THE final phase of consultation on Reading’s most ambitious and most important ever Local Transport Strategy begins today (Monday 4th May).
The Reading Transport Strategy 2036 is its most radical yet. It contains a series of schemes and initiatives to combat the poor air quality and congestion affecting parts of the town. When finalised it also aims to take into account the long term effect of the Covid-19 outbreak on society, the local economy, the environment and on people’s travel and work behaviour.
Statutory consultation on the Strategy was postponed following the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead it begins today and will run for a period of 17 weeks – five weeks longer than previously planned. People can read the draft Strategy and have their say at www.reading.gov.uk/transport2036. The closing date for comments is Sunday 30th August. All responses will then be taken into account before the final Reading Transport Strategy is adopted in the winter.
The Council’s draft plan sets the strategy to 2036 for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable Reading. It contains schemes to tackle poor air quality and congestion and to help Reading achieve its net zero carbon target in less than a decade.
Before Covid-19 had a major impact on people’s travel choices in Reading, data shows up to one in three vehicles on the IDR at peak times had no origin, destination or purpose in Reading town centre and could use alternative routes if they were provided, as set out in the draft strategy. Instead these vehicles use the town as a short cut, polluting the air and damaging the health of local residents. With many thousands of new homes planned, both inside and on the outskirts of Reading, expected to create thousands of new commuter trips into the town, air quality and traffic levels could continue to deteriorate unless there is a step change in how people choose to travel.
At this stage the duration of the Covid crisis is unknown, as well as its long term impact on society, the economy, the environment and people’s travel and work choices. For example, roadside monitoring locations on the Oxford Road and on Caversham Road show between a 32-39% reduction in Nitrogen Dioxide in the recent weeks since the lockdown was implemented. Reading Borough Council is keen to ensure the Strategy is well positioned to support the town when the crisis is over. As a result the amended consultation asks for feedback specifically on how the Strategy can contribute to Reading’s recovery from the pandemic, as well as for feedback on the contents of the Strategy itself.
The strategy proposes a series of schemes and initiatives to tackle the challenge:
- Demand management schemes: investigating options including a Clean Air Zone and Emissions-Based Charging, Workplace Parking Levy, and Road User Charging
- Major multi modal schemes: including a Third Thames Crossing, a North Reading Orbital Route, new park and ride sites in South Oxfordshire, and key transport corridor enhancements
- Public transport schemes: including new and upgraded railway stations, ‘fast track’ Public Transport routes, new Park and Rides, quality bus corridors, community transport, concessionary travel, Mobility as a Service and demand responsive transport
- Active travel schemes: including strategic and local pedestrian and cycle routes, cycle parking hubs and facilities at interchanges and residential areas and a cycle hire scheme
- Network management schemes: including demand management, road safety schemes, efficiency improvements, intelligent transport systems, electric vehicle charging and smart city initiatives
- Communication and engagement schemes: including marketing, travel information, training, play streets and travel accreditation programme
Cllr Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“The Reading Transport Strategy 2036 consultation is one of the most significant the Council will ever undertake, especially in the context of the current health emergency.
“Neither has the Climate Emergency diminished or gone away. In ordinary times, air quality in Reading remains badly blighted by the many thousands of vehicles and lorries who have no origin, destination or purpose here and which continue to use the town as a short cut, polluting the air and damaging the health and wellbeing of residents.
“Reading’s ambitious new transport strategy has been developed over a number of phases of consultation. Included in it are attractive, reliable and affordable alternatives to the private car, which are key to tackling the climate emergency in Reading and meeting our net zero carbon target by 2030.
“It is important to note that consultation on Reading’s Transport Strategy sits alongside public consultation on the new Reading Climate Emergency Strategy, which began in March and is ongoing. Both strategies will go a long way towards dictating the Council’s priorities and policies over the years to come.”
Councillor Page added:
“While the Transport Strategy was drafted before the current health emergency, the longer term effects of Covid-19 are not yet known, with regard to society, the economy and people’s travel choices, which can have a huge impact on air quality as we have seen in recent weeks. Recent air quality data, for example, shows a near 40 % drop in Nitrogen Dioxide levels in some parts of Reading due to the health emergency.
“Therefore, in the context of these very recent events, the consultation has been updated to include a specific question on that element, and I would urge people to feed their thoughts back to us.”
People can comment on the Reading Climate Change Partnership’s new Reading Climate Emergency Strategy at www.reading.gov.uk/climateconsultation. Consultation runs until 31st May 2020.
The Reading Transport Strategy 2036 is a statutory document that sets the plan for developing the town’s transport network to 2036 and beyond. It includes the guiding policies and principles, alongside schemes and initiatives, to achieve the overall vision for a step-change in sustainable travel choices in Reading.
Transport schemes included are located both inside and outside the borough. This recognises that Reading cannot be viewed in isolation from neighbouring boroughs, where much of the traffic in the town originates. Partnership working on cross-boundary schemes will underpin the success of Reading’s transport strategy.
Schemes and initiatives set out in the document are also not fully funded. The Council intends to build on its excellent track record in successfully bidding for external funding from a range of sources, whether through Government of regional grants or private sector investment.
The draft Local Transport Strategy follows Reading’s biggest ever transport consultation last summer where:
- 94% of responses showed support for extending and improving the public transport network;
- 90% supported car free spaces;
- 75% supported reallocating road space for sustainable transport;
- 92% supported improving walking and cycling routes;
- 60% though a charging scheme would be effective in reducing private car use.