Gridlock fears over railway station forecourt

Tuesday 21st June 2016 6:00 am
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CALLS have been made for South West Trains (SWT) to rethink its redesign of Haslemere railway station’s forecourt to prevent “gridlock” in the town, during a public meeting at The Georgian Hotel last Tuesday night.

The major upgrade planned for the station starts later this month with a redesign of the forecourt to improve access for rail users, set to be completed by the end of August.

The construction of an upper deck over the main car park to provide 100 extra parking spaces will then start in August and be finished by Christmas.

SWT has warned major disruption to rail users is likely when the main car park is closed, and it unveiled its plans for the forecourt and the new single-deck car park at two information events in the town on Tuesday.

Company representatives presenting the plans for the station forecourt design came under heavy fire at the packed meeting in the hotel, when it was revealed the flow of traffic going through would be reduced by building out the kerb, meaning vehicles could no longer exit at the same time right and left onto Lower Street.

Residents protested that removing a split lane exit onto a major arterial road through the town would have a “nightmare” knock-on effect, because it would clog the forecourt with traffic and cause tailbacks along Lower Street caused by cars waiting to get in.

There was applause when an objector said: “If you make the forecourt a single-lane exit, you will completely lock up the station.

“At the moment you can go left and right. To do this would completely destroy all the benefits.”

Another resident objected: “The left-hand lane takes 40 per cent of the traffic out of the forecourt.

“If you stop the filter we will have a nightmare. The filter is our lifeblood.”

Residents also objected to SWT’s plan to prevent cars stopping to pick up or drop off at the station entrance within the forecourt, and to make that an area for buses-only, protesting it would increase the traffic congestion.

They complained buses stopping once an hour were being prioritised at the expense of drivers, who were picking up or dropping off far more frequently.

“This will block the whole of Haslemere,” one resident protested. “Whatever you do at the station affects the whole of Haslemere.”

Borough councillor Jim Edwards said: “It’s common sense. If you narrow an access and exit it blocks everything up.

“It appears you are not worried about people driving a car, just about the cyclists and people who walk to the station.”

Residents concerned the plans were a “done deal”, called on SWT to rethink its station forecourt traffic flow plan as a matter of urgency.

Taking the protests on board, SWT representatives said it hoped an acceptable compromise could be reached.

One told the meeting “The new cycle hub is already under way. The key thing is the build-out and reducing it to allow two cars to exit side-by-side.

“To redesign that would not be the end of the world.

“We have taken on board you do not want a bus in there.”

Residents were informed work on the main car park would start in early August and it would be fully operational by Christmas.

An SWT spokesman said:?“There are 252 parking spaces there now and we have 208 season-ticket holders entitled to park.

“This is a most difficult site. Almost the entire car park is dedicated to season-ticket holders. Haslemere has one of the highest number of first-class season-ticket holders in the UK, and it is the most vocal community.

“There will be a small car park available with 50 spaces for season-ticket holders. But it can only be first-come, first-served.

“We are looking at taking over unused pieces of land to provide temporary car parks.

“There is the option of providing a shuttle bus and your feedback on that would be very valuable.

“Once we find alternative solutions to help you, we will tell you. Funding is available for a shuttle bus and we will refund season-ticket holders for not being able to park at the station.”

The town mayor and councillors were at Tuesday’s meeting and a town council spokesman said afterwards: “This was the opportunity for our residents to ask questions and air concerns over the proposals.

“Both South West Trains and the town council have fully taken on board those issues. With regard to parking arrangements while the work is under way, the town council is committed to work with SWT to ensure everything is done to find alternative parking and that disruption is minimised.

“In addition to this, we are urging SWT to re-consider the forecourt design, in the light of residents’ comments, and again is happy to work with them to design a more suitable scheme.”

The town’s county councillor Nikki Barton said: “Balancing the needs of all users of the station when physical space is very limited is clearly a challenge.

“Survey data shows improved pedestrian and cycle access to the station and bus stop is a clear community priority – but it is also important to maintain the flow of traffic through the forecourt. I am very confident SWT will listen to the concerns expressed to deliver the best possible scheme at the station for the community in the long term.”

The Haslemere Community Station Partnership (HCSP) was formed in March by SWT and groups representing the town to help deal with the upheaval.

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