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Surrey County Council proposes to withdraw its objection to Airtrack without securing a tunnel for Egham.

At a meeting of its ruling Cabinet on Tuesday 28th September 2010, Surrey County Council will discuss withdrawing the objections it made to the Airtrack proposals.
A 10 page report has been prepared for the Cabinet to justify this, although the report does not contain any new material other than the following statement:

“an underpass would not be economically viable in that the cost of providing an underpass would exceed the monetary benefits of improving journey times and reducing the delays due to the impact of Airtrack”.
The County Council has been offered £ 11 million by BAA / Airtrack in return for withdrawing the objection.
This money, however, is only available if the Council agrees to use it for things other than the tunnel, such as traffic lights, traffic management, and improving other roads and roundabouts.
In considering Airtrack’s offer Surrey County Council appear to have entirely disregarded the flaws in the amended Environmental Statement (the 2nd Addendum) published this summer. For example they have accepted Airtrack’s assertion that while Pooley Green crossing iscurrently closed for 25 minutes an hour to allow 8 trains to pass, an additional 8 trains an hour can be accommodated with only 5 minutes of closure. They appear to have convinced themselves that Egham’s problems do not need a solution, just a little “mitigation”.
The report states that the County Council have:

“developed an alternative package of transport improvements… The package does not, and cannot, improve existing level crossing downtimes. The mitigation package is not designed to reduce downtimes below the current situation evident in Egham.”
If you believe, as we do, that Surrey County council is proposing to ignore the problems Airtrack will bring to Egham simply to avoid having to preparing a submission to the Public Inquiry, (and of course, £ 11 million towards its roads budget) please act now:
Contact Mr Ian Lake, the Cabinet member in charge of transport i.lake@surreycc.gov.uk before Tuesday’s meeting, telling him what a disgrace the proposal is.
And then lobby your Councillors to make their own voices heard.

September 2010
Having been lobbied by the entire commnity in Egham, Surrey County Council last year agreed to Object to the Airtrack application on the ground of the damage to Egham caused by Level Crossing Closures.
They are now proposing to WITHDRAW their objection (to be discussed at Cabinet Meeting on 28 September 2010, at 14.00, County Hall, Penrhyn Road, Kingston, open to the public).
A lenghty report, available elsewhere on this site, explains that Surrey want to save £ 300,000 of Officer time preparing for the Public Inquiry, and that BAA have offered £ 11 million towards some highways works in return for the Objection being withdrawn.
The report does not provide any new information to justify the change of policy other than that the tunnel cannot be justified on cost grounds, if the benefits are calculated solely as “monetary benefits of improving journey times and reducing the delays due to the impact of Airtrack”, ignoring all other considerations.
It accepts wholesale several contentious assumptions made by Airtrack, some in the Addendum to the Environmental Statement, and some whose source is unknown. (See our response for more detail)
Our County Council is abandoning any attempt to secure a tunnel for Egham, in return for a package which “does not, and cannot, improve existing level crossing downtimes. The mitigation package is not designed to reduce downtimes below the current situation evident in Egham. Its purpose is to provide mitigation for the increased downtime as a result of implementing Airtrack services. We expect the downtimes to get worse in the coming years”
Please send your protests to the County Council about this shameful about-turn, and please come to the council offices on Tuesday 28th at 14.00 (County Hall, Penrhyn Road Kingston) and exercise your democratic right to see your elected representatives make their decisions in your name.
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Airtrack Update, 01 August 2010
PUBLIC INQUIRY POSTPONED INDEFINATELY.
We have received a letter from the Department for Transport regarding the timetable for the Airtrack Application. The crucial bit:
“…Since our letter of 29 January the Government has confirmed that its most urgent priority is to tackle the UK’s budget deficit and that there will be a spending review in the autumn. The review may have implications for the proposed funding of the Airtrack scheme and until the position becomes clearer we do not consider it appropriate to take matters forward by announcing a date for the inquiry…”
Not dead, but definately in hibernation.
Don’t throw your notes away, but they can probably go into the garden shed.
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Airtrack Update 03 July 2010
Surrey County Council is reviewing their position on Airtrack in the light of the new Environmental Statement.
– On Monday 05 July the Council’s officers will publish their report on Airtrack’s Env Statement 2, the Addendum.
– On 13 July the Cabinet of SCC will discuss whether the new information materially affects their position on Airtrack’s application.
– On 20 July the Full Council will meet and decide whether the new info should result in them changing their position. However, it is pretty much sure that the relevant decision will be taken at the cabinet meeting on 13 July.
We would expect the Cabinet to be responsive to representations by both the public and by non-cabinet councillors.
But the new amended estimates will give them reasons for saying that Egham is not a special case which requires disproportionate resources. We need to make sure Surrey don’t water down their objection of the application.
Please write to your county councillors reminding them that the new estimates do not give a realistic picture of the impact on Egham, and even if they are believable the impact will be severe.

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