Traffic & Transport

Cycling lanes in Farnham

Cycling

 

In recent weeks there have been a number of articles about cycling lanes. Did you see them ?

The Society maintains its position in supporting pedestrianisation and the introduction of shared spaces, but not giving preference to cyclists over pedestrians and motorists. We are, however, open to ideas provided they do not compromise safety and the wellbeing of all living, working and visiting Farnham

Fortunately, Farnham currently does not have any dedicated cycle lanes on its roads. There are numerous shared cycle lane pavements / footpaths but we will return to those. What would happen if cycle lanes were introduced to the roads in Farnham ? The Covid safe distancing measures introduced in June give us an idea.

We, like many residents, were appalled at the measures put in place by Surrey County Council, against the wishes of Farnham Town Council. Surrey strong-armed our local representatives and spent money that could have been used more effectively. But, surprise, surprise, Surrey weren’t the only local authority with responsibility for roads to introduce such schemes or cycle lanes, although maybe took longer in accepting that they were inappropriate and ugly.

The government rushed out £2 billion to encourage the public to cycle to work rather than use public transport or their cars during the pandemic.

The consequences of the measures were traffic chaos, disenchanted shop owners and managers and, to add insult to injury, government figures show the number using bicycles has fallen 25% since the first lockdown. That will be a national figure and it could be different in Farnham, however the consequences of the introduction of cycle lanes would have been very similar, if not probably worse, here in Farnham.

Reports from many towns across England record drivers left fuming as they queue next to empty routes coned off for cyclists. U turns have been made by councils with many of the cycle routes being ripped up at further expense.

The papers record that one cycle route in Greater Manchester was removed after just 28 hours because of the mayhem. Another route in Gloucestershire was scrapped after five days, and in West Sussex 12 miles of cycle lanes that reputedly cost £780,000 were removed because barely anyone was using them. In London a cycle lane between Euston Road and Marylebone Road costing £250,000 was removed because it created crippling traffic congestion, and thousands have backed a court challenge to overturn road closures brought in to boost cycling in Ealing.

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay led a campaign to scrap pop-up cycle lanes in his Kent constituency and said: “I am up for dedicated cycle lanes that have been well thought out, but to take away existing vehicular road space and cause more congestion is not a good idea. I speak to many MP colleagues and they are saying there are campaigns against these cycle lanes all across the country. I think the scheme should be scrapped.”

Pro-cycling groups and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps say opposition to the cycle lanes comes from a ‘vocal minority’. But Mr Shapps wrote to councils last month to warn that too many temporary cycle lanes were being left ‘unused’ and causing ‘traffic to back up.’

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “This Government is investing £27 billion to upgrade our roads in our largest road improvement programme. We are at the same time promoting cycling and walking as they are beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing, but we have been clear we expect local authorities to engage constructively with residents to make sure any changes are right for everyone, including motorists.”

It is reported that Portsmouth City Council announced that it would remove all parking along two main roads in Southsea to accommodate fully segregated bike lanes in both directions, as part of a three-week trial which may become permanent. Shop owners are already struggling it is claimed, and believe it will kill business dead.

Many people have suggested that the time has come for cyclists to be licensed – and to be forced to obey the Highway Code like the rest of us.

I am noticing increased disrespect for pedestrians by cyclists. Cyclists give way, or give a wide margin, for other cyclists but do not give way or leave an appropriate margin for pedestrians. Cyclists have become the ‘white van men’ of the pavement or footpath.

Although suggesting cyclists should be forced to obey the Highway Code there is in fact little in the Highway Code relating to cycling. The government is reportedly revising it, which may lead to drivers of cars, vans and lorries being assumed to be automatically responsible for accidents with cyclists.

Motoring groups are reportedly worried about the ‘hierarchy of users’ guideline which says ‘pedestrians and cyclists will have the right of way and that those in cars, vans and lorries will bear greater responsibility to keep them safe.’ Critics believe it means drivers will face the blame even if a cyclist was really at fault – and that the amendments may push up motor insurance premiums.

The proposed change states: ‘Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the responsibility to care and reduce the danger posed to others’. This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles.’ Another change would grant cyclists the right of way to ‘undertake’ vehicles, even if the driver is already indicating to turn left.

The Society remains concerned at the possible repercussions of the cycling lobby’s impact on Farnham. The cycling campaign group have suggested a new phase on the Hickley’s Corner traffic lights. This would further increase congestion, already bad enough, on this major highway in Farnham. The consequence would be more congestion in the town centre, something that it is impossible to even consider.

Of course, cycling is an important activity and needs to be taken account of in the planning of our roads. We need to take care however that pedestrian safety is not compromised and that the overall wellbeing of our town is considered when making important changes, rather than just accepting the views of one sector of our community.

The current Local Liaison Forum consultations being run as part of the Farnham infrastructure Programme provides an opportunity for us all to get involved. There are further Local Liaison Forum Meetings taking place to discuss and allow residents to express their views later this week, and in December, and early January. Follow this link and register to take part, listen or voice your opinion www.farnham.gov.uk/LLF

Dates for your diary

Wednesday November 25 at 6.30pm, Community (active travel, air quality, biodiversity)

Wednesday December 9 at 6.30pm, Town Centre (East Street, pedestrianisation, bypass)

Wednesday January 6 at 3pm, A31 and Hickley’s Corner (north-south connectivity)

Wednesday January 6 at 6.30pm, Upper Hale (effects of town centre changes, bypass)

Thursday January 7 at 6.30pm, Wrecclesham (bypass)

Thursday January 14 at 6.30pm, Young people (travel to school, youth needs)

 

Fairer Road Funding Petition

Pothole image

Surrey County Councillor Edward Hawkins (Surrey Heath), supported by Wrecclesham Village Voice, has set up a petition calling upon the Government to reform its fairer road funding which could result in improvements to the condition of the roads in Farnham and its environs.

The current formula calculates the funding for road repairs given to each local county authority based on the length of roads in each authority’s area. It does not take account of road usage. As a result Surrey misses out to the benefit of other less populated areas with less use of the road systems.

The petition requires 10,000 signatures to ensure that the government responds to the petition, 100,000 signatures and the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

The deadline is 2 November 2018.

The petition had 4,555 signatures on 5 June, nearly half way to the first threshold. Log on and sign now at Petition.parliament.uk/petitions/217930

A31 Brightwells Access Works

Image 2 A

Farnham town centre is about to undergo a considerable amount of disruption caused by building and redevelopment work starting shortly. Brightwells has planning permission although a number of new applications are being processed by Waverley seeking permission to make some changes to the approved proposals. Major works started at the Woolmead and at the Hopfields in autumn 2018.

Preparatory works for the Brightwells Development have already been undertaken, trees cut down next to the A31 east bound carriageway to allow access from the bypass. This construction work will take 12 to 14 weeks and involve the closing of the inside east bound lane of the A31 dual carriageway bypass. A further lane closure is programmed at the completion of the development, likely to be 8 to 10 weeks.

We have identified the following likely problems:

  1. Closure of the inside lane from the Firgrove Hill Bridge through the Hickleys Corner traffic signals to beyond the construction site for 24 hours during the two periods.

  2. Some re-adjustment of the traffic signal phasing at Hickleys Corner. There can be only a small change in timings because of the high existing traffic flows from Station Hill and from the Town Centre.

  3. The major problem will be the capacity of the traffic signals at Hickleys Corner. These operate on a sophisticated program which minimises the overall delay to traffic on all approaches. Recent counts by traffic engineers for the developers gave an morning peak flow eastbound entry flow on the A31 of 1,361 vehicles per hour (vph) [approximately 22 vehicles per minute] and an eastbound exit flow of 1811vph [approximately 30 vehicles per minute]. This latter number includes the traffic exiting South Street onto the Bypass eastbound and that exiting Station Hill onto the Bypass eastbound. The mid morning flows are nearly as high.

  4. The junction already operates at very nearly full capacity and it is not possible to reduce this by some 40% with single lane usage without very serious consequences.

  5. If the signal timings are changed it should be practical to reduce this capacity reduction to about 30%.

  6. Traffic flows from Station Hill onto the A31 should be similar to that at present but if there is no change in the traffic signal timings and that the single lane A31 eastbound from Hickleys Corner is not congested. If the signal timings are changed there would be a drop of about 10% in the traffic flow.

  7. Some longer distance through traffic will divert to other routes, A3, M3 etc but much of the traffic on the A31 is local and long delays, queues and frustration for drivers is likely to become more common.

  8. It is not possible to estimate how long the delays will likely be but many members and residents people are aware of long delays whenever there is one lane closed for grass cutting or other highway works and this is always carried out outside the peak periods. Delays of 20 or 30 minutes are not uncommon.

  9. Delays on the bypass nearly always have an immediate effect on the town centre. Gridlock has occurred repeatedly and recently when there was only a single lane for A31 eastbound traffic through the Shepherd and Flock traffic signals.

  10. We reluctantly envisage the town centre being gridlocked more frequently and for it to occur for long periods throughout the day.

  11. In essence you cannot put a quart into a pint pot without an overflow. ‘Overflow’ in this case will be drivers seeking alternative routes around north and south Farnham, through the town centre, or a lack of trips into Farnham.

Measures that could reduce the impact could be:

  1. Drivers should be encouraged by traffic signing to enter and exit Farnham via Firgrove Hill and Longbridge.

  2. New signage on the A31 and A325 stating: ‘Major works will take place from date X to date Y on the A31 Bypass eastbound. Do not divert into town centre’.

  3. Signs on A31 and A325 stating: ‘Town centre is for local traffic only and no through traffic. This could be controlled and implemented by number plate recognition cameras but is unlikely to be progressed.

  4. Control of the construction traffic timings so that major HGV movements from the Brightwells Development and Woolmead are not at the same time.

  5. All parking for construction vehicles on the Brightwells site must be within then site itself.

  6. Any changes coming from the proposed pedestrianisation or Town Centre Regeneration scheme are introduced after the completion of Brightwells and The Woolmead.

Robert Mansfield

9 May 2018

Click here for full report

Farnham Station Car Park

Farnham Station : 
by Ray Stanton, licensed under Creative Commons

Farnham Station : by Ray Stanton, licensed under Creative Commons

Changes to the car park at Farnham Station in 2016 added a new deck, to provide 170 additional parking spaces.

A presentation on the changes took place at Farnham Station, on 8 March.

Work was originally planned to run from April to August, however, the start date was postponed while emergency repair work was carried out on the line between Farnham and Alton.

 

 

For further information visit the South West Trains website.

Pedestrianisation

Pedestrianisation

It must be about five years ago that the idea of pedestrianisation of The Borough and Downing Street was brought up again as a possible solution to the narrow and crowded pavements in the town.  A single lane traffic scheme for Downing Street had been considered some years before but had been rejected on traffic grounds.

One must take cognisance that both The Borough and Downing Street carry not only local traffic but also two A class roads each.

The A31 Guildford to Southampton road, the A 325 Petersfield to Frimley and the A287 Hindhead to Hook roads which criss cross through Farnham carry large amounts of through traffic.  If The Borough and Downing Street were to be closed for pedestrianisation there would be a need for substantial alternative routes for this traffic by way of real bypasses, not just fiddling about in the town centre, so removing all but the local traffic which is so vital for the well-being of our town.

Such a proposal was put forward by the Farnham Urban District Council (FUDC) in 1968.  It consisted of three pieces of new road.

Firstly, a link between the A325 from Petersfield to the A31 near the Hampshire/Surrey county boundary, bypassing the bottlenecks in Wrecclesham.  Secondly a link from this junction on the A31 up to join the A287 near Beacon Hill.  Thirdly to continue the A287 passing the top of Folly Hill and running along the county boundary on military land, which they were then prepared to provide, down to join the A325 by Wellington’s statue in Aldershot near Tesco.

If these roads were to be built now, it would greatly improve life in Wrecclesham, South Farnham, Castle Street and Upper Hale.

Since 1968 the Blackwater Valley Route (BVR) has been built.  Due to a lack of proper planning, when you come to the Farnham end of the BVR you should turn left to go cross country to join the A3 instead of turning right to go through the middle of Farnham, then heading for Wrecclesham via Coxbridge, going under the sub-standard height rail bridge, up through the conservation area’s narrow “Street” and on via Bordon to join the A3 at Petersfield.

Without these new pieces of road, any idea of pedestrianising the centre of Farnham is a non-starter.  However, I am hopeful that these facts may have got through to the authors of a recent set of dwindling proposals to the point where they have now dropped the idea of pedestrianisation and replaced it with the concept of shared space!

All one can say to that is that The Borough and Downing Street are not for sharing.  The concept of shared space in confined road widths is very dangerous and quite unworkable.  Think of mothers with pushchairs and toddlers and Farnham’s ageing old folk.  Shared space means traffic but no pavements and the vision of people cowering in shop doorways afraid to step straight out into the maelstrom of lorries, cars, bicycles and pedestrians is a total nightmare.  But Surrey County Council have agreed to spend £7,000 of our money, to tell us what we already know.

About five years ago the idea of widening the narrow pavements in The Borough and Downing Street re-emerged.  Whilst we would all like more pavement room, it would mean narrowing the roads down to single carriageways which would make servicing some shops impossible and would constrict the traffic even more than it is already making gridlock a regular event.

Just think for yourself how you would get from Castle Street to Farnham Station if The Borough was closed or from Firgrove Hill to Castle Street if Downing Street and The Borough were closed to traffic.

The old chestnut of making Farnham Town centre more pedestrian-friendly appeared again.  The pros and cons have long been exercised but the facts remain.  In order to achieve what we want, Surrey County Council are going to have to provide alternative routing for the through traffic which does not wish to be in our town anyway.  This was noted by SCC in their  1980s document ‘Highway Schemes for Farnham Town Centre’, which considered a number of schemes, including part closure of  The Borough. The paper noted that schemes involving new road construction would not be implemented before the 1990s. Twenty years later we are no further forward.

Read Highway Schemes for Farnham Town Centre

 

 

Traffic Perspective

farnham traffic

In the late 1980’s Surrey County Council (SCC) produced a plan for the Farnham bisector through our town.  Basically an extravagant grade-separated junction, instead of the Shepherd and Flock roundabout, with sharply curved causeways across the Wey Valley with a bite out of the railway embankment and serious interference with the valley’s hydraulics and wildlife habitat.  From the Shepherd and Flock to Hickleys Corner the dual carriageway would have been three lanes each way.  At Hickley’s Corner the planned underpass had limited access to surrounding roads.  Their underpass plans would not fit into the constricted area available nor comply with the necessary road criteria.

We told them it would not work but “Nanny knows best!”

SCC submitted their plans to the government who promptly rejected them.  They resubmitted them twice more only to be rejected twice more.  One of our SCC elected members was asked “why and on what grounds?”  His reply was that he did not know as the government’s response was confidential!  This was nonsense so the Society’s then Chairman, Mary Neville, and I went to see our MP Virginia Bottomley.  She agreed it was nonsense and gave us a copy of the rejection letter from the Government of the South East (GOSE) which she said was in the public domain.  It gave the four reasons for rejection:-

  1.  The overall cost was so high it needed to be in the top tranche of UK road works which was not justifiable.
  2. The very high cost rendered the scheme not cost effective.
  3. The scheme would have serious detrimental effects on important wildlife habitat.
  4. The scheme did nothing to alleviate the traffic problem in Farnham.

Now we knew and so did our SCC members why it had failed.  The letter was passed to the Farnham Herald who printed it with our plan drawings.

The Farnham Society is sometimes criticised as being against everything.  However, as far as traffic is concerned, before we criticise, we make sure that there is a better way.  We started with a full traffic count at the Shepherd and Flock roundabout and quickly realised why, in the early rush hour, the bisector was blocked way back over the county boundary and up through Wrecclesham.  A careful survey under Firgrove Hill bridge gave us the answer for clearing the Hickley’s Corner congestion.  We drew the plans and presented our scheme to our three County Councillors as well as making a presentation at SCC headquarters in Kingston.  We heard nothing.

It was some seven years later that I met with a more recently elected member who told me that SCC had come up with the solution – what did I think of it? – obviously expecting criticism.  Very good, I replied, when can you start? I then pointed out that the SCC scheme was identical to ours submitted all those years ago.  I showed him the Farnham Herald article and the date.

Well, give them their due, they did do it and it is what we have today – the third lane under the bridge on the bisector, the traffic lights on the Shepherd and Flock and the separate lane for Guildford traffic on the Shepherd and Flock and the longer slip road up Station Hill.

Figures gleaned at the Hindhead tunnel inquiry showed the Hindhead crossroad traffic at 30,000 vehicles per day (VPD) and Hickleys Corner at 45,000.

The moral of this saga is “never dismiss or underrate local knowledge” it is often much superior to anything produced by “experts”.

 

Michael Murphy   December 2014

Farnborough Airfield

Farnborough Airfield

Farnborough Airfield

By Mike Bryan

Farnborough Airfield’s owner-operators have plans for expansion of flying, and earlier this year ran a consultation in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Details are available on the website http://www.consultation.tagfarnborough.com.

This is not about tinkering with flight-paths for little noticeable difference.  It’s about setting the principles for potential massive expansion of Farnborough, perhaps as a passenger airport using predominantly larger and noisier aircraft.  This is very significant to Farnham residents’ quality of life in the long term.

Farnborough Airfield is owned and run by TAG Aviation, a specialist provider of business-jet facilities.  Airspace operations and control near Farnborough are complex.  Although there were only 23,000 movements in 2012, TAG already has permission for up to 50,000 aircraft movements per year at Farnborough.

TAG briefed Farnham residents at Sandy Hill on 23 April that they hope to expand operations towards the 50,000 limit by 2019.  But their strategy for Farnborough development runs out in 2019.  Broadly, if they can’t double the volume of business jet activity in the next 5 years, commercial pressures could lead them to sell the airfield for commercial airline operations, in which role it could service London.

At page B22 of the Consultation papers: ‘CAA guidance for airspace change does not provide a method for assessing tranquillity.  …  You may wish to consider the potential effect on tranquillity when providing feedback.’  From a Farnham perspective, my own analysis of the consultation papers led to 4 main points.

Significant to residents of Folly Hill, Sandy Hill and Upper Hale: proposals for flight arrivals to Farnborough Runway 06 (at Figure B10) include authorising flight below 1000 ft (above mean sea level; amsl) from the Folly Hill and Odiham Road junction, where the ground is approximately 600 ft high.  That implies some aircraft on north-easterly approach to Farnborough flying at 400 ft above ground in that area.  That frightening prospect is unnecessary and unwanted.

Secondly, there is no apparent good reason for allowing flight between approximately 700 and 1700 ft in the area above central Farnham between Rowledge, Wrecclesham, Dippenhall, Upper Hale, Hale, Runfold, Compton and The Bourne (displayed on Figure B10 as 1000-2000ft amsl).  That is unnecessary and unwanted.  Establishing a protection zone around those areas would avoid apparent disregard for Farnham’s population centre.

Thirdly, in order to shorten ground tracks, reduce CO2 emissions and reduce noise footprints, flight arrivals from the north-west towards the predominantly used Runway 24 (at Figures B11 and E2) should primarily route direct to the start point for the final turn rather than to a runway-parallel holding leg.  Then any multiple arrivals could be separated by fanning them all out to the right (ie making them join the holding orbit earlier, as currently depicted and proposed).

Finally, the consultation did not specify details of proposed noise abatement procedures, which could significantly reduce the impact of increased flying activity at Farnborough.  The plans do not include maximum power settings related to aircraft altitude and distances from take-off.  This is routine for airports in city areas but has not  – yet – been included as consideration for local residents here.  That omission must be corrected and there should be further public consultation in that regard.

The closing date for public comments was Monday 12 May, and the Farnham Society commented before that date. A first report was published in August summarising responses to the consultation and recording that responses were predominantly negative. The report can be seen on the website www.consultation.tagfarnborough.com/consultation-document.

A further report will be published in the first quarter of 2015, giving more details of proposals under consideration following the consultation.