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Letter: SCC Has a Mountain to Climb to Regain Trust

Published on: 9 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 9 Jan, 2023

From: Terence Newman

In response to: 5 Things We Learned from Guildford Road Closure Meeting

One of the difficulties of a public question and answer session, like Thursday’s meeting at George Abbot, is that straight questions, when given straight answers, leave no opportunity for a challenge to the validity of the answer. “Facts” are tossed into the air, and hang there to be absorbed into the memories of the audience, without any mention of how those “facts” have been derived.

Some examples of the statements/claims made:

“89 accidents occurred to cyclists along London Road since 2016.”

Where did that figure get taken from, because there is a highly-respected website called Crashmap that identifies accidents involving pedal cycles over the same period along the relevant section of London Road. Strange that it should only indicate 11 accidents (two serious and nine slight). Somewhere there must be data that reports another 78 accidents, but such a huge discrepancy is hard to fathom.

“Improved cycle facilities can lead to 50 per cent greater usage, sometimes up to 78 per cent”.

So, of the 260 to 300 daily current users we can expect another 130 to 150 users? That’s great, and some of them will be forsaking driving, which means that up to 150 car journeys will disappear … out of more than 15000 vehicle journeys, and that figure is an underestimate for simplicity.

But for £4.2 million a reduction in congestion and pollution may make a difference of 1 per cent of traffic. Multiply that figure by 100 to see the cost of achieving carbon zero, and instead, perhaps, put it into a tunnel for Guildford and regular electric bus services, leaving the present local roads much freer for cycling.

“We are not required to comply with minimum carriageway widths because it only applies to trunk routes, and we assess that six metres is adequate”.

Why is that so? Because Surrey CC, in their “Create Streets” document, unilaterally opted to ignore national standards in favour of creating streets that are “designed around people, not vehicles”.

No answer was offered, about how the assessment of safety of the narrowed carriageway width was made, nor its effect on access for emergency vehicles.

Just to underline the skill of SCC’s judgment, here is another “fact”: The weight limitation of 7.5 tons through Jacobs Well has been suspended to permit its use by HGVs during the diversion. It wasn’t a limit for physical reasons, but for environmental reasons (clearly not pollution because you couldn’t increase that for a diversion).

It’s a road with several bends and awkward junctions and one of the points needing to be assessed is whether current lengthy, articulated lorries can safely negotiate the route. I’ll leave that question hanging about whether the process was properly conducted … or at all?

And finally: “Yes we consulted the local bus companies”.

No names, no pack drill, but this was the response from a senior person from a local bus company when invited to the meeting: “We are aware of the scheme, but only through social media posts and not directly informed from the relevant body.”

The Nolan principles for behaviour in public life have seven principles: Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.

The closing paragraph of the government’s Gear Change document that lays out all the guidance about the introduction of Active Travel Schemes states: “Proposals must be clear and unambiguous, as detailed as possible, including good maps and drawings, and frank about the disadvantages, to build trust and discourage misrepresentation.”

At the moment Surrey CC has a mountain to climb to get back public belief and support.

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test 2 Responses to Letter: SCC Has a Mountain to Climb to Regain Trust

  1. Simon Mason Reply

    January 9, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    What a fantastic letter from Terrence Newman. Much appreciated.

  2. Graham Tancock Reply

    January 12, 2023 at 9:53 am

    Terence Newman summed it up perfectly in his letter dated Jan 9. The next consultation stage must offer alternatives to this expensive and potentially unwanted scheme.

    Resurfacing the stretch of road and pavements and remarking the current cycle lanes will make a big improvement. As will the introduction of more electric bus services.

    The current road layout cleverly adjusts the lanes to allow buses to stop without holding up traffic, can you imagine the extra pollution from the queues behind buses in the new layout as traffic would have to wait.

    Come on SCC let’s have proper consultation and properly worked alternatives to this vanity scheme.

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