Friday, 27 November 2020

Henley’s traffic problem ‘shifted’ to village

TRAFFIC lights on Henley Bridge are causing “dangerous” queues on White Hill, it is claimed.

TRAFFIC lights on Henley Bridge are causing “dangerous” queues on White Hill, it is claimed.

John Halsall, chairman of Remenham Parish Council, says the computer system designed to keep traffic jams out of Henley has shifted the problem towards his village.

This has resulted in drivers using residential streets in Remenham and Henley as “rat-runs” to avoid being delayed.

The system, called Split-Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique, or Scoot, was installed by Oxfordshire County Council to “gate” traffic at the entrances to Henley while reducing congestion in the town centre.

It measures vehicle movements at key junctions and adjusts the timing of the traffic lights accordingly.

The county council believes this reduces air pollution from stationary vehicles and makes it safer for pedestrians because drivers don’t bunch up at junctions, forcing people on foot to weave around them. But Councillor Halsall, who is also deputy to Wokingham Borough Council’s executive member for highways, has asked his Oxfordshire counterparts whether the system can be adjusted to relieve traffic on White Hill.

He said: “Clearly Scoot is sophisticated and I want to see if it can be made more responsive to the build-ups which are frequent on the Remenham side of the bridge.

“Oxfordshire is unwilling because Scoot does what it wants, which is to hold up traffic in gates.

“It’s not a new arrangement and has been around for years but as traffic volumes build up, incidences of large queues get greater and create more and more problems.

“We have had several near-fatal accidents with motorcycles and cars making U-turns on the hill. If we reviewed the phasing of the lights we could find the optimal situation which could reduce traffic queues and the waiting time spent crossing the bridge.

“The irony is that the people who are most inconvenienced are probably those who live in South Oxfordshire and trying to get home.

“The other issue is that the queues have created a large amount of rat-running through the lanes of the village. One solution would be to create cul-de-sacs but that would inconvenience residents as well.”!

Cllr Halsall said a possible solution would be the long-debated third bridge over the River Thames, which would complement the existing crossings at Henley and Sonning.

He said: “There seems to be life in this project but I’m sceptical that it will happen in my lifetime. We need Oxfordshire to come to the party — if they do, it will be deliverable very quickly.

“If the bridge problem is solved then then the rat-running will be too. I’ve been in highways for the last year and what’s clear with any traffic problem is if you solve something for somebody it probably inconveniences somebody else.

“We are looking for the best consensual situation. Even if we find that for us it might not be appropriate for the other local authorities or police.

“At the moment all Oxfordshire County Council has done is shift the traffic problems from them to us.”

David Nimmo Smith, Henley’s county councillor and cabinet member for environment, said: “We are aware of the issues on White Hill but they were there before Scoot was put in.

“Scoot is designed to make the centre of Henley as good as possible for pedestrians by not having too many cars in the centre of town. There is more traffic trying to get through than the system can cope with and there’s no simple answer.”

He said the county council was working with Wokingham and Reading councils on the third bridge idea.

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