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Letter: Alternative Bus Station Ideas Offer Additional Benefits

Published on: 24 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 24 Jun, 2022

From: Bibhas Neogi

In response to: Guildford Has Waited Too Long for North Street Regeneration Guildford Has Waited Too Long for North Street Regeneration

There is no doubt North Street development must go ahead and I do not wish and have no power to impede its progress. However, I am being objective in helping GBC achieve the best possible outcome in avoiding the mistake of retaining the bus station in its current location at the expense of further traffic congestion and poorer bus service.

I thank Cllr John Rigg for acknowledging the thought that has gone behind my comments on possible relocation of the bus station. Maybe I should have offered to sell my ideas for £1 million and then GBC and SCC would have taken them seriously.

It has been mentioned before that £4 million is the contribution to the developer for refurbishing the bus station (bit pricey for a canopy) and some £1 million for pedestrian friendly North Street. I am a bit confused as to who is contributing £4 million for the bus station.

Cllr Rigg said, “it became clear residents wanted the bus station to be as near as possible to the retail areas, not to the station”. This is because neither GBC nor SCC had explored the idea of the relocation that retained the convenience of the residents and bus users alike and made any attempt to explain this.

No one has to walk from the location of the existing bus station to the new one. I have proposed a set of bus stops (a mini-hub) where buses would set down incoming passengers from the north and the east and pick up those wanting to go to the new bus station and/or the railway station.

Those that arrive from the west and the south can easily access the Friary by using the pedestrian crossings in Onslow Street. If the crossings are considered hazardous, why then was Walnut Bridge replaced at a cost of £5 million?

The councils should have taken my idea, on my website since August 2011, of an elevated walkway from the railway station to the Friary (later a similar idea proposed by Guildford Vision Group), connecting with the bus station on its way, long before and not wasted the £5 million.

Buses from the west and the south would still have to use Onslow Street and York Road roundabout to get to Woodbridge Road entrance of the bus station. Yes, it could be advantageous if the north in and north out entry and exit work but that seems to me to be problematical. More congestion around York Road roundabout and delay at the three-way traffic lights to enter the bus station are some of the drawbacks of this proposal.

Outgoing buses to Woodbridge Road and York Road would still continue to share the same road space with traffic coming down Leapale Road and congestion here is already pretty bad during peak periods. A similar proposal was rejected in the past, so what has changed? Are bus operators agreeable to such changes? If this does not work, there would be another £4 million wasted.

There was a proposal over ten years ago to develop Bedford Road surface car park site for retail, office and residential units but this proposal never got off the ground. So why this ‘prime site’ has remained forgotten by the developers for so long? By retaining the current bus station is it not prolonging the use of this “prime site” for parking buses?

I have listed the advantages of locating the bus station in Bedford Road. It requires modest alterations to the lane layout in Onslow Street but entry and exit routes in comparison are much better. Such relocation allows the creation of a pedestrian friendly North Street, just the same.

Additionally, no temporary bus station on Portsmouth Road car park would be necessary again saving some money and inconvenience if the new station is designed, built and made ready for the relocation. This would provide a safe North Street construction site compliant with Health and Safety requirements.

It should be an important consideration that the space vacated by the bus station could be used for more housing units on this ‘prime site’ and therefore such a design modification offers better scope for reducing heights of buildings proposed.

The result would be a more pleasant environment overall without the hustle and bustle of a busy bus station. I would like to think Cllr Rigg with his professional experience would have appreciated the value of this site for more housing rather than a bus station.

For long-term improvements, a new east-west route would reduce traffic in the gyratory and enable regeneration of the riverside by closing Friary Bridge to traffic. It would also be possible to have direct bus routes to the west out from the new bus station. But until then, the relocated bus station would work just as well.

I hope a holistic approach to developments would replace piecemeal approach that Guildford is currently suffering from.

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