Monday, 18 December 2017

Journeys faster but more expensive over third bridge

A THIRD Thames bridge in Reading would result in faster journeys for drivers in South Oxfordshire, it was claimed this week.

Tony Page, deputy leader of Reading Borough Council, said a “managed” crossing was the best option for drivers tired of congestion and delays. He was speaking at a public meeting in Sonning Common on Monday which was called after the traffic problems caused by the closure of Sonning Bridge due to flooding earlier this year.

About 75 people attended the meeting at Sonning Common village hall, including representatives of Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council which are both opposed to Reading’s wish for a new £100 million-plus bridge, and Sonning Common Parish Council.

Councillor Page said a third bridge would not lead to an extended road network but would be part of wider plans for a park and ride system for Reading.

He said: “We are looking for a third bridge, managed with Reading and Caversham bridges, to act as a local distributor road, providing a much faster journey time for the hundreds of people in Oxfordshire who drive to Reading or go to Reading for work or who might drive to Reading.”

He said one way to control traffic using a new bridge was with a toll.

But Councillor David Bartholomew, who represents Sonning Common on Oxfordshire County Council, said the bridge would make local roads busier.

“A third bridge will not magically solve all our problems,” he said.

“As soon as you get better roads you get more cars, What before was a difficult route becomes an easier route so it attracts lots more traffic.

“One of my big concerns in creating a bridge is that it effectively links the M4 to the M40 and Sonning Common is in the middle. That is one issue that needs very careful thought.”

Cllr Bartholomew added that it was unwise to propose a third bridge on the recent closure of Sonning Bridge, which had been due to exceptional circumstances.

Councillor Paul Harrison, who represents Sonning Common on the district council, agreed, saying the plan to raise Playhatch Road at an estimated cost of £1 million was a cheaper and more practical solution.

He said: “Sonning Bridge wasn’t the problem itself, it was the approach road to Sonning Bridge from Playhatch.”

But Alan Goswell, of Lea Road, Sonning Common, claimed the two councillors opposed to a third bridge were “out of touch”.

He said: “For 32 years I have had to spend an hour of my day sitting in queues at Sonning Bridge.

“I have family and friends who work in Reading. The feeling in the village is that we should consider a third bridge.”

Parish councillor Leigh Rawlins said the problems caused by the floods had given an indication of potential future problems as the traffic increased.

“Even if a third bridge is agreed it won’t happen for another decade and if it isn’t agreed the traffic misery will go on,” he said.

“We need to make sure Sonning Common doesn’t take on the adverse consequences.”

He suggested the county council should put aside some land to provide a park and ride service for Sonning Common. Fellow councillor Barry Greenwood said a managed bridge would be “very useful”.

Councillor Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury said driving to Reading was much easier during the school holidays and suggested a change in school times.

John Pearman, of Kennylands Road, Sonning Common, said: “Many of the arguments rely on predictions about the future. May I suggest that predictions about the future tend to be very unreliable.

“Go back a decade and predict society today and I don’t think many could.”

Several residents and parish councillors suggested other alternatives, including creating cycle routes and improving the existing road system.

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