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Letter: Can We Really Afford This Bridge?

Published on: 2 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 2 Jan, 2021

From: Ray Rogers

In response to: The Planned Railway Bridge to Replace Ash Level Crossing Is Necessary

I have read Cllr John Rigg’s letter which sought to convince us that the planned bridge to replace Ash Station level crossing is necessary. Apart from matters such as the damage to the environment of Ash Manor, the claim to reduce pollution, which takes no account of stop/start technology, the increase in electric cars and the adverse impact on residents of Foreman Road, I would like to take up four points: safety, congestion, consultation and cost.

Can we first recognise that the level crossing is simply a set of traffic lights at a crossroad? And it is a very safe set of lights. It flashes well in advance and it has gates as well as lights. Anybody who is silly enough to seek to cross the lines on red has to scale the gate knowing something is definitely coming. They can see a very long way in both directions to spot something very big and the ‘dash’ across is far less in width than a country lane. I don’t recommend it but compare this with any other traffic light controlled crossing: how often do you see people dashing across on red – nearly always and often in the face of oncoming vehicles.

No wonder in the last five years there have been only two misuse incidents, nil near-miss incidents and nil accident incidents (see http://abcrailwayguide.uk/ash-public-level- crossing-surrey#.X-7iNNj7RaQ). Yes, there will be more such incidents than recorded but still no injuries. If there had been lots of injuries the Borough Council would have said so very loudly.

Now for congestion. Yes, there are traffic queues as there are at all traffic lights. Cllr Rigg makes great play of the fact that the crossing is stopped for 25 minutes of each hour. But consider any set of traffic lights at a crossroads which gives equal priority to both roads, lights will be need to be on stop for half of the time in each direction ie 30 minutes in the hour.

Just half a mile down the road there are lights at the junction with Pirbright Road which prioritise traffic flow. I checked when traffic was light and the lights controlling traffic heading straight on to Guildford were on stop for 27 minutes in the hour. So what’s new?

As for consultation, the GBC did try but it appears that a total of only 491 people attended the events. Feedback forms revealed that 134 people agreed to the question “Would the bridge reduce congestion?” whereas 73 disagreed or didn’t know. This is portrayed as overwhelming support. Really?

But the most significant question “Do you overall support the bridge or not?” was never put. There is more to the bridge than congestion. Ash Green Residents Association (AGRA) called a meeting September 2019 which was attended by over 60 residents (just from Ash Green). They were asked that question “Do you support the bridge or not?” The overwhelming majority were against with only three in favour.

In the case for the bridge written by the GBC’s planning officer to be considered by the Planning Committee on 6 January, objections to the bridge are listed. This is how they treated the AGRA residents “• it is claimed that at the October EGM of the Ash Green Residents Association which was attended by over 60 people only three residents voted in favour of the bridge. AGRA infer that this clearly shows that the vast majority object to it. [Officer Note: While the inference is that the majority of attendees were against the proposal, this is not evidenced in the submission. Therefore, caution should be used when deciding the weight to be attached to this comment.”

So far from welcoming AGRA’s initiative to ascertain residents’ views the GBC attempts to dismiss them by implying dishonesty. This demeaning attitude reveals how serious the council was in seeking opinions contrary to their own.

Finally costs. Initially, the bridge cost was estimated at £15million but that figure has now risen to around £26million. When we are facing terrible Covid pandemic problems, with people are losing their jobs and homes, families not being able to afford council tax, rents and mortgages and food banks becoming a necessity for so very many of our fellow citizens and children going hungry, can we really justify spending £millions of our money to get rid of a set of traffic lights? I don’t think so.

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test 5 Responses to Letter: Can We Really Afford This Bridge?

  1. James Heaphy Reply

    January 3, 2021 at 8:10 pm

    Well said Ray Rogers.

    This bridge feels like a solution looking for a problem to solve.

    As you say, there are far higher priorities for £20m+ of spending right now.

  2. John Morris Reply

    January 3, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    May I pick up Ray Rogers on the final part of his letter by trying to reassure him that spending money on any project like this bridge will create jobs locally and in an unknown wider area? While some of it will be money that council tax payers will contribute, much of the rest, I suspect, will have been issued by the government, the sovereign authority for the Pound Sterling, direct to the local authority.

    Incidentally, it is time the government realises that it has the power to ensure that no one loses their home, that food banks may be abolished at a stroke so that everyone could afford the costs of housing and food and energy. It’s called Universal Basic Income.

    John Morris is the leader of the Peace Party

  3. Alastair Watson Reply

    January 4, 2021 at 12:10 am

    Nothing new here. GBC normally ignores objections, base their “statistics” on a base too low for any valid conclusion and make planning decisions by dictat.

  4. Jon Agar Reply

    January 4, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    If a bridge is so in demand. Make it a toll bridge, then those who want it can pay for it. If a bridge is needed for Foreman Road residents, well most have only there a short time.

  5. H Trevor Jones Reply

    January 5, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    I live in Guildford and I don’t drive. Pre-Covid I would only pass through Ash by train a few times a year, so I’ve no opinion on a new road bridge there. But what I do know and have even seen from a train is that with a tight connection between a Reading train and an Aldershot train, the crossing can prevent making a train connection if the gates remain shut for both trains in succession and people have been known to jump over the gates to avoid having to wait half an hour or an hour for the next train. So what is actually needed is a station footbridge?

    If a road bridge be built, then there should be footsteps (or ramps if there’s room) up onto the bridge from each platform.

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