Thamesdown Drive

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Council fails (again) to get funding for Thamesdown Drive Extension

7 January 2017

Swindon Borough Council have again failed to get funding to enable the design of the road extension from Thamesdown Drive through to Great Western Way. This article calls it an ‘initial’ bid and yet, the project has been ongoing for decades. Indeed SBC met Chancellor Osborne back in July 2013 in a failed attempt to get funding.

Members of the SRA worked hard to ensure the ‘business plan’ submitted for this latest futile attempt was as good as it could be. Sadly, we reported in December 2015 that we were unable to support the report or the process in which it was compiled. Our Thamesdown Drive page gives the reasons for this (and likely explains why the bid was unsuccessful) along with much of the history of this decades old saga.

Thamesdown Drive extension – will it ever get built?

14 December 2015

In September 2008, a report was published by consultant engineers Halcrow analysing many route options for improving traffic flows around North and West Swindon. It concluded that existing roads, such as Mead Way and Akers Way, needed improvement. Of the many options for linking Thamesdown Drive to Great Western Way, they stated that ‘the green route is the preferred route.’

In October 2013, an updated report was presented to Government in a failed bid to secure some £40million funding. The SRA followed this, in February 2014, by publicly supporting the need to spend £600,000 on a detailed business case, but it took Swindon Council about a year to decide to use in-house resources to do this.

At the end of 2014, the Thamesdown Drive Extension (TDEX) group was formed by seven residents’ associations and their first public meeting on 13 January 2015 was attended by 150 people. As a result Swindon cabinet member for transportation Cllr Dale Heenan called on the associations to work with him and council officers on the business case. The SRA agreed and ‘participated’ throughout 2015 in the development of a ‘strategic outline business case.’ Sadly, for the following reasons, we find ourselves unable to support this report or the process used to compile it:

  1. It is not a business case. Despite contributions from resident’s representatives, the process for compiling the report at no stage attempts to make a business case for building the road based on the existing need. Instead it is simply a rehash of previous reports comparing the financial cases between each route, not the financial case for building the road itself. Its conclusions are similar to those reached by Halcrow in their original report in 2008.
  2. It contains data that justifies NOT building the road. For example it states: ‘the benefits are a 26 per cent reduction in flows on Mead Way and an 8 per cent reduction on Akers Way.’ These numbers are in fact based on predicted traffic data for 2016 and appear way too low. Given the new road is still at least 10 years away, this data suggests the new road will either be at capacity from day one or the business case for building it does not exist. Alternatively it could be that the data is hopelessly inaccurate and the proposal is incomplete.
  3. This new options analysis report is incomplete. There is no mention of improving junctions along Great Western Way en-route to M4 junction 16. That work does not need to be part of a funding request within this report, but the proposal to government must raise the need, otherwise the plain and obvious flaw will probably serve to ensure funding applications fail.
  4. There is no project plan with the final milestone being road completion. Indeed the report states: ‘a full project plan is yet to be decided.’ No project plan means no accountability and no visibility to participants and the public of the bigger picture.

When the SRA agreed to participate in this work, we believed we were signing up for the development of a proper business case, justifying the need for the road based on current traffic volumes. It is now over two years since the first failed funding bid and in that time a third ‘route option analysis’ report, coming to the same conclusions as those made in 2008, has been produced.

The sad reality is that the SRA’s participation has simply enabled political representatives to state in public that ‘residents groups are supportive.’ This has not been time well spent for a voluntary group and has left us frustrated and saddened that our contributions have not been valued.

Without a compelling business case and proposals that are incomplete, we fear SBC’s funding applications will continue to be rejected by government. However, since there is no project plan and, despite theoretically being part of the team, we are not in a position to see the big picture, therefore Cllr Heenan may yet be able to claim incremental successes and, in that respect, we can only wish him well.

Thamesdown Drive Extension – A Ten Year Project

10 September 2015

The recent survey conducted by the SRA with the Link magazine indicated that 76% of the public expect the road to be completed by 2018 and a further 15% by 2021. The reality is that this project is, at best, a ten year effort, meaning completion is very unlikely to happen before 2025.

Thamesdown Drive Survey Results

15 April 2015

The results were presented at a public meeting on the evening of 14th April. Click here for the full presentation. The conclusions read:

  1. The overwhelming majority (93%) want it built now (91%) and believe SBC actions are insufficient
  2. Building the link road is a major part of the solution, but other improvements required
  3. No consensus on Mead Way and Akers Way enhancements, though recognition by many that some work is needed
  4. Improvements to other modes of transport required – particularly the cycle network

SBC Business Case Working Group Established

15 March 2014

Swindon Borough Council have established a working group to develop the business case for the road. This will then be presented to the Government, together with a request for the funds to complete the full design work, which in turn will be presented to the Government with a request for money to fund the road build. Kevin Fisher of the SRA has been invited to participate in the working group.

Click here for a presentation recently given by Kevin to a Better Swindon conference. It provides more details on the need for the road and the current situation.

TDeX (Thamesdown Drive Extension) Group

17 February 2015

The SRA has been a key contributor to the formation and work of this group. It is an open federation of non-political organisations, formed in 2014 as a result of delays in the development of a business case for the Thamesdown Drive to Barnfield link road. Its current membership includes

  • Haydon Wick Parish Council
  • Hayden View Residents’ Association
  • Rodbourne Cheney Residents’ Association
  • Shaw Residents’ Association
  • Westlea Residents’ Association
  • Whitworth Road Residents’ Association
  • Ferndale Residents’ Association

TDeX Mission:

Through informed non-political contributions to the decision-making process, ensure SBC improves the highways infrastructure in North and West Swindon and eliminates any further delays in delivering the Thamesdown Drive to Great Western Way link road

Strategic Objectives:

  1. Be the barometer of public opinion and ensure an open non-politically motivated membership
  2. Ensure membership or liaison with all related organisations (e.g. SBC committees, working groups, LEP etc.)
  3. Develop business cases
  4. Develop quality of life arguments
  5. Contribute to proposals to improve existing highways infrastructure
  6. Develop environmental arguments
  7. Future proof arguments

As a result of our efforts, Kevin Fisher of the SRA has been nominated and approved as a member of SBC’s CMAG (Cabinet Member Advisory Group) for highways.

Survey: Should Thamesdown Drive be extended? We want your view. Take our survey now

17 February 2015

Swindon Link and Shaw Residents’ Association have put together a short survey on Survey Monkey. Click to launch the survey or read on for background story and an aerial image of the possible route of the Thamesdown Drive to Great Western Way link road.

Over the years acres of paper have been used in consultants’ reports and thousands of words have been said and written in various places about the need to relieve the ever growing traffic congestion, and the increasing impact on once quiet residential roads as drivers try to find new ways around rush hour jams.

But nobody has given you, the ordinary resident, the chance to ask some straightforward questions and give their view as to whether Swindon Council should make greater efforts to get the Thamesdown Drive to Great Western Way link road completed.

You may be somebody who uses the road network daily, or a trades person whose business is hampered by roads that are being overwhelmed by the volume of traffic, or you may be a parent worried about the increase in fast moving vehicles outside your home as you walk with your child to and from school.

On the other hand you might think Swindon does not need a western by-pass or it would be too great a financial commitment.

We want to hear from you. The survey has been compiled with the assistance of Kevin Fisher, chair of Shaw Residents’ Association and is endorsed by the TDeX group.  All responses will be held in confidence.

tdex

Thamesdown Drive: 20 years of procrastination and road structure plan amendments; enough is enough!

25 January 2015

Following a detailed assessment of seven options by Halcrow, in January 2014 they issued a report that stated linking Thamesdown Drive to Great Western Way at the Barnfield roundabout was the best solution (the so called alternative green route). Enhancements to Akers Way and Mead Way came out bottom of the pile (the so called orange and brown routes). The recommendation at that time by the consultancy was SBC would need to spend about £600k on a detailed road design and business case for the road. This report would then be presented to the Chancellor in order for SBC to stand any chance of getting the necessary funding (estimated at about £50m). Robert Buckland MP agreed such a report would be necessary for him to have any success in securing the funding.

In September 2014, this executive summary of the report was issued. On the last two pages it states that the orange and brown routes are low to moderate costs but have “low level of transport benefits” and “limited benefits”. The alternative green route is said to provide an “additional railway crossing, high benefit level (and) access to Cheney Manor Industrial estate”. Its weaknesses were based around costs and the capacity of Great Western Way. It concludes by reiterating the need for the development of a business case for the alternative green route. But then, despite the “low level of transport benefits” perversely goes on to state a need to develop the brown and orange routes.

During the public meeting in January 2015 arranged by the TDeX group (Thamesdown Drive Extension group – a new group set up that includes members of several residents associations, including the SRA, parish councils and councillors), councillor Dale Heenan stated that SBC would not spend the money on a business case for the alternative green route until the government had promised the full funding for the road. This is contrary to all previous advice and certainly contrary to the words of Robert Buckland MP – his email to the SRA chair on the 18 January 2015 is noted here:

“Thanks for your email and for our conversation in West Swindon yesterday, which was unplanned but very well timed!  The position is that the Government won’t be able to make a commitment to fund the building of the Thamesdown Drive Extension until a full proposal from SBC or from the Local Enterprise Partnership has come forward for their consideration.  I can see that the Council feel that the latest CH2M Hill (formerly Halcrow) report refers to wider congestion problems on Great Western Way, and suggests that alternative measures would be preferable to the Extension.  I believe that whilst some improvements can be made to Akers Way and Mead Way, we will still need the Thamesdown Drive Extension and improvements to roundabouts on GWW as well in order to effectively manage traffic flows in the North and West of Swindon, and have said this in a Link article. 

“I stand ready to work with the Council to help make sure that any further work they do on planning for the Thamesdown Drive extension meets with understanding and support from the Government.  However, as we discussed yesterday, it would be wholly unrealistic to expect the Government to commit public money for the building of the road when the plans have not been drawn up for it.  I have been in touch with Cllr Heenan to indicate that I would be happy to help further on making progress”.

He sent a follow up email that stated I have told Dale that I do not support the dualling of Mead Way, but agree that some roundabout improvements would be appropriate”.

Following the January public meeting, the Swindon Advertiser published this story. We (the TDeX group) felt this story did not accurately reflect the proceedings and so this letter was sent to (and published by) the Advertiser. Since then a SBC proposal to set up a working group to look at Swindon’s travel infrastructure was made. The TDeX group, requested an amendment to that proposal that directly invites us to the working group – our amendment was accepted.

In summary, we are of the opinion that twenty years of talk and procrastination is long enough. SBC must spend the money now on the design work and business case for the Thamesdown Drive extension. Of course improvements (other than dualling) of the existing infrastructure along Mead Way and Akers Way along with Great Western Way are necessary since the much needed extension to Thamesdown Drive is years away even with 100% commitment from SBC.

If you think traffic on Mead Way is bad today….

14 January 2015

Following SBC’s announcement to focus on improving Akers Way and Mead Way rather than prioritising the Thamesdown Drive to B&Q link road, a public meeting was called. We provided a presentation that spoke about why Mead Way will get much worse, essentially as a result of Ridgeway Farm, Mouldon View and Aldi together with the plan for more houses on that site. We also highlighted the half a million square feet of empty office and warehouse space along the Mead Way corridor – which is the equivalent of ‘over half a Gherkin’ – click here to view the full presentation and understand the ‘gherkin’ analogy.

Thamesdown Drive Public Meeting

24 December 2014

Arranged for the 13th January at 7pm and to be held in the Western Community Centre on Somerset Road – click here for more details contained on the Link Magazine website.

Click here for the full slide set used at the meeting by the TDeX group

Thamesdown Drive Extension – Yet More Delays

9 December 2014

The following comments are made with reference to this Swindon Advertiser article:

The SRA are very disappointed to hear of a decision to inject yet more delays into getting the necessary funding for this road extension. At the time of  the North Swindon development taking place it was considered a requirement. Indeed the developers committed about £20m in S106 money to part fund the project. Since that time, the money has been spent elsewhere in the borough and a number of reviews into the project have taken place. For example, a report looking at route options was produced in 2008 by Halcrow and in 2009 the SBC transport strategy stated a need to “identify the wider benefits of the link road”. Six years later, and following yet another review, similar conclusions in terms of route options and wider benefits are drawn. Whilst this may show some consistency in the message, it demonstrates quiet clearly the lack of progress made and the true value of the most recent report (given that it has simply restated what was known in 2009).

Whilst we agree short term actions to the existing road infrastructure are necessary, and S106 money from Ridgeway Farm will help Mead Way improvements, the long term solution of building the link road will forever remain a pipe dream unless bold and decisive actions are taken. One such action would be to spend the £600k on the design work now.  In February of this year we  advocated that the funding for this work should come from S106 money simply because it is just 3% of the £20m originally committed to the road by developers and subsequently spent elsewhere in the borough.

SRA Position on Design Work Funding

19 February 2014

Whitehall has told SBC to find the £600k for the detailed design work from other sources. The SRA believes existing S106 money should be used for this effort simply because the £20m originally allocated to the road some years ago was spent on other projects across the Borough – £600k is just 3% of that budget. Click here to read the full rational for the argument which has also been sent to MP’s and councillors.

No funding from Government

5 December 2013

SBC were hoping George Osborne would provide central government funding for this road during his autumn statement. It seems he has not yet committed, though our MP’s and councillors remain hopeful. Read the Link and Advert articles for more details.

Update

November 2013

The updated Halcrow report was completed during October and provided to Robert Buckland MP for his discussions with the treasury. Of the seven routes considered, the one that comes out strongest is a single carriageway (with potential for dueling) that follows the northern side of the railway line, then is tunneled underneath where the height of the embankment allows before carrying on to Barnfield. Estimated cost is around £50m. Concerns were raised that putting the road in would make it easier for developers to seek planning permission to the West. This is in part why only a single carriageway is being considered at this time. Other routes attempted an earlier crossing over the railway line, but environmental impact was far higher. A route following the north all the way down to Bruce Street Bridges was also discounted. Click here for a rough map of the proposed route

Update

July 2013

Councillor Keith Williams together with Robert Buckland MP met with Chancellor George Osborne on July 12th 2013. The meeting was arranged to seek funding for the design work of the Thamesdown Drive to Barnfield road link. Councillor Williams reports the meeting went well and that the Chancellor has taken the plans away to give them serious thought. Mr. Osborne was happy to be photographed holding the plans for media purposes. We will not know for sure whether this money has been secured until the October spending review. Even if it is, this is just for the design phase, funding for the build will have to follow and that will require a lot more money!

Please note: Even if the money to build the road is forthcoming, it is likely to be ten years before it is completed; Ridgeway farm will be completed in five years and so we will have five years of traffic chaos.

Update

June 2013

Councillor Keith Williams has taken the lead role in developing the strategy to both have the designs for the road completed and funding made available by central government. Together with Robert Buckland MP, he will meet with the Chancellor on July 11th to request money for the detailed design work.

Meanwhile, SBC have funded an update to the 2008 report produced by Halcrow which analyses options for the route of the road and prices for each. The scope of this new review will be completed in the next few weeks and will be published to this web site as soon as we have it. The review is expected to start in July and be completed by November 2013.

Update

May 2013

Councillor Perkins has informed the SRA that “it was agreed that full costing’s for various alternative routes for the Thamesdown Drive extension would be carried out shortly at a cost of approximately £40k. With this information SBC will be able to approach government for funding”.

Click here to download a copy of the SRA’s response to SBC local plan

Background

May 2013

This road was deemed a requirement for the Northern expansion and the developers contributed about £20m towards its cost. Unfortunately, not enough priority was placed on building the road by SBC and so a strategy to lobby government for additional funding was never put in place. The 2009 transport strategy stated a need to “identify the wider benefits of the link road” and yet puts its priority as last over improvements to every other major arterial road in the Borough of Swindon. These “wider benefits” were never identified. The developer contribution has been renegotiated (to a lower level) and the money is to be spent on initiatives such as improving the Bruce Street bridges junction on Great Western Way.

Without the road, Mead Way will get even more congested and, when Ridgeway Farm is completed, the SRA is predicting complete gridlock on the northern Sparcells roundabout.

SRA Actions

We have met with Robert Buckland MP on several occasions to express to him the urgency for the road – an urgency he agrees with and have lobbied all our local councillors both directly and via the west Swindon Forum. In addition we have attended the Haydon Parish council meetings and requested we work together to achieve our mutually beneficial goals of having the road built. As a result, we are part of a joint working team between the SRA, Haydon Parish Council and Oakhurst Residents Association.