READING Borough Council today publishes its most ambitious and most important ever Local Transport Strategy – a key plan to tackle the Climate Emergency and to help create a net zero carbon Reading by 2030.
The Reading Transport Strategy 2036 is the Council’s most radical yet. It includes a series of schemes to combat the poor air quality and congestion choking parts of the town.
Already around one in three vehicles on the IDR at peak times has no origin, destination or purpose in Reading. Instead they 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 in the coming years, thousands of new commuter trips into Reading will be created. Air quality and traffic levels will continue to deteriorate, unless there is a step change in how people choose to travel.
Reading already has Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in the Town Centre, and along key corridors into and out of town. Figures show mortality rates in Reading from respiratory disease are 40% above the average for the south east.
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. They include:
- ‘Demand Management’ Schemes: Investigate options to charge road users by introducing some, or all of, a Clean Air Zone; Workplace Parking Levy; Emissions-based Charging; Road User Charging. Revenue would be re-invested in sustainable transport alternatives to the private car.
- North Reading Orbital Route: A new route to promote essential park and ride sites served by public transport around the northern edge of Reading, linking the A4074 to the A4155, to also take traffic away from Caversham centre and enhance public transport within Reading and north of the River Thames. Subject to the delivery of the proposed Third Thames Crossing.
- Third Thames Bridge: A third crossing to promote public transport links either side of the river, including major bus priority and segregated walking and cycling facilities. The Council will continue to work with neighbouring councils and Government to lobby for funding. Scheme to include mitigation measures in South Oxfordshire and in Wokingham, to both protect and bring benefits to the local communities.
- New Public Transport Routes: Dedicated ‘fast track’ public transport corridors to the south, south-west, east and west of the Town Centre. A new orbital corridor linking key park & ride and rail hubs with residential and employment areas.
- New and Expanded Park & Rides: New Park & Rides in North Reading, Thames Valley Park, West Reading and South West Reading. The expansion of existing facilities at Mereoak and Winnersh Triangle
- Rail Investment: Working in partnership to deliver of the brand new Green Park Station and upgrades to facilities at Reading, Reading West, Tilehurst Stations.
- Active Travel: A series of strategic and local pedestrian and cycle routes, new cycle parking and a new cycle hire scheme; Safer Travel to School routes; Play Streets programmes
- Electric Vehicles: The delivery of on-street electric vehicle charging points, electric car club vehicles and charging bays
- Adapting to the future: Embracing technology and innovation, including autonomous vehicles, making maximum use of our existing network through smarter traffic signals and real-time travel information, and easier ways of paying for travel, including paying for travel in the same way to a mobile phone contract.
The Council’s Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee will be asked to approve the draft Reading Transport Strategy 2036 at its meeting on Monday March 16th, with a 12 week statutory consultation due to begin one week later, on March 23rd.
SEPT Committee Report:
Local Transport Strategy 2036:
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“This is Reading’s most important and most ambitious Local Transport Plan ever. The Climate Emergency is happening now, and we do not intend to shy away from the challenge in Reading.
“Poor air quality and congestion is already choking parts of our town. 36,000 people in the UK die as a result of air pollution every year, and in Reading mortality rates are 40% above the average for the south east. That is not a position any responsible authority can ignore.
“Reading’s road network is already at capacity. The challenge now is how to successfully absorb the huge growth in commuter trips Reading can expect over the coming years, with many thousands of new homes being built, particularly on the outskirts of the town. It is not acceptable for the many thousands of vehicles and lorries who have no origin, destination or purpose in Reading to continue to use the town as a short cut, polluting our air and damaging our health. They must be offered attractive, reliable and affordable alternatives to the private car.”
Referring to the proposed schemes included in Reading’s Local Transport Strategy, Councillor Page said:
“The strategy includes schemes some people may find controversial. I make no apology for that. The only way we can hope to tackle the Climate Emergency locally, and the poor air quality and congestion which blights parts of our town, is by taking a much more radical approach. The status quo is not an option.
“Demand management measures will remove the most polluting vehicles from our streets, particularly those with absolutely no business in Reading, with revenue raised reinvested into a raft of sustainable transport schemes.
“The strategy provides high quality, realistic and affordable alternatives to the private car through new and upgraded railway stations, new park and rides and quick, reliable public and affordable transport routes.
“Vehicles could take a more direct route and avoid the town centre if better orbital links were available. The strategy includes major new schemes, like a Third Thames Crossing and a new orbital route in the north of the borough. It includes new pedestrian and cycle routes, and the infrastructure to support it. It recognises that diesel and petrol car will eventually be banned and replaced with electric vehicles, and that we need the infrastructure to support that change.
“The strategy has been designed following Reading’s biggest ever consultation on transport last year, which produced a record number of responses and showed significant support for investment in sustainable alternatives. Thank you to the over three thousand people who helped shape it. It’s future success of the plan hinges on continued close partnership working – at local, regional and national level – in terms of both the design and funding of the schemes themselves.
“On March 23rd the Council is due to begin its final phase of consultation on Reading’s new transport strategy. Details will be publicised nearer the time and I would urge as many people as possible to take the opportunity to have their say.”
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 LTP.
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 LTP 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.
Feedback from the initial consultation has been published on the Council’s website at https://consult.reading.gov.uk/dens/rts-visioning-feedback/
A last round of publication consultation is set to begin on March 23rd and run for 12 weeks, until Sunday June 14th. This statutory consultation will include an online survey, advertising, drop-in events, presentations to local interest groups and meetings with key stakeholders and neighbouring authorities. Details will be publicised nearer the time. Feedback will be analysed, and a final document produced for adoption in the autumn.
Transport is the biggest greenhouse gas emitting sector in the UK, accounting for around 27% of total emissions. The Council’s draft Reading Transport Strategy 2036 will be consulted on in parallel with the new Reading Climate Emergency Strategy, which the Council’s Policy Committee will be asked to approve for consultation at its meeting on Monday March 9th: https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s10565/Reading%20Climate%20Emergency%20Strategy%202020-25.pdf
Once adopted, the Reading Transport Strategy 2036 will then be regularly reviewed and evolved to keep it current and to ensure it is well placed to respond to future needs and opportunities as they arise
Notes to Editor:
Reading’s Transport Challenge
Reading is home to 163,203 people (2018).
Around 233,000 live in the ‘greater Reading’ area.
Reading’s population is set to rise by a further 8.7% by 2036.
Reading has one of the UK’s fastest growing economies. It is a major centre for employment, leisure and education in the region and home to many national and international companies. An estimated 120,000 people work in the Borough. There are more jobs in Reading than workers, so people travel in from other areas to work
Demand for new homes has never been higher. In Reading alone, at least 15,433 homes are planned to be delivered between 2013 and 2036. Within Reading and the nearby local authority areas of South Oxfordshire, West Berkshire, Wokingham, Bracknell, Basingstoke and Deane, and Hart, over 5,000 homes are planned to be delivered each year over the next 15-20 years.
Sustainable Transport in Reading
Reading’s new strategy builds on the large number of major sustainable transport schemes Reading Borough Council and its partners have delivered a in recent years.
Figures show that between 2008/9/10 and 2017/18/19, Reading has seen:
- A 54% increase in cycling
- A 32% increase in bus travel (21.6 million journeys last year – the third highest level of bus use in the country)
- A 20% increase in train travel
- A 13% fall in car journeys
Transport schemes successfully delivered as part of the Council’s last Transport Strategy include the major redevelopment of Reading Station; the upgrade of Junction 11 of the M4 including dedicated public transport provision; Mereoak Park and Ride; the first phases of South Reading’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) route and Christchurch Bridge, the pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Thames. The new Elizabeth line, when fully opened, will provide direct services to central and east London.
With Network Rail, the Council has widened and lowered Cow Lane, enabling two-way traffic of lorries and buses to pass under the new bridges for the first time ever. The Council-owned bus company, Reading Buses, goes from strength to strength, providing one of the cleanest, most modern and most extensive bus networks in the UK. The Council is also working to deliver a brand new railway station at Green Park by 2021, major improvements to Reading West Station and a new cross-Reading (and Berkshire) National Cycle Network (NCN) route.