On 28 September Surrey CC agreed that their Local Area Committees should consult further before the plan to withdraw the objection is voted for by the meeting of the full council (80 members) in December.
On 07 October the MP for Egham, Philip Hammond, wrote in his column in the Staines and Egham News that “the amount of barrier down-time at these crossings is already intolerable, and the increase that Airtrack would entail is a show-stopper for this scheme”. Solutions will be costly. “But a solution there must be if the scheme is to go ahead. No solution, no scheme”.
He was, he says “dismayed when Surrey County Council made a serious error of judgement in grabbing a £11million bribe laid on the table by the scheme promoters…”. As a local MP with a constituency interest, Mr Hammond must leave any ministerial decisions about Airtrack to others, but Runnymede Councillors have been assured by Mr Hammond that the Department for Transport will look carefully at the model that was used by Surrey C.C. to justify its proposal.
Egham Chamber of Commerce is concerned that the model used is not adequate to reflect the complexity of the situation in Egham, where the level crossing downtimes impose costs not only on drivers (congestion costs) but also on residents, pedestrians, home-owners, businesses, employers, educational institutions and users of the emergency services, health services and public transport. We are reassured that the task of assessing this will be done by the Department for Transport.
it is to be hoped that BAA / Airtrack and Surrey County Council will both realise than when the Secretary of State for Transport takes a personal interest in the flaws in their scheme, these have to be remedied.
Airtrack Update, 02 October 2010
Surrey County Council’s Cabinet will recommend that Councillors should withdraw their objection to Airtrack at the Council’s meeting in December, in return for a contribution of £ 11.4 million towards highways improvements in the Egham area.
In a concession to the people who will be most badly affected, the Council’s “Local Area Committees” and the environment and transport select committees will be consulted before December, but the cabinet is not required to take any notice of their discussions. (Dates for the Local Area Committee meetings should be on SCC’s website) Surrey has modelled the traffic flows that they expect after Airtrack is built. According to the model, which is an approved Department of Transport model, the tunnel therefore cannot be justified, since the cost of a tunnel will exceed the monetary benefits of reducing additional congestion in Egham caused by Airtrack.
The council’s report does not state whether any other benefits were modelled. SCC’s cabinet member for transport has stated that the data input into the model was not derived entirely from Airtrack’s figures, but Surrey’s transport department has conceded that the downtimes in Egham which were provided by Airtrack are based on a best-case theoretical timetable which is unlikely to be achievable in practice.
Surrey have conceded that the money offered by Airtrack will not reduce queues and waits at Egham’s level crossings, but they hope that by making improvements to roads around Egham, they can reduce average congestion (for people who aren’t actually in or visiting the town). They intend to spend a significant amount on the long-delayed work to improve the Runnymede Roundabout, which will help traffic between the M25, the A30 and Windsor.
At the meeting on 28 September, cabinet member (and local resident) Cllr Mary Angell spoke out to demand that full transparency from the Transport department so that the information in the model can be examined, and the county councillors for Egham Hythe and for Englefield Green both made strong cases that the situation in Egham would be unacceptable if this policy was followed.
We expect that Runnymede Borough Council will look at the model outputs and conclude that they should come to the same decision, to withdraw their objection in order to save the money that would be spent presenting Egham’s case at the public inquiry. So far we don’t know whether this is on the agenda for RBC, and if so when they will debate the matter.
Egham Chamber of Commerce will continue to lobby Surrey County Council strongly to continue to fight for mitigation measure which will actually help local residents and businesses in the town, rather than taking Airtrack’s money to make it easier for outsiders to bypass the town.