Fringe Box



Letter: The North Street Development Should Include a Luxury Bus Station

Published on: 2 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 2 Jan, 2017

From Gordon Bridger

Hon Alderman and former Mayor of Guildford

The answer to Bernard Parke’s question, in his letter: Why Move the Bus Station? has traditionally been a financial one, i.e. that it is uneconomic to have buses standing idle in valuable town centre land – and in Guildford’s case it is using valuable commercial land which could be used for retail.

This was my view too but as far as Guildford is concerned I have changed my mind. I now think that for a town of Guildford’s standing, in order to make visiting the town centre a better experience and because of the need to reduce car access we need a high quality town centre bus station.

Currently it is also an important departure point to the hospital, the university and the research park as well as a valuable link with north Guildford. It would be cruel to expect people wait in what Bill Bryson calls “wind tunnels with advertisements”. Surely we can do better?

We should plan a really comfortable area, sealed like the new underground stations, with proper seating, decent cafe’s and attractive decoration. Those planning the North Street development propose a quality mixed development. Why not make a luxury bus station a feature of the new town centre?

But it need not occupy all the area it does at present – probably only around 50%.

A the moment Guildford Borough Council’s plans seem to envisage some 45,000 sq metres of retail, a 40% increase of what we have at present. If this goes ahead it would undermine the financial viability of many existing town centre shops, and could bankrupt the investor.

So why not a vision of a really high quality smaller bus centre which users would enjoy and which be a fitting facility for the quality town centre we would all like to see?

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Responses to Letter: The North Street Development Should Include a Luxury Bus Station

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    January 3, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    As we know there had been a long hiatus because the owner of the Friary Shopping Centre could not come up with a development scheme, to encompass the other sites they own in the North Street area, unless the bus station area is also included.

    It is my understanding that in the interim period, a smaller bus station design was indeed explored by the council but it too did not progress and finally the council has come to an agreement with the current owners of the Friary Shopping Centre to relocate the bus station altogether.

    I agree with Alderman Gordon Bridger that a comfortable modern waiting area for bus users should be at the town centre but buses need not wait next to it at a station there. A bus station, even a smaller one, would take up a lot of maneuvering space in addition to the bus bays, so a compromise solution would be to create a mini hub, with say up to six on-street bus bays. Buses would set down or pick up passengers and be on their way.

    So, the bus station could be remote from the core town centre where all transfer connections could be made. I have suggested such a hub integrated with the Friary Extension as shown on my website and link quoted below for quick reference,-

    The bus station could be located at Mary Road car park site again with all modern facilities away from the high value core town centre area. Elsewhere in The Dragon, I have explained how the bus routes could be split to connect with the railway station before proceeding to Mary Road bus station. There is a section on buses on my website that explains these ideas more elaborately.

  2. Dave Middleton Reply

    January 3, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Once again I’d like to say that the Farnham Road Bus Station site should be reconsidered as a new home for the town’s main bus station.

    1. With a little planning and raising of the surface level, flooding concerns can be readily dealt with.

    2. It is located at the bottom of the town, with direct access to the railway station via the pedestrian subway, so no need to cross a busy road.

    3. If the footbridge over the river at the bottom of Friary Passage was reinstated, a traffic free pedestrian access to Friary Street / North Street / the High Street would be possible.

    4. There is already a surface level pedestrian crossing linking the Town Bridge with the lower end of the High Street.

    5. If, following the pedestrianisation of Bridge Street and making Friary Bridge two-way, the bus station was located on this site and the Town Bridge opened to buses and emergency vehicles only, then buses approaching and leaving the town on the A281 Millbrook, A3100 Portsmouth Road and A31 Farnham Road would not have to circle the gyratory system, thus reducing congestion.

    6. Buses approaching the bus station from Woodbridge Road / Onslow Street, would only have to travel a short distance further to reach the new site. Only buses travelling along North Street would actually have to enter the town centre itself.

    All in all, I can’t really see any negatives for the return of the bus station to it’s old home.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      January 9, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      There is a general aspiration to use riverside areas in the town centre as public places for leisure and those elsewhere for possible residential developments. Allies and Morrison in their vision for Guildford that has been adopted by the council, has suggested keeping the George Abbot Pub as part of the transformed riverside arena that would add charm to Guildford’s character.

      I am not sure whether Farnham Road car park could hold all the bus bays. In the days before the Friary Bridge was built, there was also Onslow Street bus station, next to Rodborough Buildings. Even if Farnham Road car park could hold all the bus bays, buses connecting the railway station would find the route back to this place a little bit difficult when there would be only one southbound lane available for all traffic on Park Street.

      Alternatively, buses could go up Bridge Street and turn right on to Friary Bridge – all in all it would be a bit of a tortuous route. Another factor is that the town centre has moved a bit towards the Friary and it is a fair walk carrying ones shopping from there to this location.

      Even with the subways from here to the railway station it is a bit too long, if one is carrying luggage, not to mention anti-social activities, out of hours, within the subways. Anyway, the councils are rumoured to have issued all their transportation staff with buckets and trowels to fill in the subways with concrete whenever the opportunity arises.

      I would therefore strongly recommend that the bus station should be located on Mary Road car park site instead. I have described on my website, and in my comments above, my reasons for choosing this site in preference to Bedford Road car park site. It has a better access potential and it is already surrounded by buildings and not adjacent to the river.

  3. Gordon Bridger Reply

    January 4, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Dr Neogi is right to differentiate between the need for a comfortable waiting area and the need to ensure that bus space is efficiently used.

    It will be essential to have data on passenger waiting times before condemning all users to windy advertising prison seating bus shelters. This would be a step backwards.

    There are however practical problems in trying to move buses to less expensive waiting spaces – they are difficult to find and likely to be costly and bus operators will say it requires more bus time and thus increased travel costs.

    From a bus users point of view the current location is the best option. Retailers would benefit from its current location which could be turned much more economically into a comfortable waiting area than a new site elsewhere.

  4. Keith White Reply

    January 5, 2017 at 11:29 am

    What is this obsession with increasing retail space? It has been widely reported for years that the number of actual visits to shops is reducing, due to online shopping. We need homes in the town before more shops and offices.

    The bus station needs to be nearer to the railway station to create a proper transport interchange.

  5. Mary Redgwell Reply

    January 7, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Reopening the Farnham Road bus station site sounds like common sense. At the moment it is used for contract parking but the car park could be above the bus station.

    It is vital to have a place in the centre of Guildford for buses to hospital.

  6. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 27, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I have not come across any more news on what is happening with North Street redevelopment scheme. Anyone knows or have had involvement with the consultation of stakeholders promised by the council?

    Redesigning of the gyratory to make the town centre pedestrian friendly is inherently linked with this scheme since the relocation of the bus station or its replacement by on-street “windy advertising prison seating bus shelters” as described above by Mr Gordon Bridger is a very important factor.

    In response to comments invited for the Local Plan, I have sent my ideas as described on my website to the Planning Policy Team of Guildford Borough Council and to the Major Schemes Team of Surrey County Council.

    Yes, my plan is radical and innovative but it does offer, I think, the best possible solution for all road users in Guildford. The sketch in the link below shows this,

    The full text that accompany this sketch is as follows,-
    “The A281 traffic is put underground in a tunnel like structure leaving the surface road for buses, taxis, emergency vehicles and of course pedestrians and cyclists. Portsmouth Road traffic continues into a widened Walnut Tree Close (WTC) with four lanes of Park Street reduced to three and a wider west footway and a cycle lane are created. WTC is made a single lane northwards beyond the junction with Station View and Station View is extended northwards and connected to WTC beside Jewson’s Yard to let southbound traffic access the railway Station and exit at the junction and then going either north or south. The footway beside the ramp down to the subway that goes under to YMCA is placed on a ramp and a footbridge that sails over the subway entrance and takes pedestrians to a staggered crossing and a cycle crossing of Farnham Road as well. The bus station could relocated either in Bedford Road or Mary Road car park site. Bridge Street is made two-way for buses, taxis and emergency vehicles and an eastbound cycle lane is created. Friary Bridge is closed to all traffic. East-west traffic is put on a bridge over the railway and extended on a flyover thus connecting Guildford Park Road to Woodbridge Road. A one-way loop is created by the Police Station that connects the Flyover at Mary Road and then goes to Leas Road , both made two lanes going one-way.”

    Please see other sketches for details of these layouts. As the website has grown over the years there are still ideas about other configurations that were worked out in the past but where they conflict, they should be disregarded. They have been kept for records of the development of the website.

    Thus an almost traffic-free town centre is created with safe cycle routes and a much better traffic flow is achieved. To the best of my knowledge no other suggestion has offered to improve traffic flow this well and to provide safer pedestrian and cycle routes. Please click on my highlighted name in the comments above to access my website.

    I would urge the councils to study the ideas and suggestions carefully.

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