05:09PM, Thursday 10 October 2019
No further action will be taken on the decision to ban the right-hand turn from Queen Street – unless the matter escalates to a public inquiry.
Cabinet agreed to permanently ban the turn from Queen Street onto the A308 two weeks ago but the matter was called-in to be discussed further at the Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Panel last night.
At the meeting it was revealed that if the operator of a local bus service objects to a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), which prohibits or restricts a passage of a public services vehicle, then the council must hold a public inquiry.
Resident and former Liberal Democrat candidate Adam Bermange, who was at the meeting, stated this in a letter which was in part read aloud by Cllr Catherine del Campo (Lib Dems, Furze Platt).
A formal letter of objection from Courtney Buses dated June 28 has been seen by the Advertiser.
In his letter Mr Bermange’s asks ‘whether there is a specific reason why the objections from Courtney Buses did not trigger the public inquiry process as the regulations would seem to suggest it would.”
Ben Smith, the council’s head of commissioning – communities, said: “we haven’t made a Traffic Regulation Order at this point in time’.
“We’re aware of the objection from Courtney Buses and if we can’t resolve that objection with them so they withdraw it, there will be a public inquiry.”
Leader of the council Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) said: “I didn’t see the point of pushing forward with a Traffic Regulation Order without an agreement in principal with our cabinet. Public inquiries are costly to hold, particularly lengthy public inquiries.
“Any lengthy delay would result in a continuation of the temporary work, the temporary traffic lights, of the site which I fully acknowledge have caused significant obstruction over the last few weeks.”
He added: “I think as an authority we’re clear we want to see a resolution with Courtney Buses.”
The first motion to be made at the meeting was by Cllr Mandy Brar (Lib Dems, Bisham and Cookham) who called-in the decision to ban the turn with Cllrs del Campo and John Baldwin (Lib Dems, Belmont).
After expressing her concerns about the ban, including additional congestion at Braywick roundabout and increased carbon emissions, Cllr Brar made a motion to refer the decision to full council – which was defeated three votes to two.
The motion which was agreed was proposed by Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) who proposed to take no further action.
He said: “The decision will take effect immediately but with the rider that ongoing work will take place between Ben Smith’s team and Courtney coaches to ensure their fears are addressed, and that some arrangement can be made with them, or otherwise, yes, it will have to go to a public inquiry if that can’t be reached.”
Also at the meeting leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green) said the council was taking a ‘piece-meal development to Maidenhead town centre’ because there is no wider plan ‘to analyse, to debate, to talk about’.
He said: “It would seem to me to make more sense to put plans forward, which might include blocking off the right turn, and then debating the whole thing as a piece and then making those decisions at that point.”
Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) said: “The pollution and the traffic and the congestion is being shifted into Oldfield ward, away from the town centre.”
He added: “What should have happened with this junction is a number of junctions should have been investigated and a number of different scenarios for the town should have been investigated before this paper came to cabinet.”
During the meeting Mr Smith said the consequences of the ban are ‘factored in to the broader planning of the highway network across the town’.
He said: “I’m not for one minute dismissing the impact of the right turn on it now, but the number of vehicles that we’re talking about, that are displaced by the right-turn, is relatively minor and will have a very minimal impact on that overall modelling.”
The Maidenhead station improvement works - which includes two-way traffic in Broadway aimed at reducing the number of people who need to use the banned right-turn - are part of a £4.5 million project.
The project is being partly funded by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Mr Smith said: “All the points that we’re talking have been explored in details, analysed in detail and scrutinised by someone outside the council before that funding was approved.”
He added: “The conclusion of the business case, independently assessed, done by experts, is the impact on noise and air quality is neutral, that is the headline outcome.”
Today, Simon Fisher, general manager of Courtney Buses, said the company ‘has been consulted by RBWM at various stages in the development of the proposal’.
He said the company was concerned a diversion around the Stafferton Road roundabout would add time into a journey making it less attractive to passengers and increase running costs.
“In early September, buses were taking up to 12 additional minutes to make the diversion, and many journeys were cancelled or ran extremely late,” he said.
Courtney Buses took the decision to divert the services which would normally turn right at the Queen Street junction, and send them out of town via Saint Cloud Way.
Mr Fisher said: “We recognise that the results of the trial have been affected by the additional works taking place, and we have been unable to fully assess the impact of the diversion with two lanes running throughout the day [Queen Street is down to one lane during off-peak times].”
"We hope we are able to work with the Council to find a speedy resolution without the need for a public inquiry, which can redress the impact on our customers and align better with initiatives to promote more sustainable travel."
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