‘Damning report’ pours scorn on Lib Dem ‘Park & Rail’ idea

Bath and North East Somerset Council has published a damning report into a plan by the authority’s Liberal Democrat leadership to build a so-called ‘Park and Rail’ facility to the east of Bath.

The project, which would involve building a new rail-based Park and Ride at the Bathampton railway junction, has been touted by the Council’s Liberal Democrat leadership as the solution to Bath’s traffic problems.

However, a report produced on behalf of the Council by transport consultants Halcrow has poured scorn on the idea, warning that the cost and complexities of the project mean it is unlikely to ever become a reality.

Some of the main findings of the consultant’s report include:

  • That ‘substantial and expensive bridge works’ would be required to insert a road beneath the Great Western Mainline and A4 Batheaston Bypass in order to provide vehicle access the Park & Ride site;
  • That ‘substantial track alterations to re-align the Westbury line and track switches at Bathampton Junction’ would also be needed, whilst the ‘re-alignment of the Westbury line would require acquisition and demolition of a residential property’;
  • That ‘the viability of a rail-based site at Bathampton Junction is highly dependent on the Greater Bristol Metro happening’, and that even when this happens, questions remain over whether train services running from Westbury and Warminster would have the spare capacity to create the half-hourly service promised;
  • The report concludes that the extensive highway and rail engineering works required ‘will make this site very expensive to deliver’ and that it is ‘considered doubtful that a good business case with a sound Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) could be achieved.’

The consultants have put a price tag of around £34 million on the cost of the project, though previous press reports have suggested that if a link-road between the A4 and A36 were also created as part of the scheme then this could rise to around £90 million. The Council has so far earmarked only £5.2 million for the project within its budget.

Opposition Conservative councillors have accused the Liberal Democrat-run authority of attempting to bury the critical report and are demanding that the Council publishes a proper feasibility appraisal of all the various options for a Park and Ride to the east of the city, including a full cost-benefit analysis of each site.

Conservative transport spokesman Councillor Anthony Clarke said:

“What residents are crying out for is a properly considered, affordable and deliverable solution to the traffic problems on the London Road and A36.  Instead, the Council’s Lib Dem leadership has dithered around and comprehensively failed to get a grip of this issue.  At the same time we remain no closer to a solution to the traffic problems on the east of the city.”

The Halcrow report into the Park and Rail idea has been published alongside a comparison of other potential Park and Ride sites to the east of the city.

A second additional report specifically looking into the feasibility of the Park and Rail idea was also conducted last year, but has only just been published.  The second report also concludes that there are ‘considerable engineering technical problems to be addressed’, whilst ‘the engineering costs are very expensive’ and that ‘it is highly unlikely that any funding would come from the railway companies.’

Councillor Clarke added:

“It now transpires that the Lib Dems have been pursuing a scheme which they have known for more than a year is deemed extremely expensive and technically complex, and which their own assessments conclude is highly unlikely to ever get off the drawing board.

“No wonder they decided to leave it out of the Council’s official Transport Strategy when the document was launched.  Instead, they tried to bury these reports into their flagship scheme because they are so damning.

“It’s time for the Council to put an end this ridiculous situation and publish a full feasibility appraisal, including a cost-benefit analysis, of the various options for an East of Bath Park & Ride so that we can finally get something agreed.

“Whilst the Lib Dems mess around with their pet projects, it is the residents in and around Bath who are suffering.”