local Kenilworth Connect2 project is developed from an existing local initiative to develop further the disused Kenilworth-Berkswell railway line as a leisure route. The 'Friends of Kenilworth Greenway' group has been in existence for several years, involving local councillors, residents and local footpath groups. Parts of the leisure route are already accessible and are popular with local walkers and horse riders, although difficult at times in wet or icy weather. The County Council has already completed some improvements to the route in 2008.

4. Sustrans’ Connect2 is a UK-wide project that will transform local travel in 79 communities by creating new bridges and crossings to overcome busy roads, rivers and railways, and linking these to networks of walking and cycling routes. As a result millions of people will be able to walk and cycle more for everyday journeys. It is a £142 million scheme - £50 million from the largest ever single lottery grant – and the remaining millions in match funding for individual projects. The project won £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund as a result of a public vote televised on ITV1 in December 2007.

5. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health, arts and humanities.

With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover of almost £400 million, the University of Southampton is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography

Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute.

For further information contact:

Glenn Harris, Communications, University of Southampton, 023 8059 3212 G.Harris@soton.ac.uk

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