Costly M2 link is ‘not the answer’
12 Oct 2011Forecast has vehicles up by a third in 2031
A SITTINGBOURNE Southern Relief Road (SRR) will not stop traffic congestion increasing in the borough over the next 20 years, according to the newest computerised transport model.
If the A2 and M2 are linked to the east of Sittingbourne, congestion in the town will still be 30 per cent worse in 2031 than it is now, while the A249 at Junction 5 would remain gridlocked at rush hour, studies have shown.
Kent County Council transport planner George Chandler presented the traffic modelling results at a meeting of Swale Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel on Thursday.
Independent councillor for West Downs Monique Bonney said the Conservative council was “in denial” about the lack of benefits of a SRR, which it has been promoting for 20 years.
She said: “You have to question the expense versus the benefits and the benefits are minimal. There will be some relief in the town centre and a few other areas but you can’t spend such an enormous amount of money building the SRR if it doesn’t solve congestion and it doesn’t help with the problems at Junction 5 of the M2.”
Councillor Bonney said the Tories ’ plan to encourage drivers to use public transport, would not work with the “absolutely skeletal” bus system in Swale’s urban and rural areas.
Bapchild parish council chairman Andy Hudson has already written off the SRR, agreeing that
it will benefit only a handful of people. He said: “The Southern Relief Road is dead in the water.
The much-feted SRR spectacularly fails to live up to the hype. Not only does it not address the
big issue of M2 Junction 5, which will still require a major upgrade, but it also fails to act as the essential mitigation for the Northern Relief Road and to compound the problem further it creates a big
increase of traffic on the M2.”
Both Cllr Bonney and Mr Hudson expressed concern that the SRR seemed to primarily benefit Kent Science Park. However, Mr Chandler reported that the proposed road network meant more
traffic would access the park from the M2 than the A2. That implied, said Mr Hudson, that the majority of new jobs would go to people outside Swale.
Tory Councillor Gerry Lewin, chairman of the LDF Panel, was less concerned about the predicted 30 per
cent increase in congestion. He said: “The figures are what you’d expect if you run a model. You’ll get these figures through natural expansion and it tells you what you have to concentrate on in the future. The model clearly indicates that traffic in the town centre will be relieved.”
Councillor Lewin said the council will need to come up with public transport solutions, such as County Councillor Mike Whiting’s proposal for a Swale Metro, that will encourage people to use buses and trains.
Council leader, Cllr Andrew Bowles, emphasised that a SRR would improve traffic on the A2 to the east of Bapchild, benefit rural communities including Oad Street, Tunstall, Rodmersham and Bredgar, and ease congestion around Stockbury roundabout .
He said: “Councillors were pleased to note the report and the initial results of the second forecasting run of the Swale strategic transport model. We look forward to taking this evidence, together with other supporting evidence, to inform the preparation of the Core Strategy Preferred Option.”
The model assumes traffic calming will take place in St Michael’s Road, the NRR bridge over Milton creek is open, the Rushenden Relief Road, on Sheppey.