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Proposed Bedford Road Bus Station

Nov 2013

Guildford’s Bus Station was proposed to be moved up-market from Commercial Road to Bedford Road.

The Transport Group, having eagerly awaited the publication of the GBC consultants’ report on possible sites for a new bus station, were startled, after 14 months, to find it on the Agenda of a Borough Council Executive Meeting just seven days away. The report is 50 pages long, with 7 appendices running to a further 94 pages. It is still on the GBC web-site under Item 9 of the Executive meeting on 20 October. Fortunately, we had already done our homework by analysing the bus routes and looking at possible options ourselves. 

The consultants recommend the Bedford Road surface car park as the best location, because of its proximity to the railway station.    The Transport Group believes that there are too many compromises in this proposition.  In addition to the logistical questions which we raised, there is the question, vocally expressed at our New Members’ Meeting in September, of the lack of a Strategic Vision for the whole of Guildford.  So it was agreed that we should aim to field two speakers at the GBC Executive Meeting, with Gerald Bland covering the need for a Vision and me covering the logistics: each being allowed only three minutes.

The Transport Group duly distilled its comments down to two pages and then compressed them further into four points: Routings, Design, Pedestrians and Traffic. We subsequently distributed the following full analysis to the relevant Officers and Councillors.

We are disappointed that the only major benefit over the current bus station is that the proposed site is close to the railway station.  In order to achieve this, a number of compromises and sacrifices have been made – many of which we consider to be unacceptable.

·         1. The proposed system removes all buses from North Street and therefore disconnects the focal point of the Primary Shopping Area, where Westfield alone are expecting to attract 93,000 extra bus passengers per year. This is recognised in the report as the only negative element in the scoring. Although the ambition is to fully pedestrianise North Street this is a high price to pay, and yet the officers’ report implies an intention to retain on-street parking in North Street.

·         2.  It severs all bus links between East and West Guildford by isolating the eastern routes.  Important through routes like Merrow to the Hospital, the University and the Research Park are absent.

·         3.  Large numbers of additional Town Centre passengers on top of an already busy stream of pedestrians will need to cross Onslow Street. There is no natural pedestrian route through the site to the Railway Station – the preference for Bridge Street will continue.

·         4.  It inserts a complex requirement into an already sensitive area of Guildford’s traffic system.  The site is too small so that restricted spaces with limited flexibility compare unfavourably both with the current location and also with the benchmark examples quoted. Any breakdown is therefore more likely to cause gridlock.  It offers no reduction in bus flows around the gyratory system.

·         5.  The design of bus flows in and out of the station (Option A) is flawed.  Buses leaving have to turn right across the incoming stream. There is inadequate provision for queuing and hence a high risk of backing up into Onslow Street.  Option B would add 35 buses per hour to Laundry Road at peak times when the adjacent car parks are emptying.

·         6.   The specification recommends “Covered seating for at least 8 passengers and standing room for 20 passengers at each stand”. This represents no improvement on the current facilities and implies that stands are to be permanently assigned to routes. We suggest an improvement in 3 below.

·         7.  It fails to meet many other Opportunities cited including that of improving the image of bus travel.

So, what essential components should be included to make the project viable?

  • 1.  Restore some services to North Street but restrict its use for buses only. On-street car parking could be dispensed with.
  • 2.  Extend Eastern services through to the bus station via North Street, retaining the current stop at the Library and continuing down Leapale Road.  Connections could then be made at the bus station to and from all other services.
  • 3.  More efficient use could be made of the bays by “dynamically” assigning an incoming bus to the nearest available stand at any given time, the appropriate “gate” being announced to passengers when the bus is ready for loading.  The extra capacity created in this way could then be used to accommodate additional eastern services.  Furthermore, this airport style departure format would also allow for the creation of an enclosed central waiting area.  With modern technology and Suretime, this should be perfectly feasible.
  • 4.  A larger plot should be used to allow increased flexibility, provision for expansion and to minimise cross-flows.

And, outside the scope of this project, but vital, nonetheless:

  • 5.  Undertake a major logistical revamp of pedestrian routes between the Railway Station, Bus Station and the Onslow Street crossings, incorporating elevated walkways and escalators:  a subject of major concern to the Society.
  • 6.  Undertake a major logistical revamp of the gyratory system, ideally to reduce traffic flow in Bridge Street.  The Guildford Society has put forward some ideas which are published on our web-site.
  • 7.  And finally, consider the long-term need to bring long distance coach services closer to the Town Centre, possibly at the Railway Station, thus completing the transport interchange concept.”

The good news is that, after the meeting, some of us spoke informally to Councillors and Officers and it was agreed that the Society would be invited to participate in further discussions on the shape of the development.  Assurances had been given about joined-up-thinking, but we have yet to see the evidence of plans to link this with the Railway Station Re-development, the County’s plans for the gyratory system and traffic flow generally and the urgent need for a safe, pedestrian-friendly, preferably elevated, route across the site and Onslow Street to the Town Centre.  And, of course, an East-West Road crossing should be allowed for in any long-term Model.

We look forward to being re-assured on these matters!