Wednesday, 16 October 2019

County council rejects £150m Thames bridge

County council rejects £150m Thames bridge

A PROPOSAL for a third Thames bridge in Reading has been officially rejected by Oxfordshire councillors because of the effect it would have on roads in the south of the county.

They say the crossing would result in an unacceptable amount of traffic being diverted through Henley and nearby villages on roads that are not suitable.

Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell councils support the idea of a bridge across the river from the Thames Valley business park to land near Playhatch, which is in South Oxfordshire.

But on Tuesday Oxfordshire County Council passed a motion rejecting the idea.

Councillor David Bartholomew, who represents the Sonning Common division and put forward the motion, said that diverting an estimated 55,000 cars from Reading into South Oxfordshire each day would simply move the town’s congestion problem.

He said: “The only onwards option for traffic would be through the congested streets of Henley or along the narrow B481 country road through Oxfordshire villages.

“Supporters state this bridge would take 55,000 cars a day out of the centre of Reading, while they simultaneously refuse to accept that building such a bridge would simply shunt Reading’s traffic problem into Oxfordshire.

“How they can say this when the only onward options for traffic would be through the desperately traffic-choked streets of Henley or along a narrow country B-road through Oxfordshire villages defies logic.”

Cllr Bartholomew said bridge supporters refused to accept it would become a magnet for traffic even though it would link Reading’s inner distribution road and the M4, thereby attracting drivers travelling between the M4 and M40.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth will now write to the leaders of the other three councils, as well as local MPs John Howell, John Redwood, Matt Rodda and Theresa May, asking them to find a solution that is more sustainable.

Cllr Bartholomew said if the bridge was built, it should be restricted to public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

He also said that the bridge plan and measures to mitigate the effects of more traffic in Oxfordshire should not be considered as separate projects but together in order to create a more holistic proposal.

“These mitigation measures must be specified, costed and meet with Oxfordshire’s approval,” he said. 

Cllr Bartholomew added that the bridge proposal had implications for climate change. 

He said: “Why is it that some councils and some government agencies trumpet their desire to address climate change and move towards carbon neutrality, then come up with grand projects that fly in the face of their declared intentions?

“This bridge project is a classic example of a carbon generating, car-based solution to a car-based problem and an ‘I’m all right, Jack’ attitude.”

Council representatives and MPs will meet on Friday, October 18 to discuss how the £150million project suggested by Reading Borough Council can be funded.

In 2015 the Berkshire authorities produced a £250,000 business case for the bridge and the benefits it would provide in Berkshire.

The project stalled when funding of £750,000 for the next stage could not be found.

Supporters now believe they could obtain funding from Transport for the South-East, which plans strategic transport across the region.

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