Almost simultaneously to the start of the Wolvercote Roundabout improvement works Swindon Borough Council started working on one of the town’s major roundabouts, the Greenbridge one. To all intent and purpose it’s a very similar layout to the Wolvercote one, see picture, and the cost is more or less the same (£4m ca for Greenbridge and £9m for two roundabouts in Oxford).
But there is a huge difference. If you travel into Swindon at rush hour you’d barely be affected by the works. Lanes have been left open in all directions and repairs proceed at lightening speed. As early as 7 am there will be workmen beavering away and progress is noticeable from one day to the next.
Try travelling at rush hour using Wolvercote roundabout… and as for work progress many people have taken the trouble to write to the Council and to the local papers describing the speed of work as an embarrassment.
Before you ask, both authorities are Tory led , so there is no difference in their political make up either. When it comes to transport infrastructure we must be down at the bottom of the pile. People often complain to us of how poorly maintained roads are once they get into Oxfordshire, as for buses and other public transport we all know well the kind of predicament we are in.
The editor of the Oxford Mail has recently added his voice to the chorus of concern on local transport when it was reported that the previous day it had taken commuters over three hours to reach Oxford from Witney.
For those who are commuting daily on that route the misery has only exacerbated due to a combination of crumbling infrastructure, roadworks around Oxford and simply increased traffic. Matters will not improve substantially either by simply extending a junction or adding a new lane here and there. Oxfordshire, and West Oxfordshire in particular, has been starved of real investments for far too long.
Council planners had identified potential problems way back in 2001, yet thirteen years later we are still waiting for a solution. It has now become an emergency.
Quick fix risk
The risk now is that officials may be tempted to rush into a quick fix, throwing a few millions here and there, not enough for a well planned long term solution, but just sufficient for palliative measures. We cannot afford to go down that road. We don’t need a sticky plaster, but a robust and future proof transport infrastructure project.
While we have always advocated an agnostic approach to transport modes we cannot remain silent when we see that things are heading in the wrong direction. There are non negotiable elements to any transport plans for our region and these are:
Reliability and proven track record
Integration with other transport modes
Low visual impact
Proven ROI over a medium/long term period
The next few months will be crucial. Expect a flurry of interest especially as we approach general elections. Expect some harebrained proposals too, as the smell of big money will inevitably attract unscrupulous entrepreneurs. If you feel strongly about what we stand for join us so that we can have an even louder voice on the decision making process.