Saturday, 21 July 2018

No commitment to third Thames bridge

NO commitment has been made to a new bridge over the River Thames into South Oxfordshire, says John Howell

NO commitment has been made to a new bridge over the River Thames into South Oxfordshire, says John Howell.

The Henley MP spoke after he and Reading East MP Rob Wilson chaired the latest meeting to discuss the issue with representatives of Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Reading Borough Council, Wokingham Borough Council and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Caversham was designed to discuss progress of a study to establish the impact a third bridge would have on roads and communities across the area.

If the bridge was built it would most likely go from the Thames Valley Business Park, off the end of the A329M, over the river and Caversham Lakes to the A4155 Caversham Park Road, near Playhatch. It would cost anything between £100 million and £200 million.

The borough councils are in favour of a new crossing while the two Oxfordshire councils are not.

Wokingham Borough Council, which is leading the study, has been collecting traffic modelling data from dozens of sites across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckighamshire in order to produce a strategic transport model.

The meeting heard that this work will be completed towards the end of the summer and will be fed into a draft outline business case which is expected to be completed by October.

The councils agreed to put £1million between them towards a joint bid to the Department for Transport for funding to deliver the next stage of the business case.

Mr Howell said the focus of the work should be determined by the evidence rather than “wishful thinking”.

“There’s no commitment to a four-lane bridge into South Oxfordshire,” he said. “The key thing is that the level of evidence needs to be collected principally across a wider area of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, so that it takes in a very big area. It needs to be assessed properly and then people can make a decision.”

Mr Wilson said: “The data collection work has covered an extensive region, which has been broadened to better determine the potential future movements of traffic and deliver as accurate a picture as can be obtained.

“This is fundamental to producing the evidence required to persuade both stakeholders and members of the public that a robust process has been followed.

“The information provided will establish the traffic impacts of a third Thames crossing, wherever it goes, and highlight any additional mitigation measures necessary to alleviate concerns.

“We will need to bid for further DfT money to continue our work, and the Local Enterprise Partnerships are working together to do this as a result of our meeting. This is a massive project requiring significant investment, so it is essential we have the resources to do the job effectively. I remain committed to delivering a third Thames bridge.”

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