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Letter: We Need A Modern, Fully Integrated Transport Hub in Guildford

Published on: 4 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 4 Nov, 2015

From Barry Williams

Lord Adonis of the National Infrastructure Commission is reported as saying that he expects towns such as Oxford, Guildford, Reading and Stratford upon Avon will need to double in size.

If true, that increased populace will need and surely demand a fully integrated transport hub and network around the town and the key outlying routes if the town and its local economy is to prosper and we are not to grind to a halt.

Indeed, looking some way into the future, Network Rail’s passenger and traffic growth projections for the Wessex route show additional lines and platforms being needed at Guildford station (10 platforms in all).

A new planning application is shortly anticipated from the station developers Solum, who hopefully have taken account of many valid objections  to the previous plans — but in practice will we see  more of the same old, same old, a rehash of the retail, commercial and housing gains without any immediate consideration of future traffic expansion.

What this expanding university town needs is a modern, fully integrated transport hub with smart, sustainable design. That surely is what Guildford Borough Council (GBC), Surrey County Council and the government’s infrastructure minister should now be be demanding of Network Rail and its partners.

It is not sufficient that GBC’s Town Centre Master Plan makes encouraging noises about Modal Shift in transport and traffic issues, proposes some interesting ideas, yet that same document lacks any detailed comment on the future of the railway station.

Why not think about building a raft and using the air space above the station and over and along the tracks for the greater benefit of freeing up other land areas. Constructing a raft may pose operational and technical challenges but surely not as great as those upgrades seen elsewhere on the rail network e.g. London Bridge station.

Also we know that the Farnham Road Bridge will need replacing so if we are to have building disruptions at the station over a period of some 18 to 24 months or longer why not combine those building programmes and get it all over and done with under one great plan and minimise inconvenience.

Kanezawa Station

Kanezawa Station, Japan

I recently visited Japan and saw many examples of truly integrated transport hubs. The picture above is of Kanezawa station, completed six months ago and upgraded with the arrival of the Shinkansen bullet train lines sited alongside the existing main line station. OK, high speed is not coming to Guildford but we could learn from this design.

Note the separated traffic loops for buses and taxis (repeated on the other side of the station also) with waiting passengers being under the cover of the main canopy which contains  ticketing machines, seating areas, a travel and tourist office and even a small police station.

There is provision at ground level for short term parking and “kiss and drop” whilst long term parking is on the roof above the main line track. There is bicycle storage and left luggage provision at ground level in the main station complex. Underneath the tracks are some 200 shops and, of course, access to the platforms is by lift or escalator.

The net result, local citizens are delighted with their station, they see greater numbers of visitors (up by 20% since opening) and the economy is booming.

Too grand for Guildford? Too modern for Guildford? Not possible in Guildford because of our topography and flood plain? All that is lacking is imagination.

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Responses to Letter: We Need A Modern, Fully Integrated Transport Hub in Guildford

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 4, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    It’s times like these one wonders why the writer has not been recruited by the town master plan team.

  2. Frank Phillipson Reply

    November 4, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I don’t want to live in a place that looks like the Kanezawa station photo.

    A raft over the station will just make it like Euston or New Street station Birmingham where passengers are in a dark dingy subterranean surroundings.I shouldn’t think many in Guildford would want to shop in 200 underground stores.

    We are not a major urban city. I would prefer a local economy that maintains existing local companies and existing number of visitors and focuses a having booming economy somewhere where there is the space and infrastructure and probably where people need the jobs more.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Does anyone know where Network Rail has built rafts over existing tracks to carry buildings and roads? Re-roofing over the tracks and building extended concourse of terminal stations are not the same thing as building such rafts.

  4. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    November 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I’m no civil engineer but my father was. The technology and thinking is evolving. What can be done nowadays seems to be only restricted to the imagination. One only has to do a simple search on the internet that seemingly impossible, never done before problems have been solved when the inclination and imagination is there.

    “Impossible” is just a big word thrown around by men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. “Impossible” is not a fact. It’s an opinion. “Impossible” is not a declaration, it’s a dare. “Impossible” is potential. “Impossible” is temporary. “Impossible” is nothing.”

    I’m not an engineer but to answer Mr Neogi’s question I just Googled “built a raft over train station” and on first page of results I found these. This research was not hard to do.

    There maybe problems in building a raft over Guildford’s tracks, impossible? No.. This is what engineers get up in the morning for. This is why Britain have always had the best engineers. But they need problems to exist. If there are no problems to solve they are just builders or planners.

    This is why the Town Centre Master Plan is not challenging enough as it sidesteps problems be it flooding, transport, housing, congestion which Guildford so desperately needs solving.

    Here is another example:

    Notice they said no disruption to services.

    One comment says that Chicago has been doing it for 40+ years.

    As Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

  5. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 6, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    I would like to thank Adrian Atkinson for his interesting posting. The most important question is – are such schemes appropriate for Guildford railway station and the tracks. He may have missed the comments made to Julian Lyon’s recent letter about “Guildford Will Need A Strong Leader” where he mooted the idea of a raft over the tracks.

    I basically said it was not practical but impossible? Maybe not. However, how much money has to be thrown to achieve such a raft – is it viable and profitable?

    The examples you have cited are in heavily congested urban locations unlike Guildford that has a large area of land next to the station. Solum Regeneration has applied for planning permission to build housing and car parks etc. on this land. If building a raft over the tracks were profitable, Solum Regeneration, I am sure, would have gone for it.

    The scale of the development is an important factor. Nobody wants a 60 storey building costing $4.5 billion over Guildford railway station using a crane costing $7 million! But such a project is viable only for this scale of development.

    I’ve suggested many ideas for Guildford’s traffic and how a bridge could be built with no interference to trains. I’ve suggested a tunnel to put Millbrook stretch of the A281 underground and how this could be built. Also a tunnel to connect the A281 and A3100 with the A25 as well as the possible A3 improvements. Please do visit my website. We UK engineers are not short of imagination.

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