Enough is enough, says one West Berkshire resident who has launched a petition calling for a bridge to be installed at Thatcham level crossing – a notorious congestion hotspot.
Christie Morris started the petition for the bridge Thatcham “desperately needs” after getting caught in congestion at the bridge when she collected her daughter from Newbury.
She said that the 20-minute journey from the town to Upper Bucklebury took an hour, making it quicker for her to drive from her office in Reading to Basingstoke.
Friends venting their frustrations at the “countless hours” that had been wasted at the crossing had also prompted her to launch the petition, she said.
Various opportunities for a bridge had been missed over the years, including the development of 800 homes at Kennet Heath, said Mrs Morris.
And, with plans for hundreds of homes in Thatcham going to appeal, on top of the 2,000 homes to be built at Sandleford, Mrs Morris argued these developments would inevitably impact traffic on the already creaking roads around the crossing.
The Colthrop Village Consortium had drawn up proposals for two bridges over the railway line and canal last year, but these were later withdrawn because the site was not included in West Berkshire’s Development Plan Document. The proposals had included 700 homes and a marina west of the level crossing, which Mrs Morris said would have been a price worth paying.
“There absolutely must be a bridge built in the next few years if Thatcham and Newbury continue to expand at the same rate they are now,” she said.
More than 500 people have signed up so far and Mrs Morris aims to deliver the document to Newbury MP Richard Benyon and the transport secretary Chris Grayling.
“I know it’s not going to get to Parliament, but hopefully the council will read the comments,” she said. “The more people it goes to, it will raise awareness and be a voice for the people.”
However, Mrs Morris added that two local councillors had advised her that a bridge would never go ahead.
Among the signatories is resident Lisa Booth, who said: “This crossing is a nightmare. I live nearby it and suffer endless queues every day. The traffic from the crossing makes every journey drag, continually waiting every day in never-ending queues. I have to give myself 15 minutes just to make a two-minute journey.
“Crashes on the road are regular because of the build-up of queues on the bends. Also, the pollution from the queues some days can be bad.”
Katy Hall, from Bucklebury, said: “The queues from the Greenham side of the crossing are up to a mile long on a narrow road full of blind corners.
“The alternative is to join the queues through Newbury or drive down country roads through Brimpton. Both these routes are already congested and the latter are subject to numerous road works and bridge improvements.”
The petition is the latest call in a long-running demand for a bridge.
However, Network Rail and West Berkshire Council told the Newbury Weekly News last year that a bridge would cost in excess of £20m and would need to be funded by central Government or by a developer. Councillors also raised concerns that a bridge would open up Crookham Hill to HGVs and lead to development south of the railway line.
(picture by Tom Edwards via Twitter)