The Whitley Pump asked Reg Vastern-King, chair of the Friends of the IDR (Inner Distribution Road), what he thought about the Reading Borough Council (RBC) consultation on transport strategy; he was not impressed. “I just don’t understand,” he said “how can you carry out a transport strategy consultation which does not even ask how you feel about the IDR?”
“Surely Reading’s transport problems and their solution lie with the IDR?” he continued.
Reg told us that he had looked back at the current RBC transport plan which contained 20 mentions of the IDR.
Within Reading, congestion currently occurs on a number of the major radial routes and in central Reading on the Inner Distribution Road (IDR).
The IAs [‘important areas’ mapped by Defra with high noise levels] within Reading are mainly located around the IDR and some sections of the radial routes into central Reading, where heavy traffic creates the noise and sensitive receptors close to the road (e.g. residential areas).
Elsewhere in the plan, the negative impact of congestion on radial routes and the IDR is mentioned in relation to air quality.
He told us that his favourite mention of the IDR was in the section about network efficiency. “It’s official,” he said. “The IDR is central Reading’s ring road.”
Most of the main feeder routes in and out of central Reading access onto the IDR. This acts as a through route for high volumes of traffic and is effectively a ring road around central Reading.
The IDR’s role as a ring road around central Reading means that this route attracts a relatively high amount of through traffic (i.e. trips that do not start or end in central Reading), and approximately 80% of goods vehicles travelling on roads in the central area do not have a destination within the IDR.
Reg has always said that the IDR represents no more of a barrier to pedestrian and traffic movement than Reading’s rivers and so he referred to the section of the transport plan that dealt with severance.
The challenge is to improve connectivity over the River Thames, the railway and the IDR, by either providing more crossing points or improving the journey experience on existing crossing points.
He pointed out that Reading now has a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Thames and that a new link has been opened up under the railway line near Tescos on Napier Road, adding “but where is the equivalent for the IDR? Reading’s next transport strategy must focus on the IDR. The issues are not new, but nothing has been done about them yet.”
The RBC news announcement headlines this consultation as “Reading’s biggest ever transport consultation” and says that:
People are being asked to help shape a future vision for transport in the town for the next 15 years…
The announcement continues with a list of the transport challenges faced by Reading. The first on the list includes the IDR and goes on to talk about the use of the IDR solely as a through route.
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.
Despite the top billing for the IDR, the chair of the Friends of the IDR was still looking disappointed.
“When I looked at the consultation it didn’t ask anything about the IDR,” he said. “This consultation is just another multiple choice and ranking exercise. The only opportunity for people to explain their own grand transport strategies or local issues with transport in Reading is in the final thoughts section which poses the question ‘if you could change one thing about transport in Reading tomorrow, what would it be?’ and then asks ‘is there anything else you’d like to say to inform the Reading Transport Strategy 2036?’ ”
Reg Vastern-King took a sip of his second mug of strong sweet tea, dunked a Hob-Nob in it and continued, “this consultation is a lot of corporate gobbledegook and waffle about five themes and seven strategies and goodness how many schemes for each of the strategies. It doesn’t live up to the billing.”
We put it to Reg that he did have the opportunity to comment on whether the five themes were the right ones and if not what the themes should focus on instead. “Humph” said Reg.
The five proposed themes are:
- connecting people and places,
- supporting healthy lifestyles,
- creating a clean and green Reading,
- enabling inclusive growth,
- embracing smart solutions.
Friends of the IDR – Vision for the IDR in 2036
The Friends of the IDR understand that not everyone shares their enthusiasm for the route, so we asked Reg Vastern-King to tell us about the vision that his organisation has for the future of the IDR.
He began by complimenting the Whitley Pump for the walk around the IDR which we produced for the 2018 Heritage Open Days.
“The Walk Around the IDR was amazing” he said. “Before I went on that walk, I had been more interested in the concrete and the engineering, but you really opened my eyes to what there is to see along the route and the changes that are currently taking place. There is an amazing amount of heritage along the IDR and many of Reading’s new town centre housing developments are, or will be, situated right next to it.”
“If Reading is serious about becoming a town that tourists want to visit then what better circular route around the town is there than an IDR only for pedestrians, cycles and public transport?”
“If a considerable proportion of Reading’s new housing is going to be in the town centre, then what is better than a green circular route around town for leisure and sustainable transport?”
“I think the corporate consultant people call that a win-win.”
We asked him what he would do with the traffic on the IDR which would have to go somewhere else, which might be Reading’s residential streets.
“If the overall volume of traffic does not decrease, then I agree, it would only move to a different area. I don’t have all the traffic stats to answer that question, but RBC have suggested a congestion charge and that would also move traffic elsewhere if drivers don’t pay the charge, so that question will have to be answered anyway.”
“When the A33 relief road was opened it was great for reducing traffic on Basingstoke Road, but through traffic in Reading increased. The next challenge is to deal with the A33 junction with the IDR. The south Reading MRT is a flagship RBC project. It is not yet complete, so maybe some tweaks can be made there before it is too late.”
We asked Reg if he had looked at what the ‘Reading 2050‘ vision had to say about the IDR.
“Yes I have” he said. “I do rather fancy the idea of an IDR Park Festival, that’s in one of their pictures isn’t it? And they also have a tram going along the IDR route by the Oxford Road bridge and talk about ‘greening the IDR’; we could support that in principle. We would also like to see murals painted in the canyon between Howard Street and Broad Street Mall showing the buildings that used to be there. However we would still like to be able to enjoy some of the concrete!”
Katesgrove and the rest of south Reading are affected by poor air quality, noise and congestion on main roads. As well as schemes for dealing with these challenges, the consultation has suggestions for improvements relating to traffic near schools, parking, cycling, pedestrian routes and public transport.
No decisions on future options have been taken at this time while the transport consultation exercise is ongoing. All feedback will be considered before a draft Local Transport Plan is created in the autumn and consulted on again in Spring 2020.
The online consultation closes on 20 September 2019.
Public consultation events still to take place are:
- Thursday 15 August 3pm to 7pm at Church House, Caversham,
- Wednesday 28 August 3pm to 7pm at the Salvation Army Reading West, 522 Oxford Road,
- Wednesday 4 September 3pm to 7pm at the Waterhouse Chamber, Reading Town Hall,
- Tuesday 10 September 7am to 10am on Reading Station forecourt.