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Victoria Arch Widening Scheme Rethink as Costs Rockets to Nearly £170m

Published on: 7 Jul, 2022
Updated on: 7 Jul, 2022

View of Victoria Arch, Woking. Image Google Street View

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Ambitious plans to widen Woking’s Victoria Arch have hit a stumbling block as costs spiral and the closure time for the town centre thoroughfare is put at more than two years.

The original budget to replace the rail bridge was £115 million, but investigative work done over the last six months shows it could be more like £169 million.

A £95 million bid application to Homes England was made back in 2018 and in the four years since then, Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine have seen costs soar.

The new Liberal Democrat administration thinks it is too much money and – with Woking Borough Council having overall responsibility for any overspend – too much risk.

They want to fundamentally rethink the scheme and ask that both Surrey County Council and Network Rail share the risks.

Cllr Will Forster

Deputy council leader Will Forster (Lib Dem), portfolio holder for the borough’s key projects, said: “The new administration has serious concerns about the scale of the project’s budget deficit, the council shouldering all of the risk on its own and the significant road closure involved in the Victoria Arch widening scheme.”

The plan was to widen Guildford Road on either side of the railway bridge, and replace the one-way system around the Triangle with a dual carriageway.

The council says it remains committed to updating the “pinch point”, but Cllr Forster said there will be no future work on the project “until there is a viable scheme which can be delivered without additional expense to the council”.

The current estimated closures – up to two-and-a-half years for traffic and seven months for pedestrians and cyclists – were “undesirable”, he said, and they would aim to find “less damaging solutions to our town centre.”

Smaller designs could be considered, such as removing the need to lower the road under the arch.

There is also the issue that the council only gets the Homes England money on the condition it builds a certain number of houses in Woking – and the new administration is keen to reconsider its housing needs.

It plans to consult residents on a town centre masterplan, to be adopted in early 2023, looking among other things at the town centre skyline.

Cllr Forster added: “The consequences of the masterplan consultation results and adoption may mean that the total housing numbers in the town centre and the sites that would deliver additional housing above the local plan sites may need to be reviewed.

“If so, the contract with Homes England would need to be revisited, as the grant for this infrastructure is dependent on a certain number of residential units being delivered from a number of sites including council-owned sites.”

In the meantime, the council said it will continue to demolish the Triangle and submit compulsory purchase orders to obtain ownership of private land there.

It will also go ahead with a planning application for the aggregates yard access road, including temporary access via York Road and permanent access via Guildford Road.

The road was closed in June to identify underground pipes and cables ahead of work on the bridge.

The council’s Executive will decide on a review at its meeting on July 14.

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test One Response to Victoria Arch Widening Scheme Rethink as Costs Rockets to Nearly £170m

  1. Eileen Ledger Reply

    July 8, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    What is left of Woking? It was such a friendly town with lots of shops. I feel now it’s becoming a white elephant, nothing but coffee and eating places.

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