From The Wokingham Times
A traffic campaigner has earned an assurance from council bosses that they will examine the costs of building a road bridge to ease town centre congestion.
Steve Bacon attended a meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s executive earlier this month to press councillors to reconsider the plan for the new link road at Wokingham railway station.
Mr Bacon, a former councillor, is urging the council to instead build a bridge over the railway line which he maintains will improve the traffic flow.
He claims the current proposal to build a £6 million link road will continue to put drivers at the mercy of a level crossing, where waiting times can be up to seven minutes.
In a written question to the executive at the meeting on June 2, Mr Bacon asked councillors to investigate the comparative costs and benefits of the link road between Station Road and Reading Road with those of a road bridge.
He urged them to take into account time and fuel savings and the improved air quality in Wokingham town centre from fewer idling cars, as well as the value of increasing line capacity and doing away with the staffing of the level crossing.
After the meeting, Mr Bacon, who lives in Aborfield, said: “I have asked for a cost and benefit analysis. This should include looking at the costs of staffing the level crossing 24 hours a day, seven days a week and maintaining it.”
Mr Bacon said he believed that a road bridge would enable increased train flow and could qualify for Network Rail funding under its discretionary scheme for one-off payments of projects up to £5million.
Mr Bacon, who failed in his bid to be re-elected on to the council in May’s elections, said the unpredictability of the level crossing was a serious problem for Wokingham’s drivers.
He joked: “On election night both myself and my opposition candidate were accosted by two voters who were held up at the crossing for seven minutes and lost their vote. I like to think they would have voted for me!”
On Wednesday, June 1, Mr Bacon conducted a six-hour survey on the level crossing, recording the length of time the barriers were closed.
He said: “The key issue for motorists approaching the level crossing from Barkham Road is the sheer unpredictability of the barrier down-time which the link road won’t alleviate. I observed that the average ‘red time’ when the red lights were flashing was two minutes 41 seconds if only one train crossed, but four minutes and 40 seconds if two passed when the barriers were still down. One sequence took more than seven minutes.”
Mr Bacon said that during the morning peak time the red lights were flashing for 44 per cent of the time and for 40 per cent during the evening rush.
He added: “It’s obvious that any extra train movements – or multiple train movements – could easily push the down-time to well over 50 per cent, even if the proposed link road were built.”
Councillor Angus Ross, executive member for local and regional planning, confirmed that the council would look at the cost and practicality of the bridge plan.
He said: “The council will be undertaking a simple investigation. We are not going to be spending a lot of money.”
The council is working on plans for the link road, along with a redevelopment of the station, with Network Rail.
Further details on the project are expected to be released later this year.