Sustainable travel key to Guildford town centre future

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A raft of changes including driverless buses, new railway stations and even a congestion charge are being considered by Guildford Borough Council

07:38, 21 SEPTEMBER 2015
BY JAMES WATKINS

The Guildford town centre gyratory

Driverless buses, a car-free route to the town centre, and new railway stations are all options being considered as part of a wide-ranging plan to move traffic out of Guildford town centre.

While councillors have admitted Guildford’s congestion issues cannot be fixed, if the public backs plans to pedestrianise parts of the town centre, drastic infrastructure and sustainable travel changes will have to be made to the wider system.

In the draft town centre masterplan, published at the end of July, there are proposals to change the much-maligned Guildford one-way system, including focusing pedestrian-only areas around Onslow Street and the possibility of opening the High Street bridge to traffic.

A wider transport plan is due to be published in March, which could include the driverless buses, about which the council has approached experts at the University of Surrey, and new railway stations at Park Barn and Merrow.

Councillor Matt Furniss, Guildford Borough Council ‘s lead councillor for infrastructure and environment, said if the public agrees with the current masterplan suggestions for greater pedestrianisation of the gyratory, during the six-week consultation from October 2, it will affect the wider road network, and sustainable travel will need to be encouraged.

Part of this is the “sustainable corridor”, a new pathway incorporating the existing road network which will run from Burpham to the university, restricted to buses, cycles and pedestrians only.

“The masterplan isn’t just about infrastructure, it is to decide what the vision is for the town depending on what people want to see in the town,” said Cllr Furniss.

“The key thing for the town centre masterplan is what do the public want the town to look like.

“If pedestrianisation is what they are going for, it will have an effect on the road network and it does mean we need a greater buy-in to using alternative means of transport because only by that will it all start to work.

“To get anything in the town centre itself we need to find a way of reducing the travel around the gyratory.

“What we are really pushing for is a ‘drive to’ and not ‘through’ policy.”

‘Sustainable’

Cllr Furniss said major infrastructure such as a tunnel or bridge in the town centre would not be justified as less than 10% of traffic going through the town is from the south to the A3.

While a congestion charge has been mooted, Cllr Furniss said he is not in favour, believing it would not work in Guildford.

Part of the plan is to encourage people to use “interceptor car parks” before they reach the gyratory. One proposal could be to expand Millbrook with an extra storey.

Another suggestion is a new junction into Bedford Road car park, to save motorists having to go around the gyratory in order to park there, and there are two possible scenarios for a new-look gyratory in the masterplan.

However, Cllr Furniss said the gyratory is not an infrastructure project being looked at in isolation.

The detailed transport plan for the wider borough is expected to be published in March next year, but Cllr Furniss said the council is investigating opening new railway stations at Park Barn and Merrow and junction improvements on the A3.

He said the council has also approached the University of Surrey to investigate the possibility of using radar and satellite technology to create driverless buses that will use the sustainable corridor.

Feasibility studies are still taking place, but it is likely the proposed route of the corridor would come from a new park and ride by the A3 at Burpham, and use much of the existing road network without the need to build new roads.

It will then head down Parkway and Ladymead, along Walnut Tree Close and connect with what is known as Yorkies Bridge, which crosses to the Stag Hill university campus, and would also create a link with the hospital and research park.

Its position, Cllr Furniss said, while not set in stone, allows for the potential to bolt on the pathway to the possible development as part of the Slyfield Regeneration project.

“This will enable better traffic flow for ordinary car users, and provide a safer bus route for buses, pedestrians, and cyclists,” added Cllr Furniss.

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