Mass Rapid Transit System

Planning Application 162325

To proceed with an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Scoping Report for the East Reading Mass Rapid Transit scheme (MRT)

Comments from the Association of Central Earley Residents, ACER

ACER is concerned over the impact of the proposed MRT to the popular walking and cycling recreational route along the Thames, particularly near Kennetmouth where there is very little land between the mainline railway and the Thames to implement the proposed scheme.

SCOPING REPORT dated August 2016

ACER wishes to bring the following points to your attention, with reference to the EIA Scoping Report dated August 2016:

Ref. 2.3.8   Local Wildlife Site  ACER note that Otters have been reported at Kennetmouth.

Ref. 3.2.1  Proposal to include cycle path and footway.  ACER doubt the attractiveness of including the cycleway and footpath to users when they have the option of a more pleasant route along the existing Thames Path.  The exception may be commuting cyclists who would have a cleaner and dryer route in poor weather and when the river is in flood.

Ref. Page 6. Indicative Schematic.

  • ACER note the new MRT road sits on an embankment. There is a need to keep the overall ‘footprint’ width of the scheme to a minimum in order to minimise any adverse effect on the appeal of the existing Thames Path. The higher the roadway goes as it approaches Kennetmouth, the taller and therefore the wider the 45 degree embankment gets.  This is the converse of what is required, as the distance between the MRT route and the Thames narrows towards Kennetmouth.
  • The scale of the construction is significant. The width of the two lane roadway plus separate cycle ways and footpaths is expected to be at least 10 metres. The height of the existing bridges is 11 metres, so a 45 degree embankment will add another 11 metres to the width, totalling 21 metres minimum. Elevating the roadway on columns instead of an embankment would dramatically reduce the footprint of the works and therefore reduce the visual impact to Thames Path users.  As piling is reported as impacting the local underground aquifers, toe footings could be used to support the roadway instead.  Earth could be banked half way up the supports and tree planting plus ‘hanging basket’ schemes as used so effectively on road cuttings on the continent could hide the rest of the concrete structure and potentially help dampen the noise from the road.
  • ACER note that the MRT roadway ends at Napier Road. Napier road is relatively narrow and is prone to flooding.  Napier road would need to be widened and elevated to be able to efficiently take the planned two-way flow of large vehicles.

Ref.  4.2.16. TVP Park and Ride  ACER wish to point out the proposed Park and Ride at the end of Thames Valley Park only has space for 277 cars. This is a very small percentage of the number of cars attempting to enter Reading from the A3290 each day and may not be viable to support a frequent bus shuttle on its own.

Ref.  5.5.1Effects on Environment  ACER wait with interest, credible proposals ..’of the measures…to prevent, reduce and where possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment’.

Ref. 7.2.1.  Transport Statement  ACER note that there will be a separate ‘Transport Statement’ which will ‘assess the impact changes in traffic’, and note that there will be a ‘review of the baseline conditions’ as stated in 7.2.4.  ACER feel it is important that traffic flows in all the feeder roads into and out of east Reading are quantified, both in peak and off-peak periods.  The area covered by ACER suffers from a lot of rat-running due to the inability of traffic to flow smoothly and continuously along the primary A4 route in and out of Reading. The MRT scheme may shorten bus and coach times to TVP and Heathrow in particular, but ACER is looking for schemes to significantly alleviate commuter traffic in and out of Reading from the east, which would also help business and commerce in a town which aspires to be a city.  The  ‘impact changes in traffic’ will require these aspects to be credibly addressed.

Ref. 7.2.5  Scope of the Assessment

  • Increased Walking and Cycling. The new route will primarily be of interest to ‘commuter’ cyclists travelling to TVP and Sutton Seeds industrial park.  ACER expect this to be attractive to train users, but the lack of facilities for taking bicycles on modern carriages may be a disincentive to potential users.
  • Reduced Car Use on A4 corridor. This requires MRT buses to terminate at commuter pick up points such as Reading Station as well as the Park and Rides at Winnersh in addition to the proposed Park and Ride at Thames Valley Park.

Ref.  7.2.12.  Driver Delay. It is noted that high magnitude impacts are defined as driver delays over 60 seconds.  ACER would like to point out that a typical traffic light controlled junction is a minimum of one minute to change from STOP to GO. By reducing the number of traffic light controlled junctions on primary routes a better flow of traffic would be achieved.  The arrangement of all outgoing traffic crossing incoming traffic at Kennet Bridge is another fundamental problem for traffic moving in and out of Reading to the East.

Ref .  7.6.7. Potential Visual Receptors Earley residents are also frequent users of the Thames Path

Ref.  7.6.20.  Assessment of Landscape.  ACER are pleased to see that the effects of landscape changes from 2016, through development and up to 15 years after completion will be ‘assessed’.  Diagrams and schematics will be needed to show each stage of evolution.

Ref. 8.2.5  Assessment…..based on 300 vehicles per day   The figure of 300 buses a day using the MRT appears speculative. This figure requires a detailed breakdown if it is to be credible.

3D IMAGING

The use of 3D imaging is commonplace in engineering and can be generated relatively easily with modern PC based drawing packages.  In an important and sensitive scheme such as the MRT, ACER request that 3D imaging of the scheme is created to enable everyone to get a better understanding of the relationship of the key elements, i.e. the railway, the MRT road and cycleway, the existing Thames path, the existing bridges and the new bridge.  Ideally this could be accessible on line and different angles could be viewed using a mouse from a home PC.

RBC TRACK RECORD

Reading Borough Council has had a poor track record in traffic management schemes. Many of us remember a sequence of costly schemes for ‘improving’ traffic along the Oxford Road, all of which made matters worse for drivers, buses and local traders.  RBC also recently introduced, then later  removed, lane restrictions along London Road for traffic going into Reading from the east, which effectively forced all through-traffic into a single lane when two were previously used. Claims for this MRT scheme may therefore be greeted with a great deal of scepticism, so addressing the points raised by ACER in addition to the broad reaching scope of works as stated, may allay some criticism of bias and also qualify some conclusions of the report.

SUMMARY

Quantified usage of the MRT scheme has to be established and compared with both existing and future traffic flows in and out of Reading from the east. Accurate representations of the visual impact to Thames Path users have to be presented.  Only by establishing these criteria can it be judged whether any environmental benefit, in terms of traffic reduction on existing roads, is really worth the true cost in terms of impact on a national trail (the Thames Path) and the local community.

Planning Application on WDC website  for update on progress