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Bus Operators Want ‘U-Turn’ on North Street Bus Station Plans

Published on: 28 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 28 Oct, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford bus operators and a borough councillor have objected to the “access arrangements, future capacity and operability” of the bus station improvement plans, part of the St Edwards’ Friary Quarter North Street proposals.

Existing and proposed views of the Guildford bus station as part of the North Street regeneration

They say the proposals will add to bus journey times, not allow for future expansion of bus services and want the plans to be changed.

The lack of toilet and café facilities has also been criticised with one bus operator saying “excellent customer facilities” had to be provided to encourage “modal-shift”.

Illustrative view of the refurbished bus station looking south towards North Street.

The new bus station, detailed in the planning application for the controversial North Street development, due to come before the GBC Planning Committee on November 22, will be in the same location as the existing bus station but smaller. According to the plan it would have one access in and out onto Leapale Road, allowing North Street to be pedestrianised from The Friary Centre to Leapale Road.

See 15 Storeys High But People At North Street Exhibition Say It’s ‘Good For Guildford’ (August 2022)

Cllr Tony Rooth said the plans were “very questionable at best, seriously flawed at worst”.

Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrims) said the plans were “very questionable at best, seriously flawed at worst” and he called for a u-turn on the design.

He added: “The proposed [bus station] refurbishment looks attractive but contains no facilities such as toilets, café, drivers’ rest spaces and The Friary brick wall will just be repainted to hang a large Guildford sign.”

The developer St Edward defended their plans saying the “size of the bus station, the layout and the new access arrangement will work for the existing and future bus services for the town.” They said they were “working closely with SCC [Surrey County Council]” and were “currently discussing some interesting ideas with them”.

One of the “interesting ideas” could be to retain the bus access from North Street, with a shared pedestrian and bus space up to Commercial Road, a concept supported by Andrew Halliday, managing director of Safeguard Coaches.

Andrew Halliday, managing director of Safeguard Coaches talked about a  “once-in-a-generation opportunity”.

He said: “Potential conflict between buses and pedestrians in the shared space could be managed as in other cities. Low-emission buses would address air quality concerns. Significant improvements to the public realm and the streetscape could still be achieved.”

The Safeguard objection said the current proposals would add to bus journey times, with a longer and more congested route. The proposed size of the bus station took a “pessimistic view of the future use of buses”, not allowing for future expansion of the bus services.

The objection also criticised the lack of proposed customer and staff facilities saying “we must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create bus facilities that the town can be proud of”.

Edward Hodgson, Stagecoach managing director, said the developers design would “penalise bus users and ultimately further car dependency and the associated environmental damage”.

SCC highways department has also objected to the plans. A spokesperson said the developer had not demonstrated the access arrangements would work or that the “local road network can adequately accommodate the highway alterations and road closures” proposed by the development.

The county council also called for more details about the “reduction in the number of bus stands and layover spaces” and how the pedestrianisation of North Street would be implemented.

A spokesperson for the developer said: “We have acknowledged the concerns lodged by both the bus operators and SCC’s highways department during the extensive preplanning and planning stages of the project. We and our transport experts are working closely with SCC in particular to address their remaining concerns and we are currently discussing some interesting ideas with them, which will go some way towards alleviating their remaining issues with the bus station plans.

“We believe strongly that the size of the bus station, the layout and the new access arrangement will work for the existing and future bus services for the town.

“GBC has separately commissioned two independent reports from specialist third-party transport consultants, who have verified that the proposals are fit for purpose. We understand that these will be made public soon.”

The proposed Friary Quarter for 473 homes and commercial and retail units is estimated to cost £166 million to build. Subject to planning approval, construction is scheduled to start in spring 2023. The site has been derelict for over 30 years and the bus station and the North Street pedestrianisation, estimated by the developer as costing £10 million, has been a key part of selling the high-rise development to the public.

In the debate on the future of the bus station, maintenance of the facilities has been raised. The Dragon asked the developer about who will maintain the bus station on completion. The developer’s spokesperson said: “In terms of bus services, infrastructure and funding this is the responsibility of SCC as the transport authority. We understand that in the absence of funding for the bus station proposals or historic maintenance from SCC that GBC has covered the costs.

“The ongoing maintenance of the new facility will need to be agreed between GBC as landowner and SCC as provider of bus services.”

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Responses to Bus Operators Want ‘U-Turn’ on North Street Bus Station Plans

  1. Mark Stamp Reply

    October 28, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    Edward Hodgson says that the plans will penalise bus users and further car dependency. I would suggest if he is worried about this then he should be concentrating on improving the service around Guildford where buses are regularly cancelled and timetables being cut. We still don’t have Park & Ride services from the Spectrum.

    • Harry Eve Reply

      October 30, 2022 at 1:19 pm

      But we do still have at least one road sign directing visitors to Spectrum Park & Ride.

      Mind you, most drivers ignore the “bus lane suspended” signs too so perhaps it doesn’t matter.

  2. Sue Warner Reply

    October 28, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    I must say when I visited their open evening to show their plans, I took along a photo of how the current bus station floods in severe weather and it was dismissed with “oh there’s an underground chamber”.

    So what? The bus station floods as does the junction of Leapale Road & Commercial Road (right outside their offices) and they didn’t seem to care.

    Doesn’t give me confidence that they have anything but profit considerations as far as this scheme is concerned.

  3. Anthony Mallard Reply

    October 29, 2022 at 10:21 am

    I appreciate that the plans for the bus station are effectively done and dusted but I remain puzzled why the public transport arrangements in Guildford are not integrated. It’s unhelpful for everyone, especially the disabled.

    Clearly, it would be advantageous for the bus services and the railway to be co-located. As it is, the walk from the railway station to the bus terminus can be a very wet one, especially as the traffic light system at the bottom of Bridge Street maroons one on the small traffic island because the gyratory light system isn’t seemingly co-ordinated.

    Surely, if public transport use is to be promoted over cars it must be reliable and effectively organised. Have I missed something?

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    October 29, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Bus Operators Want ‘U-Turn’ on North Street Bus Station Plans – but where would the bus station go? Would Bedford Road surface car park be a possible site?

    How did St Edwards develop their scheme apparently without consulting the bus operators?

    I note that Surrey County Council has also opposed to the proposed alterations. I have on many occasions expressed my views here on The Dragon News on the proposal of both entry and exit on the north side of the bus station that these might cause traffic congestion and tailbacks on the approaches to York Road roundabout.

    I also noted that, “GBC has separately commissioned two independent reports from specialist third-party transport consultants, who have verified that the proposals are fit for purpose. We understand that these will be made public soon.”

    So why two reports? Is GBC promoting St Edwards’ scheme in an attempt to reach housing targets regardless of its consequences on traffic and the bus users? This would bring into question the findings of these specialists when the bus operators and SCC, the Highway Authority, are raising objections.

    GBC, for reasons known to themselves, are not appreciating the need to take into account all the diverse issues, ditch the piecemeal approach and develop the masterplan with solutions that:

    – creates safer and wider pedestrian routes and new cycle routes to the town centre,

    – creates an attractively regenerated riverside – one of the aims of GBC,

    – gets rid of the gyratory but not promote unworkable ideas like the Y-option and congestion charging,

    – achieves much-reduced congestion in the town,

    – opens up the opportunity to relocate North Street market on Friary Bridge thus re-vitalising North Street businesses by improving their frontage.

    Essential in achieving all the above is a new east-west route. Solum’s “Great Wall” [railway station development] necessitates a route further north, possibly through Jewson’s Yard and the light industrial area opposite in Walnut Tree Close and coming through Arriva Bus Depot to meet up with Leas Road. Developers would find it an attractive proposal for building apartment blocks along the route by procuring land and properties and at the same time contribute to the cost of building the new route.

  5. D Sheppard Reply

    November 5, 2022 at 8:44 am

    This plan is so utterly appalling in manifest respects that it needs to be scrapped and replaced by an intelligent and competent one. As is, this will be the usual massively over time and budget disaster that only GBC can mastermind – regularly.

    Remember, this is the council that “masterminded” The Village, not once, but twice, and can’t even get a small river bridge mended in over three years. Why on earth are they allowed to be in charge of anything more than a child’s train set?

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