Strong Support for Sustainable Travel in Reading’s Biggest Ever Transport Survey

THE results of Reading’s biggest ever public consultation on the future of transport in the town have

now been published.

Over the summer, the Council asked residents, businesses, organisations and interest groups how they would go about tackling Reading’s future transport challenge. The consultation had a particular focus on congestion, poor air quality and meeting the challenge to create a net-zero carbon Reading by 2030, in the context of the many thousands of extra homes which will be built in and around Reading over the coming years. The results will help shape a new Local Transport Plan (LTP), setting the strategy for transport provision in Reading up to 2036. Letters were sent to nearly 80,000 households and 3,900 businesses. More than 3,000 responses were received, including 2,881 online responses and feedback from drop-in events, school workshops and meetings with organisations and focus groups, both inside and outside of Reading, including neighbouring local authorities. We asked people what would be effective measures in terms of introducing more and improved sustainable transport choices in Reading. Headline results show:
  • 93% said making public transport journeys faster and more reliable
  • 83% said a comprehensive park and ride network to reduce cars on the road
  • 90% said dedicated car free spaces, to increase active travel
  • 92% said better connected walking and cycling routes
  • 75% said the reallocation of road space for sustainable modes of transport
Reading Buses We also asked what would work in terms of managing future traffic levels and demand in Reading.
  • 78% said limiting cars from sensitive areas (around schools and the town centre) would improve safety, alongside air quality and health benefits for residents
  • 76% said initiatives where roads are free of cars for a limited time would improve safety, air quality and public health
  • 86% said better facilities would increase the uptake of zero emission vehicles (e.g. electric vehicle charging points)
  • Around 60% said a charging scheme would be effective in reducing the number of private vehicles on the road
78% of people who responded lived in Reading, 12% lived in the wider ‘Greater Reading’ urban area and 10% lived outside of this. 54% said they currently used sustainable transport (i.e. public transport, walking or cycling), 43% drove and 3% travelled by other means. As well as responses around transport themes, the consultation included more detailed feedback from interest groups and feedback on specific schemes. This included support for the introduction of a third bridge over the River Thames to help reduce congestion in Reading, and large support for extension of public transport services throughout Reading, particularly Caversham and direct services to Royal Berkshire Hospital. The full consultation results can be found at Cllr Tony Page

Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Transport and Planning, said:

“We know that Reading is being choked by the large number of vehicles entering the town, including those which use the town as a cut through and have no origin, destination or purpose in the borough. It is therefore no real surprise to see such strong support for delivering high-quality and realistic alternatives to the private car.

“We also know that congestion and poor air quality will only increase in Reading with the thousands of new homes being built in and around the town over the next few years, which will have a detrimental effect on the health and quality of life of local residents. The survey provides the Council with valuable information on the type of schemes which the public think might be effective, including the investigation of possible demand management measures, which are already operating successfully in other parts of the UK, alongside better sustainable travel choices. “Transport is the biggest greenhouse gas emitting sector in the UK, accounting for over a quarter of total emissions. Significant investment in sustainable transport solutions is therefore essential to respond to the Climate Emergency declared by the Council in 2019, and to help achieve our target of a carbon neutral Reading by 2030. “I would like to thank every single individual, group and organisation that took part in this important consultation, and we appreciate the time they have taken. The feedback is invaluable in helping to shape Reading’s future transport plan, and how we go about reducing our reliance on the private car, and achieving the net zero carbon target we have committed to by 2030.”

Adele Barnett-Ward, Chair of the Cleaner Air and Safer Transport Forum, added:

“Enabling more people to walk, cycle, and use public transport is crucial if we are to improve air quality in Reading and do our bit to tackle the global climate emergency. I am grateful that so many residents took the time to participate in this consultation and encouraged by the clear support shown for measures to improve sustainable travel in our town. If we work together we can achieve a cleaner, greener future for Reading.” The next steps are for the Council to use the feedback to prepare a draft LTP for statutory consultation in the spring with a 12-week statutory consultation throughout summer. A final LTP would then be adopted in Autumn 2020. Reading’s new Local Transport Plan will include borough-wide strategies for car parking and air quality, as well as traffic management measures, particularly those to address through traffic using Reading as a short cut with no origin, destination or purpose in the borough. Strategies which may form part of the plan, and which are already in operation in other parts of the country, include possible ‘demand management’ measures such as a Low Emission Zone and/or Clean Air Zone, a Workplace Parking Levy, or charges on vehicles using the town as a short cut. No decisions on future options have been taken at this time while the draft Local Transport Plan continues to be developed and then consulted on. The Council’s emerging LTP is being developed in parallel to and to be consistent with the Climate Change Strategy, which will also be consulted on this year.

Notes To Editor:

Reading’s Transport Challenge

With one of the UK’s fastest growing economies, Reading is home to a large number of local, national and international companies. It is the major centre for employment, leisure and education in the Thames Valley region. Demand for new homes has never been higher. While welcoming this success, it places a real strain on the town’s roads and transport infrastructure. Reading continues to face serious challenges in terms of commuter congestion and poor air quality, which impacts on the health of local residents. They include:
  • Major roads such as the IDR (inner distribution road) carry ‘through traffic’ (without stopping in Reading) that creates additional noise and air pollution. Our analysis shows up to a third of trips made in peak periods could avoid using the IDR as a through route, if enhanced orbital routes were provided.
  • 86% of people who commute into Reading for work from outside the borough travel by car.
  • Reading has a number of hotspot locations which currently exceed national legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) including on the Oxford Road, Prospect Street, Cemetery Junction/London Road, Friar Street and locations on the IDR.
  • Reading’s population will increase by around 12% from 162,666 in 2016 to 181,900 in 2039.
  • 671 new homes are planned in Reading every year to 2036 with 801 every year in neighbouring Wokingham and 990 every year in South Oxfordshire.

Sustainable Transport in Reading

Reading Borough Council and its partners have delivered a large number of major sustainable transport schemes in recent years. These include the major redevelopment of Reading Station; the upgrade of Junction 11 of the M4 including dedicated public transport provision; Mereoak Park and Ride; the first phases of South Reading’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) route and Christchurch Bridge, the pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Thames. The new Elizabeth line, when fully opened, will provide direct services to central and east London. More recently with Network Rail, the Council has widened and lowered Cow Lane, enabling two-way traffic of lorries and buses to pass under the new bridges for the first time ever. The Council-owned bus company, Reading Buses, goes from strength to strength, providing one of the cleanest, most modern and most extensive bus networks in the UK. The Council is also working to deliver a brand new railway station at Green Park by 2021, major improvements to Reading West Station and a new cross-Reading (and Berkshire) National Cycle Network (NCN) route.