Fringe Box



Letter: We Won’t Need A Congestion Charge in Utopian Guildford

Published on: 29 Jul, 2014
Updated on: 29 Jul, 2014

A3 northbound 2 280 JAFrom John Robson

Do we really need a congestion charge? Surely the residents from the futuristic garden neighbourhoods on the extremity of the town’s urban area will all be walking, cycling and even skipping into the town centre? That’s the council Executive’s master plan isn’t it?

Guildford will be the new Amsterdam. Everybody living the dream, healthy outdoor living, no time constraints, no stress, walking, cycling and living in subsidised housing, new hospitals, schools, cycle paths, no congestion, utopia! … I’m in, I can’t wait, where do I apply?

We obviously know that this won’t happen; most people have trouble leaving their Chelsea tractor sitting on the drive and take the 2-3 mile yomp into town in the summer – never mind the depths of autumn, winter or spring.

Given the projected increase in traffic I fear a congestion charge won’t be enough. I’d go further I would also use the technology to restrict drivers to coming into town to ensure that you can only travel every other day.

I’d also close all town centre car parks, turn them into green spaces / butterfly sanctuaries and I would make use of “free” to use park and ride facilities compulsory, introducing a park and ride tax to enforce this; we like taxes to make us think in this country.

It’s apparent to me if you’re going to manipulate a situation that results in a radical increase in housing to suit ulterior political and financial motives, you will need a radical transport / lifestyle philosophy. I’m sure our upwardly mobile councillors within Guildford Borough Council have this all in hand.

Finally, I’d also toll the A3 through Guildford, with the heaviest levy reserved for the HGV’s thundering their way north, the numbers increasing exponentially since the opening of the Hindhead tunnel meaning the A3 has now become the M3’s “Rat Run”.

If drivers don’t like the Toll they can divert across the Hog’s Back, after all, once it has 3,000 new homes built on its periphery it won’t be one of the remaining 33 AONB’s for much longer, will it?

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Responses to Letter: We Won’t Need A Congestion Charge in Utopian Guildford

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 29, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    At a recent meeting with the Highway authority we were told that the traffic on the A3 had not increased in volume over the last ten years.

    As Victor Meldrew would have said: “I don’t believe it!”

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 29, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    If one looks around the world where urban developments of older towns and cities have been successful, the answer lies in protecting the old areas from over development.

    Older areas are best dealt with when traditional crafts and small-scale specialist shops and businesses continue to thrive amongst theatres, museums, arts centres, exhibition halls, restaurants and cafes etc.

    New developments outside and around the periphery of old towns are easier to plan and construct with appropriate infrastructure to serve the communities that are going to reside there.

    Of course, areas outside the old towns and cities are greenfield sites some of which should be preserved for their beauty or to prevent sprawling development into neighbourhood towns. Some land is agricultural land and a balance has to be made how much of that should be developed.

    Traffic is going to increase but at a slower rate because we now conduct our affairs more on-line and shop on-line but there are activities that we have to participate by being there and that means transportation. Buses, park & ride provide partial answers.

    Time is valuable in our busy lives. Travelling using public transport requires planning and extra time. We are not keen on giving up our time. So we jump into our cars, drive to a car park and carry out our business as quickly as possible (parking charges are high) and leave for our next destination.

    Would congestion charge deter us sufficiently? Depends how much it will be, as when taking car park charges into account. True, some might not make that journey.

    Great, congestion would be reduced but Guildford businesses may suffer if punters go elsewhere like Woking, Godalming or Camberley. I wonder how many would continue to drive from Guildford to Waitrose in Godalming (free car park) once congestion charges are brought in on top of high car park charges.

    Guildford could bring in congestion charge but it would be fair only to those whose destination is Guildford. Those who pass through Guildford, do so because they have no viable alternative routes. To charge them for congestion would not produce any reduction in traffic. It would be unfair, as they have to pay this charge and not benefit much from the marginally reduced traffic.

    So what’s the answer? The answer possibly lies in building new routes and bypasses. It takes time to consult, plan and then build but in the mean time we have this persistent problem. A staged development may provide the answer.

    Modest investment into building a few bridges and walkways and modifying the gyratory would go a long way to alleviate the traffic problems whilst longer term solution for new routes could be worked up and then built when funding is secured in the future.

    I’ve outlined my thoughts of a six-stage improvement to Guildford traffic on my web site. It could be found by searching for ‘revamp guildford gyratory’.

    I believe there is no business case for bringing in congestion charging in Guildford. Converting existing roads into tolled roads would probably go against a few of the EU directives! One such is

  3. JIm Allen Reply

    July 29, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Can’t complain of the photograph this time taken between 15:00 – 17:45 yesterday Northbound A3.

    I think instead of toll charges – simply have three people walking down the lanes of the A3, demanding cash from all the car or lorry drivers travelling at less then 10 mph. That might speed them up!

    A cycling utopia will, by the way, result in a future increase in bike thefts, as five bedroom homes only need one cycle shelter. So four or more bikes will be left at the road side. Or only one person will be able to ride the communal bike at a time, while the others drive the average 1.5 cars they are allowed to park.

    I am very grateful to Jim Allen for providing some traffic photos. Ed

  4. C Stevens Reply

    July 30, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Traffic congestion affecting Guildford begins miles away from the town centre.

    Two weeks ago I spent 15 minutes in very heavy traffic to get from Madrid Road to the A3 northbound ramp at Egerton Road. The time? 8.40 am. The day? Thursday. The reason? There was so much traffic coming off the A3 there, that the roundabout had blocked, the queue stretched back onto the A3 causing queuing also down Egerton Road.

    As far as I could tell, the traffic off the A3 wanted to turn left at the roundabout in the direction of the hospital, the research park and the park and ride.

    Now if you’ve an appointment at the hospital at a given time, you’ve no choice but to be there. But does everyone who works at the research park have to get there at 9.00am? Or even be there at all, with the capacity to work online?

    And to the extent that the park and ride is to blame, we may be seeing the law of unintended consequences in operation again. People who might have parked in Guildford for work use the park and ride instead and the congestion in the town centre is moved somewhere else.

    Or people, hearing of the park and ride, decide to have an early start and come here for a day out. I recall hearing that park and rides encouraged car use instead or reducing it by offering people another possibility: those put off visiting Guildford by traffic problems, drive to the park and ride instead and so create new, different traffic problems.

    The congestion charge for London is able to work because there’s an orbital motorway, the M25, which offers an alternative to the through routes we all used years ago.

    But, as I understand it, the M25 has attracted more traffic than its planners envisaged simply by being there: it’s (theoretically at least) faster to go from here to, say, St Albans, than it used to be, so why not go?

    Look at a map of our part of Surrey and you’ll see Guildford as the unfortunate crossroads/junction for a number of A roads. You’ll also see the university spreading inexorably westward from its original home on Stag Hill.

    What we need to do is to hold up on further large-scale development until we can solve our current problems. Building more is not a solution. And we need to stagger our travel times and work at home where possible. Let’s go for the simple solutions first. A congestion charge will just shift the problem elsewhere.

  5. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    If you think the traffic congestion central Guildford is bad now just wait until the development in such area as the Cathedral starts.

    Perhaps all development here should be put on hold until the infrastructure can support future building plans.

  6. Mary Bedforth Reply

    July 30, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Guildford is in the news today.

    The Highways Agency is moving its HQ from Dorking into Bridge House (ex SEEDA HQ) and £1m is being spent to relay the High Street sets.

    The latter seems an excessive amount. We know that as soon as the work is finished, some sub contractor will arrive to repair an underground service.

  7. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 31, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Development of housing and infrastructure should go hand in hand especially when taking impact of several sites together as identified in the Local Plan.

    Transport issues are not confined to Guildford Borough – it is the whole of Surrey. Surrey County Council SCC is the Highway Authority for local roads and the Highways Agency for motorways and trunk roads. Guildford Borough Council and the surrounding councils depend on SCC for the development of infrastructure.

    The scheme of widening the A3 through Guildford that was dropped in 2010 has not been resurrected. A one-time resident of Guildford, I recently met again, told me that when the bypass of the bypass was being built, there was an understanding that this was a temporary fix and a route truly bypassing Guildford would be considered in the future. I wonder if having spent some £370m on the A3 Hindhead Tunnel, other schemes on it are now in the bottom of the list.

    The big question should be whether the funding is too centralised and whether highway authorities should be allowed to collect taxes for the improvement of local road network either directly or funds apportioned according to registered vehicles within its area.

  8. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 31, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Bibhas Neogi is quite right. The alteration to the A3 at the Dennis roundabout was said to be for about twenty years or so.

    It was said at that time that the development of the University of Surrey should be put on hold until the urban motorway was re-routed.

    However in 1997, with a change of government, all major road schemes were put on hold, while development went ahead regardless.

    The wind was sown and now we reap the whirlwind.

  9. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 1, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Egerton Road hospital roundabout that has now been replaced by a signalised junction is working reasonably well. The roundabout C Stevens got held up at opposite Tesco, should also be signalised. Maybe Surrey C C is looking into this.

    If and when the A3 is widened, maybe the entry to and the exit from the Park & Ride (possibly also the hospital and Research park) could be connected to it and thus relieve much of this traffic heading for this roundabout.

    The problem for the road designer is how to accommodate the A31/A3 merge and then diverge off the A3 to the Park & Ride at more or less the same location. This is known as merge/diverge conflict.

    To solve this, the merge has to take place well in advance but the alignments of the A3 and the A31 do not meet close enough to do this and the Hogs back is in the middle plus two bridges! There is a solution to this and that is what I have outlined on my website for the A3 widening possibilities.

    On the question of tolling existing roads, I would like to draw John Robson’s attention to the current government thinking. It is – from page 9 of, “The Government’s present policy is that it remains open to options for using tolls to fund new roads but will not implement tolls on the existing road network. The Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond, said in July 2013: The Government has made a clear commitment not to toll existing road capacity and this has not changed….”

  10. Mary Bedforth Reply

    August 1, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Stephen Plowden, author, Towns against Traffic. London: Andre Deutsch. 1972, said on Rethinking Traffic Congestion that ‘traffic expands to fill available road space’.

  11. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 2, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I have not read Stephen Plowden’s book. To a small extent it is correct. To give an example, before the M25, it used to take over four hours from Guildford to Dover on the A25 and now it takes one and a half hours. So a lot more people undertake that journey both for work and pleasure.

    Increase in car ownership is directly related to growth in income. It is easy to own a car because it is affordable (the opposite of the situation with houses, at the moment). Cars are produced in their millions but the road network is not being expanded proportionally. Hence we have congestion. Our choice is to expand the network, at least minimally, so as to avoid choking ourselves in the fumes and smog and to improve public transport wherever possible.

    We all do not live close to a rail or a bus route, so we need cars or cycles to get to them. Car parking is expensive and so are the fares. If we have to have a car to remain mobile, especially during evenings and weekends, why not use it for the journey to work or for shopping? It is a lot cheaper and it is more convenient, albeit one has to endure the delays due to congestion at times.

    It is true that traffic expands to fill some but not all of the expanded road space. If this was true, France would have ten times the number of cars it has now.

  12. Julian Lyon Reply

    August 3, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Traffic does have a tendency to expand to fill capacity but usually because it is displaced from elsewhere.

    The challenge tends to be to find faster ways of getting from A to B but our challenge should be to move traffic from where we do not want it to be – not necessarily building more capacity but improving quality of life.

    The town centre is a case in point. It should be our aim to take the congested traffic away from the river and open the town up to the riverside.

    For the A3 and its junctions, the routine congestion is a function of historically poor design and the steep climb from the river to the Hog’s Back cutting combned with the A31 junction at the peak where traffic is slowest and where people are often in the wrong lane.

    There are answers to both the town centre and the A3 but both need significant intervention and these will become impossible if we do not plan for them now – new developments could prevent solutions for decades to come.

    Congestion charging for our volume of traffic is probably not economically viable and would almost certainly kill businesses in the town centre. We need to press much harder for major infrastructure improvements to make up for thirty years of under-investment rather than imposing a tax that denies people access to the town.

  13. Bernard Parke Reply

    August 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Surely it is the heavy through traffic which is killing business in Guildford, traffic which we can well do without. It does nothing for the well being of residents or trade within the town and it increases CO2 pollution to the determinant of workers and residents alike.

    It is not unreasonable for for such transient users of our town centre to pay a local tax in the form of a congestion charge.

    Hopefully it would encourage them to seek out other through routes or, if they are not available, pay a small premium for using our congested town centre.

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