READING Borough Council has welcomed the news that it has been awarded full funding for new cycle schemes to make travelling by bike easier in response to the Covid 19 pandemic, and beyond.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Friday (Nov 13th) that Reading will receive 100% of its indicative funding total of £1.179 million, as part of ‘Tranche 2’ of the national Active Travel scheme.
More than three months have passed since the Council submitted its bid to Government for up to five new cycle schemes in Reading, some of which would provide key ‘missing links’ in the town and would be fully segregated from traffic through the reallocation of road space from general traffic to cyclists.
Limited funding from Government means it will not be possible to deliver all five proposed schemes. The Council now intends to review which schemes should be prioritised within the budget envelope, taking into account the significant time period which has elapsed since the bid was submitted, and possible links with new cycle schemes being delivered by neighbouring councils through their own Active Travel plans.
In announcing the new phase of funding, the DfT said local authorities should consult widely with local people on schemes before implementation. This is in contrast to Tranche 1 of the Active Travel initiative, where Government guidance was that changes should be implemented under emergency temporary powers and without prior consultation with local communities.
Reading Borough Council welcomes this change in direction from Government on public consultation. It now intends to consult widely with local communities and key stakeholders, including local residents and businesses, and all road users, including cyclists, motorists, bus passengers and pedestrians, as well as the emergency services. The Council will publish its detailed consultation plans in advance and submit regular updates to the DfT, as required in the updated grant guidelines.
Last night (Nov 18th), at a meeting of the Council’s Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee, the Council welcomed the 100% Active Travel funding award, but noted that further guidance and information is expected from the DfT and that officers intend to review the detailed grant conditions and their implications when they arrive, before finalising a list of possible schemes for public consultation.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
“The 100% funding award from the DfT is a vote of confidence in the Council to successfully deliver permanent new Active Travel schemes in Reading. Many local authorities received considerably less than they expected, so this new funding award is welcome. It is however a cautious welcome at this stage.
“It is significant that the money announced by Government has not yet been released to councils and that, under the new guidelines, there remain a number of hurdles to overcome. The Council has also yet to receive all the guidance promised by the DfT and will consider the implications in full when that arrives.
“A period of just under 100 days elapsed between the Council submitting its Tranche 2 bid, and Friday’s announcement being made. It is only right therefore that we take some time now to review which of the five schemes will be taken forward for public consultation, also taking into account potential Active Travel schemes being considered by neighbouring councils, and their potential links with schemes in Reading.
“The DfT’s U-turn on public consultation is also wholly welcomed and allows us to restate our long standing commitment to fully involving the public in decisions on important transport schemes in Reading. This is in stark contrast to Tranche 1 schemes where councils were ordered to use emergency powers to introduce schemes at speed and without the involvement of local communities.
“Once a review of potential schemes is concluded, we intend to design detailed consultations, which will be published in advance, and include conversations with local residents and business affected, as well as all road users, and the emergency services.”
Reading Borough Council’s bid for Tranche 2 funding linked to the following five Active Travel proposals:
- Southampton Street and Oracle Roundabout (Pell Street – Inner Distribution Road/Bridge Street) – Create a segregated cycle lane along Southampton Street, with changes at the junctions at either end, linking with existing cycle infrastructure through the reallocation of road space from general traffic. A key ‘missing link’ in the existing network, it will provide a continuous link between existing routes including NCN Routes 4 and 422, and the mandatory cycle lane recently been implemented in Phase One of the Council’s Active Travel programme.
- Bath Road/Castle Hill (Southcote Lane – Inner Distribution Road/Castle Street) – Running from the IDR to Russell Street, reallocate road space from general traffic to create a segregated lane for cyclists to and from the town centre. A further ‘missing link’ on the existing network. An additional scheme (Russell Street – Southcote Lane) if funding allows, would extend the route west, linking with the new NCN route 422 and connecting with existing routes west of the railway bridge. Both cyclists and pedestrians will benefit from the physically segregated route.
- Shinfield Road (Christchurch Green – Whitley Wood Road) – Create a segregated two-way cycle lane, linking to the Phase One schemes on Redlands Road and Christchurch Road. A high-quality facility on a key route between South Reading and Royal Berkshire Hospital, the University of Reading, local centres and Reading town centre.
- London Road (Borough boundary to Cemetery Junction) – Reallocate road space from general traffic to create an inbound shared bus and cycle lane. This will provide a key missing link with the shared bus and cycle route being implemented in Phase One on London Road outside of the RBH. Opportunities will be explored to link this scheme with proposals for bus and/or cycle provision being investigated by Wokingham Borough Council.
- Forbury Road / Vastern Road (Watlington Street – Reading Bridge) – Create a segregated two-way cycle lane by reallocating road space from general traffic on this section of the IDR. This will also provide further separation for pedestrians through lower volumes of cyclists using the existing shared pavement.
In last week’s letter to local authorities, the DfT state that in order for Councils to receive any money under Tranche 2, they needed to show the DfT meaningful plans to reallocate road space to active travel. The DfT also clearly indicate Tranche 2 projects are intended for more permanent schemes, rather than temporary ones. The DfT timetable is for new schemes to be in place soon after the start of the new financial year, and following detailed public consultation.
Notes To Editor:
When finalised, the proposed Tranche 2 schemes supplement a series of temporary Council schemes which are already operational as part of the Phase One of the Council’s Active Travel programme.
These are at the following locations and are being regularly reviewed for effectiveness.
- George Street, Reading bridge – reallocation road space to create new cycle facilities.
- Southampton Street, Silver Street & Mount Pleasant- reallocation road space to create new cycle facilities.
- Sidmouth Street – temporary one-way restriction and lane closure to provide a segregated two-way cycle lane.
- Whitley Street – reallocation road space to create new cycle facilities.
- Oxford Road (Tilehurst) – reallocation road space to create new cycle facilities.
- Redlands Road – cycle markings and road safety improvements.
- Christchurch Road – cycle markings
- Oxford Road (between Norcot Road and the town centre) – cycle markings.
Full details, including maps, of the Council’s Tranche 1 and proposed Tranche 2 Active Travel schemes can be found at https://www.reading.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/active-travel-and-social-distancing/
A detailed report of the Council’s Active Travel programme went to a meeting of the Council’s Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee, on Wednesday this week (Nov 18). https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s14928/12%20-%20Active%20Travel%20and%20School%20Streets%20report.pdf