Four local authorities and two Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have this week published a joint Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) for a new crossing over the River Thames east of Reading, after agreeing to further explore the possibility.
A New Thames Crossing to link South Oxfordshire and the Wokingham Borough to the east of Reading has long been discussed, and would require a significant infrastructure investment should it go ahead.
On 18 September a summit meeting was hosted by Reading East MP Matt Rodda at Reading Borough Council's civic offices, attended by Henley MP John Howell and senior officers and councillors from all six partners (Oxfordshire County Council, Reading Borough Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Wokingham Borough Council, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP and Oxfordshire LEP which make up the Cross Thames Travel Group).
The SOBC sets out the strategic case for a new crossing which includes:
- The demand for access to and through Reading, which puts significant pressure on the current limited provision of River Crossings in the area and the roads leading to these
- The rapid growth in the area requires corresponding transport infrastructure improvements to keep pace
- The high demand for river crossing means that the local transport network has low resilience to any bridge closures
The report demonstrated a strong transport economic case for a two-lane carriageway option for the bridge.
Other options tested showed weaker transport economic cases (a two-lane carriageway with toll system and a dual four-lane option with public transport package), but it was agreed they should not be discounted at this early stage as they both showed the potential for positive benefits and should be subject to further refinement as the project progresses.
No firm decisions have been taken but partners agreed that while there is seen to be a strong economic transport business case for a new road bridge, further work is needed to understand in more detail the traffic impacts (both positive and negative), particularly on South Oxfordshire.
The next step, should funding be agreed, would include the preparation of an Outline Business Case, as well as a review of how traffic impacts can be mitigated. The Cross Thames Travel Group has therefore been tasked to undertake further investigation into the cost of proceeding and to report back at the next summit meeting.
Read the SOCB in full on our website.