Sunday, 16 March 2014

Third Thames Bridge, be careful what you wish for #rdguk

Interesting information from Reading Friends of the Earth on flooding and a third Thames bridge. Below is an article which originally featured in their supporters' e-mail newsletter:

Third Thames Bridge and flooding
The flooding and the congestion resulting from closure of the road north of Sonning Bridge has led to calls for a Third Thames Bridge from Rob Wilson MP, supported by several hundred people at a recent meeting in Caversham. South Oxfordshire has long opposed this – presumably because of fears that it would open up the area for development.

Reading Council is in favour of a third bridge, although Councillor Page did comment that to attract private finance it was quite likely that it would be a toll bridge. Our recent comments on the proposed Cycling Strategy called for road user charging – see

It does seem very likely that - because Reading already has high levels of traffic and congestion at peak hours - a relatively small increase in traffic diverted from the Sonning route will make congestion in Reading much worse, and this seems to be the case. Several people have pointed out that the first priority should be to investigate if it is possible to flood-proof the short length of road north of Sonning Bridge which frequently floods.

As well as a road bridge Mr. Wilson is also advocating a north-south bypass for Caversham – but produced no route maps which might have caused concern among residents. This seems a step towards the London Outer Orbital which was discussed in the 1990s, and was revived by the Association of British Drivers some years ago - see - a massive loop from the Channel Tunnel to Junction 10 of the M4 and then back east to Harwich.

The 2002 Cross-Thames Travel Study (Google ‘Cross-Thames Travel Study Wokingham’) found that much of the travel across Reading bridges was relatively short cross-river trips which could to some extent be met by improved public transport and cycling. It reported traffic modelling which showed that a bridge would have knock-on effects on other routes and so increase through traffic in Caversham.

The report says:

  • .Given the potential suppressed demand for cross-river trips, any new road capacity is likely to rapidly induce traffic growth to match the capacity of the new bridge(s). While this would provide some benefits by displacing traffic, for example {a bridge} at Sonning, would create considerable additional traffic flows on the surrounding road networks in South Oxfordshire and south of the river in Reading and Wokingham. The existing road networks do not have sufficient spare capacity to deal with the significant additional demand, especially in South Oxfordshire.
  • A new mass transit system for the Reading/Wokingham area, together with network-wide bus and rail service enhancements plus parking restraint and traffic constraint, would provide a modern and effective means of reducing river-crossing traffic congestion, and addressing future travel demand in the area.

An economic analysis concluded

  • The solution within the 'Study' area is seen to rest with the extensively enhanced provision of mass transit, especially for commuters. The option of additional road infrastructure in the form of a by-pass to avoid and/or alleviate congestion although tendered as an option is rejected as impracticable in terms of cost, environmental implications and on the basis of computer modelling which shows that this type of provision does not solve the problem in this case.
  • The provision of mass/public transport has to be made in the light of a predominantly car based transport system, a major city intent on economic expansion but with a remote employee base, the presence of a substantial rural area plus significant across district long distance commuting.

It is important that a full long-term assessment of alternatives, including traffic and environmental implications, is undertaken before the proposal gathers too much momentum. Surely the floods should strengthen, rather than weaken, the arguments for reducing vehicle use? If there is a strategic plan to expand Reading over the Chilterns and create an Outer Orbital motorway loop it should be assessed and debated, not implemented incrementally.

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