PLANS to extend improvement works to speed up buses along the A33 by building a dedicated southbound bus lane to Junction 11, are set to be approved at a meeting of the Council’s Strategic Environment Planning and Transport Committee on November 23rd.
Work is already well underway on phase one of works between the Imperial Way (Tesco) roundabout, through to the start of one of the existing bus lanes at Junction 11. If approved, Phases 1B and 2 will see the bus lane extended to the A33 junction with Lindisfarne Way, where it joins Kennet Island.
The A33 is one of Reading’s key commuter routes, running from the town centre south to Green Park Business Park, the M4 motorway junction and then further south. The Council’s long-term ambition is for dedicated south and northbound bus lanes to run along the full length of the A33, but work can only be carried out in phases, as and when future funding can be secured.
The estimated £5 million cost of the phases of the South Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) scheme is being funded externally, through Reading Borough Council’s successful funding bid to the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Local Growth Deal, and through private sector contributions. This money is ring-fenced, which means it cannot be used to pay for any other Council services.
No road capacity for other vehicles is being lost in order to create the new bus lanes. Extra space is being created for the bus lane by using land alongside the existing highway and from the central reservation. The shared pedestrian cycle path alongside the A33 will continue to be provided as part of the scheme.
The November 23rd SEPT Committee Report can be found at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/9626/Strategic-Environment-Planning–Transport-Committee-23-NOV-2016 (item 12). It seeks delegated authority for Council officers to undertake a tender process for the delivery of Phases 1B and 2 of the new bus lane.
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“This approval relates to the latest phase of the Council’s plan to speed up bus journey times on one of Reading’s busiest key commuter routes.
“Demand on Reading’s limited road space is expected to continue to increase in future years, due in part to the success of the town as a major economic centre in the region, and the delivery of new homes in the area. The only way we can cope with the additional demand is to create quick, reliable, realistic and sustainable travel choices for people. The new A33 bus lane is an example of that.
“The bus lane complements the new Mereoak Park and Ride facility – opened by the Council last year – and the Council’s regular gas-powered Greenwave bus service into the centre of Reading.
“Like the current phase, construction works and temporary lane closures would be limited to off-peak hours only, in recognition of the fact this is one of Reading’s busiest routes and carries many thousands of vehicles movements every day.”
Phases 1 and 2 of the Council’s scheme, from M4 Junction 11 to Island Road, were granted funding approval from the Berkshire Local Transport Body in November 2015. This followed the completion of the full business case which confirmed that the scheme represents ‘very good’ value for money, in accordance with Department for Transport guidance.
Phase 1A of the works began in September this year and is due for completion in late November. Phase 1B and 2 is expected to begin in spring 2017.
Future phases of the South MRT scheme (Phases 3 & 4) have been included in the LEP’s bid to Government for Growth Deal 3, with an announcement on funding anticipated this month (November 2016). These phases include provision of an inbound bus lane between the A33 junctions with Longwater Avenue and Island Road, and further outbound bus lanes between the A33 junctions with Rose Kiln Lane and Lindisfarne Way (Kennet Island).