Fringe Box



Opinion: Is There Any Real Solution To Guildford’s Traffic Problem?

Published on: 28 Aug, 2013
Updated on: 28 Aug, 2013

Traffic 4 470By Martin Giles

News that a 500 space underground car park could be part of the North Street redevelopment project should come as little surprise to those who follow local planning politics.

Although never confirmed by Guildford Borough Council, The Guildford Dragon NEWS reported over a year ago that 400 car park spaces were ‘demanded’ by John Lewis if it was to agree to open a store in Guildford as part of an earlier Friary expansion scheme.

For those who feel Guildford is already suffering from critical levels of traffic congestion, even before any additional cars and lorries attracted by a new Waitrose store, the future for Guildford road users might seem grim, even unthinkable.

Even now, at certain times of day, journeys through the town can be ridiculously slow. If this is not bad enough for local residents, who might only be wishing to travel a couple of miles from one side of town to he other, it must also be off putting for those working commuters to the town, recognised as an important part of our local economy.

It is known that the two most often mentioned negative factors for businesses considering Guildford as a location are traffic and housing.

More traffic must also be having an adverse affect on our environment.  One has only to look at any white painted building close to a busy road to see what must be in the air we breathe.

But it is not only the fumes and particles. Busy roads are noisy and create physical barriers that make walking or cycling less convenient and attractive. They can also create barren, sterile areas that look terrible and repel pedestrians. Think of Onslow Street.

The blank walls and barriers of the Friary Centre. Uninteresting, uninviting and sterile.

The blank walls and barriers of the Friary Centre. Uninteresting, uninviting and sterile.

So what can be done? It is tempting to conclude the problem is insoluble. The topography of our town, its junction of routes and the river make congestion inevitable. In any case, it seems to be a truism of our time that more road space just results in more traffic.

Perhaps we should just say ‘to hell with it’… vehicle drivers will just have to find their own solutions. In common with many other Guildford residents, I suspect, in our house we avoid car travel at busy times whenever possible.

But not everyone is so resigned. Bibhas Neogi, a regular correspondent with The Guildford Dragon NEWS, who is former professional road planner, among others, is convinced that effective, tolerable and affordable improvements to our road layout are possible. And council leader Stephen Mansbridge is on record as saying that he favours a tunnel solution if the major obstacle of funding can be overcome. I agree.

Others have spoken of more by-passes. They might cost less but who would accept them near their homes and villages? And why should they? Imagine the visual impact on the surrounding downland, recognised as an area of outstanding natural beauty!

So is there nothing we can do? Perhaps more radical measures are required. The impact of the school run is well acknowledged. It is incredible how many parents drive children, who might need exercise, to school from short distances, sometimes less than a mile.

So why not introduce:

i: a reward schemes for those regularly walking or cycling to school; free public transport to those in school uniform; and greater priority to proximity in admissions policy?

ii: higher priority to pedestrians and cyclists in the town centre. More separation from traffic, better routes and crossings and a proper network of cycle routes, recognising that these can be successfully combined with pedestrian routes as has already occurred in several places.

iii: further consideration of satellite railway halts at for instance, Merrow and Artington, perhaps Stoughton and serious reconsideration, too, of the reconstruction of some sort of railway link to Cranleigh and beyond. It was too quickly dismissed from the recent strategic study of local railway services.

iv: and if we accept that traffic congestion is one of the major challenges we face why not even consider a congestion charge? It has been effective in London and could help pay for some of the measures suggested above.

The do nothing option does, of course, exist and inertia, bureaucracy, resistance to change and lack of available funds might make it the easiest option.

If so, we can only expect things to get worse for there is no prospect of fewer cars. With an ever increasing population and further migration into the South East things can only get worse.

However you are affected, and whatever your conclusion, remember that this is the kind of issue you should be considering when casting your vote in local elections. Even between elections you can write to your councillors and or the local media. Politicians do take note of views expressed especially when they feel it is a popular view.

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Responses to Opinion: Is There Any Real Solution To Guildford’s Traffic Problem?

  1. A W Derbyshire Reply

    August 28, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Well said Guildford Dragon!

    There should be new railway stations at Merrow and the University.

    There should be either a train or tram to Cranleigh on the old trackway.

    Surrey County Council should be stopped from messing with Guildford traffic flows: the underpass at Debenhams should be reinstated and traffic lights taken away.

    And finally, all bus and taxi lanes should be removed.

  2. Bill Stokoe Reply

    August 29, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Or, if you want to see change, join like-minded residents in the Guildford Vision Group and The Guildford Society and present the case for a professional masterplan for our fine town.

  3. Dotty Hinkle Reply

    August 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Change? Or no developemnt of any kind in the town?

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I would like to correct the description of my professional status. I’m not a road planner but I’m a retired Chartered Structural Engineer and I specialised in design, repair, strengthening and maintenance of bridges.

    During my working career I’ve been involved with many motorway and trunk road schemes in SE England – both new, widening of existing roads and bypasses. Traffic management and safety play a very important role in any work on a live road and works have to be designed and programmed in such a way as to minimise disruption to traffic. In the process I’ve also gained experience in many aspects of road design including geometric standards, safety requirements and compliance with the national standards and Department of/for Transport standards.

    I came to Guildford as a Post-graduate student in 1969 when the University site just started having a few of the faculties relocated here from Battersea. Thus having lived in Guildford area for over 40 years I’ve a good idea of the local road network and I often thought about possible ways on how to improve them for all road users not just for the motorised variety. Having got some free time after I retired I started to develop these ideas and I’ve set up a website that holistically deals with the gyratory problem, Millbrook pedestrian crossing, bus station and bus routes, the railway station development as well as the A3 stretch through Guildford including connection to Onslow Park and Ride.

    Let us see what improvements the SCC and GBC recommend after their consultation on the gyratory and then the results of the Guildford Town and Approaches Movement Study (G-TAMS) that I believe is shortly going to start.

    GVG and Guildford Society are right in demanding that professional town planners be employed to draw up a master plan but the planners need traffic data from G-TAMS, all the background information and suggestions from local residents and associations to be able to formulate their ideas and come up with viable propositions. I must say I was somewhat puzzled by the Town Planners who proposed removing traffic from Millbrook and reintroduced it instead into Friary Street and also proposed widening of the Town Bridge! We certainly need improvements but these have to be practicable, achievable and affordable.

    Means of reducing traffic would obviously help but I do not think Congestion charging is viable in Guildford. There are really no alternative routes that vehicles could take to bypass the town centre. Also I guess the administration of Congestion charging would not be cost-effective for the volume of traffic Guildford experiences.

    I agree the local railway halts as they appear on Guildford Society’s website should be revisited. It may be worthwhile seeking SCC’s views on the Cranleigh route as they have engaged the Consultants, Arup, who are looking into Surrey’s rail strategy.

  5. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 30, 2013 at 10:12 am

    SCC’s current views may be found in the Surrey Rail Strategy Options Paper – Part 2 (1.5 MB)
    Surrey Rail Strategy – final version of the Options Paper dated 22 March 2013 on page 32 of the link below,-

  6. Chris Blow Reply

    August 31, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Readers might like to see a series of ideas developed by the Guildford Society Transport Group on their website,, notably Future Gridlock May 2013.pdf.

    Chris Blow is Chairman of Guildford Society Transport Group

  7. Bernard Parke Reply

    August 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    “Living near busy roads can increase the risk of lung cancer…. Even low levels of traffic fumes have risks comparable with passive smoking.”

    Not my words but those attributed to the Cancer Research Centre based in Copenhagen.

    It can not be denied that our town has become nothing but a through road for passing traffic and yet there are proposals to bring more traffic into central Guildford regardless of the park and ride programme.

    Has any consideration be given to the adverse effect on trade that further traffic congestion will have on Guildford?

    To put it bluntly more traffic will strangle the the very life out of our town one way or another.

  8. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    August 31, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    The links given by Chris Blow are not working. I think they somehow got truncated. Please check.

  9. Sean Jenkinson Reply

    September 1, 2013 at 9:58 am

    I have to say it was a mistake not to make the Woking road past Slyfield wider, that would help out when the traffic is bad in Guildford, the trouble with Guildford is as soon as there is a breakdown or a crash on the A3, almost always at the Dennis roundabout, Guildford comes to a standstill and the one way system becomes a choke point.

    Now we have a new group in Guildford made up of mostly residents I think that want to close Walnut Tree Close to through traffic, it is one of the main routes on to the one way system and through Guildford, it can’t be closed to traffic that would just be mad.

    Having lived in Guildford all my life, I love the town. It is still very beautiful but the traffic is just a nightmare. To be honest, I just don’t know what can be done. I just know whatever they decide to do will cause no end of chaos while it is being done.

  10. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 1, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I’ve managed to access the two links given by Chris Blow via Guildford Society’s website. A good analysis of traffic volumes and a possible alteration of the gyratory are given in the document. It proposes to introduce one lane of anti-clockwise movement on the three sides of the gyratory i.e. except on Bridge Street.

    It also proposes the signalised junctions to be altered to cater for right turning movements from Walnut Tree Close into Farnham Road, from Park Street into the Friary Bridge and from Millbrook into Onslow Street. These would provide direct routes for these movements but the downside is the need for additional traffic signal phases at all three junctions. My guess is that the delay these additional phases would cause are likely to lengthen tailbacks all around the gyratory. It needs to be proven by traffic analyses whether this is the case.

    The other factor is the relocation of the bus station. While the station remains where it is, a right turn into the North Street from Onslow Street would be required i.e. another traffic signal to add to the congestion. So such a scheme would have to wait until the bus station issue is sorted. It is anybody’s guess how long that will take.

    May I humbly suggest that there is a better alternative and that is not to make Onslow Street arm into a two-way road but reduce Bridge Street into a two-lane road together with the same contraflow on Friary Bridge but disallowing any right turns for the short-term solution.

  11. A W Derbyshire Reply

    September 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Just looked at the SCC website re Rail Strategy. It’s just waffle as far as Guildford is concerned.

    There is already a 15 minute service to Woking and a 30 min to Alton although you have to change at Aldershot.

    The Cranleigh link rebuild should be started tomorrow as the A281 is so slow and congested.

    The Reading to Gatwick should be converted to electric third rail. Only two sections need infilling. Plans already exist buried in the Network Rail archives.

    The Weybridge to Waterloo via Staines should be joined with a Guildford to Heathrow at Chertsey so that the level crossings on the route do not spend too much time in the down position!

    If SCC had any imagination they would spend the transport budget on something worthwhile as opposed to writing worthless reports.

  12. Brian Holt Reply

    September 3, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I have read all the comments on Guildford traffic congestion, and everyone wants fewer cars in the town centre.

    Motorists will not give up their cars unless there is good reliable public transport system in the town centre, so the suggestion do away with bus lanes (which was introduced to keep buses running on time) instead of wasting time sitting in traffic jams all day, is simply a ridiculous suggestion.

    Unreliable buses and moving the bus station out of shopping centre area would be bad for businesses in the town. Most towns have their bus stations near to their shopping centre.

  13. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

    The bus station needn’t be in the town centre or next to the railway station so long as there are comfortable waiting areas and bus stops around the Friary and at the railway station. All bus routes would continue to connect at the bus station as well as at some of these multiple bus stops. In such an arrangement the bus station could be on an available site equally close to the town centre and the railway station for operational efficiency.

    Out of the possible sites, Mary Road car park site in my view offers the best possible location coupled with some reconfiguring of the routes and a joined-up solution to reduce congestion in and around the gyratory. A new link joining Walnut Tree Close with Woodbridge Road would enable this to be taken forward. Station development offers the opportunity for a direct pedestrian route to the town centre and a new road bridge to the west further improving traffic flow.

    I would urge the readers who have not visited my website (just search for ‘revamp guildford gyratory’) yet to have a look at the possible short term and long term solutions offered therein. It helps to look at ‘Links now showing all sketches’.

  14. jim Allen Reply

    September 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

    In Response to Bibhas Neogi – while I respect his views, Clearly there is ONLY one place to locate the “Bus Resting place” in the town centre, The bus station could be in Slyfield for all that function matters. The proper location is at the railway station. (there is space right outside the front door!. I will explain why. Any commuter using the railway station requires the bus to arrive prior to departure of the train, Any commuter arriving by train wants to ‘meet’ a bus to continue his journey. Not get into “hiking mode” to a bus resting place half a mile away, as at present – Berlin public transport system is a prime case how this should work!

    Any shopper wants to arrive ‘at any time’ at the shops and leave ‘at any time’ to go home, there is no ‘precise time imperative’ for the shopper which exist for the commuter in transit” thus it is illogical to have a bus resting point in a shopping center location, for all is needed is an alighting/ departure point, while the station needs a resting place of at least 10 minutes duration.
    This function occurs in every other country in the world I have visited – yet seems inconceivable and unworkable in Guildford –

    PS Councillor Stephen Mansbridge’s proposal for a tunnel under Guildford is excellent

  15. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 16, 2013 at 11:38 am

    A bus station next to the railway station is an option but it would not satisfy the criterion I see as crucial and that as I’ve stated is ” In such an arrangement the bus station could be on an available site equally close to the town centre and the railway station for operational efficiency.”

    A shopper going home may have to wait for his/her bus to turn up on time if there is a problem with traffic or scheduling. In my proposal, about half the buses go through the gyratory and thus reducing congestion whereas if the bus station is next to the railway station all buses would have to go through the gyratory – a point that Jim Allen has failed to see. And what would be the routes and where would the stops be located for the outgoing buses to the north and the east? We need a joined-up solution for the traffic that very much includes the bus routes and the location of the bus station and bus stops that are at the most convenient locations for the users.

    Incoming buses that connect the railway station would easily take passengers to the bus station for their onward connection. I get the impression Jim Allen hasn’t actually seen my website and he is commenting purely based on the posting here.

  16. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    October 12, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Having seen some enthusiasm expressed for tunnels under Guildford town, I thought it might be worthwhile putting forward my views on a possible scenario. Putting the A3 in a tunnel under Guildford or constructing a bypass around the north-western sector would be quite difficult to justify in terms of benefits over cost and other environmental issues.

    A 9km long tunnel would cost a staggering £1.8 billion based on the cost of Hindhead Tunnel. Dealing with the exhaust fumes that are required to be extracted and discharged at several points along the tunnel would also be challenging over built-up areas.

    A more modest idea would be to provide a much shorter tunnel (about 1.5km) between the A25 and the A281 along with other measures and improvements to the A3 junctions. I have drawn up a couple of sketches that show these. These are, –

    I wonder what do the readers think about these ideas?

  17. E Field Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 9:17 am

    They are building a new store at Burpham, where will the traffic go from this busiest route into guildford?

    I can’t get out of my estate at the Weylea roundabout due to the volume of traffic now.

  18. Emma Liana Reply

    February 29, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    I think govt should promote local buses and make the local transport better.

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