Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Third river bridge ‘would turn into white elephant’

Third river bridge ‘would turn into white elephant’

THE proposed third bridge over the Thames near Reading would soon become a “white elephant”, says an Oxfordshire councillor.

David Bartholomew was responding to Reading Borough Council’s 2036 transport strategy, which proposes building the bridge and an orbital road through parts of South Oxfordshire at an estimated cost of £250 million.

This is designed to reduce congestion in Caversham and Reading and the council says it is in line with its declaration of a climate emergency.

But Councillor Bartholomew, who is a member of Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council, says the measures are not in keeping with efforts to promote sustainable methods of transport and would result in more traffic in and around Henley.

The bridge would go from the A4155 near Playhatch to the Thames Valley Park on the east side of Reading, spanning a distance of a mile over Caversham lakes. The orbital road would begin by the A4074 near Cane End and run past Kidmore End, Chalkhouse Green and Emmer Green before joining the proposed bridge across the Thames near Playhatch. It would then connect to the M4 via the A329(M) and there would be park and ride sites near Cane End, Emmer Green and Playhatch.

Cllr Bartholomew said: “A key theme of the narrative is that Reading suffers from a large amount of through traffic.

“The proposals address this issue but the benefits to Reading are to the disbenefit of Oxfordshire.

“Overall, there will be no gain and there is a possibility that the measures would in fact result in a net increase in traffic.

“Of most relevance to Oxfordshire are the specific proposals for transport infrastructure either within or connecting to Oxfordshire, which Reading views as essential to support its overall approach. It recognises it would need close working with Oxfordshire to enable delivery.

“These measures would have a significant negative impact on Oxfordshire. They are urbanising and likely to be traffic generative. If a car-based bridge was imposed on Oxfordshire by central government, the only realistic mitigation measure is a link road connecting the crossing to the A4074.

“It is not impossible that a modest link road might gain some local support. However, the supposed scale of a ‘north Reading orbital’ in the proximity of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is already causing widespread concern.”

Cllr Bartholomew, a Conservative, says that while the Green and Lib-Dem coalition that runs the district council does not support the bridge, the orbital road or the park and rides plans, there is some support for the latter on the A4074, the B481 and the A4155.

He said: “I consider park and ride solutions as something that may be appropriate for today but will be woefully out of date by 2036.

“I think the whole plan that Reading has put forward is based on 2020 thinking and not 2036 thinking.

“In 2036 I very much hope we will not have the huge car dependency that Reading still seems to be intent on catering for. I hope by then we will have an improved transport system and cars themselves may work in a much more efficient way. A car-based bridge in 2036 will just be a huge white elephant.”

Meanwhile, parish councils in South Oxfordshire have grouped together to form a joint response to the transport strategy.

Cllr Bartholomew said: “I understand that the parishes want to help Reading achieve its worthy aims of carbon neutrality and clean air but don’t support the bridge or orbital road.”

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