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Letter: Combining a Traffic Solution With the New North Street Redevelopment

Published on: 1 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 1 Jul, 2020

Woodbridge Road Traffic

From Simon Dove

In response to: Other Ways to Help Solve the Guildford Gridlock Problem

Bibhas Neogi’s suggestion for a “tolled tunnel from A281 Shalford to the A25 Stoke Park with spur connections to the A3100 at Artington and the A248 at Broadbridge” seems rather complicated.

But there is a much simpler solution to alleviating some of the town centre traffic blight using a “once in a generation” opportunity to make use of the North Street redevelopment.

A “cut and cover” tunnel could replace the A281, from Leapale Road, outside St Saviour’s, under and as part of the North Street redevelopment. That could continue under the Phoenix Court shopping centre (which might benefit from regeneration), and come out on Millbrook next to Mill Lane (opposite Debenhams).

This route has many advantages:

1. Pedestrians and cyclists would not have to negotiate the busy road between Town Bridge and the High Street;

2. The historic Town Wharf could be reconnected to the High Street and the town centre to become a part of a new and revitalised public space;

3. the blank walls of the buildings facing the river behind Friary Street could be opened to provide terraces and outside seating for the Friary Street restaurants or new opportunities for businesses;

4. Northbound traffic on the A281 would not have to negotiate the three sides of the gyratory, and avoid the town centre, particularly if towards northern Guildford, Woodbridge and York Roads, with far fewer traffic lights to negotiate;

5. Southbound traffic towards Shalford from Woodbridge/York Roads would also face fewer traffic lights;

6. Traffic turning into the A281 from the gyratory (which seems to cause the worst snarl-ups, especially traffic coming out of the station and heading into the single lane for the A281) would be removed, in the short-term allowing the gyratory to flow more smoothly and in the long-term opening up potential for the gyratory to be completely redesigned or even removed; and

7. By combining much of the work with the North Street redevelopment, traffic flow disruption during building works would be minimised, and the tunnel route under Phoenix Court reduces the impact on the historic fabric of Guildford.

Historic shop-fronts on the High Street can be maintained, and the route of the tunnel can avoid listed buildings on Quarry Street and Mill Lane.

There are disadvantages, in particular for drivers wanting to go between the A31 and the A281. With a tunnel, this traffic would have to use Onslow Street to reach the northern entrance to the tunnel.

But if the Guildford Vision Group’s plans for a new East-West crossing come to fruition this issue would be reduced (and traffic schemes suggested recently in the Guildford Dragon involve traffic diversion).

Also, Google Maps suggest that at peak times to reach Shalford from the A31 it is almost as quick to use the A3100 and cross the river at Broadford Bridge.  This may be a practical alternative route to develop.

The other issue is traffic wanting to access the High Street and Quarry Street for deliveries, evening parking etc. This is solved by reopening the Town Bridge, one way, from Millmead.  Vehicle access would be from the A3100 rather than the A281.

Vehicle access across the Town Bridge could be limited to the same hours on the High Street, or perhaps the bridge and the lower High Street could be turned into a “shared space” similar to Exhibition Road in London, or other projects in the Netherlands.

I think Lewes has a High Street where the bridge over the Ouse is used by both pedestrians and vehicles. This could be a model for Guildford.

With the tunnel, the case for a new northern East-West crossing of the river becomes much stronger.  That would provide an excellent springboard from where, with luck and good planning, we can get rid of the gyratory itself and fully return the riverfront to public space rather than roadspace.

This really would be a once in a generation opportunity.  We saw with the station how a development can be pushed through despite blocking the potential for infrastructure upgrades.

We should try to avoid that with the North Street development as well. Also, perhaps some of this recently promised government infrastructure spending could be used for this purpose?

If anyone has ideas to improve these suggestions, they would be more than welcome.

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test 3 Responses to Letter: Combining a Traffic Solution With the New North Street Redevelopment

  1. Bill Stokoe Reply

    July 1, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    I fully support proper examination of infrastructure initiatives such as this. Bibhas has long advocated a cut and cover tunnel. GVG’s commitment to an East/West link across the river and railway is well known.

    The appointment of a new GBC head of regeneration will provide the opportunity to install an experienced and well-qualified officer to lead a pro-active team to pursue game-changing development and new, people-focused infrastructure. Such work is the way to ensure Guildford’s longtime health and continuing attraction.

    Bill Stokoe is the chair of the Guildford Vision Group

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 1, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    It all sounds very simple and interesting, so I hope the councils would explore Mr Dove’s suggestion. It may be helpful if Mr Dove draws up a few sketches showing the layout of the route and the buildings that need demolishing along the way.

    The tunnel invert would be a minimum of 6m below the ground level and therefore a ramp of say, 1 in 20, would be some 120 – 130 meters long with transitions at both ends. While it would be possible to accommodate such a length within the North Street development area, I am unsure how this could be accommodated when it emerges out near Mill Lane and at the same time maintain traffic on the A281.

    Perhaps Mr Dove hasn’t seen my website where I have suggested lowering the A281 in an underground route using top-down construction. The tunnel I suggested between Shalford and Parkway is primarily to take traffic away from the town centre.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 8, 2020 at 9:41 am

    Interesting idea but is it achievable? North Street site and Phoenix Court do not actually line up well as a route for a tunnel avoiding buildings that are either too expensive to demolish or are of historical value such as the two listed buildings on Friary Street/High Street junction.

    Maintaining traffic during construction is also an integral part of any improvement scheme. How would the A281 traffic be maintained when the southern part of the tunnel is constructed?

    The problem is through traffic together with traffic in the town centre that is challenging for pedestrians and cyclists.

    The solutions have to address both. A tunnel (in the town centre) would enable a pedestrian-friendly town centre whilst a tunnel between the A281 and the A25 would reduce through traffic a great deal.

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