JAMBUSTER: Council leader launches project to tackle Wokingham’s traffic woes

AMBITIOUS plans to get the borough motoring by tackling congestion are being given the green light. 

Wokingham Borough Council leader John Halsall has been challenging officers to come up with solutions that will tackle one of the biggest bugbears of residents once and for all. 

Work is going on behind the scenes and Cllr Halsall says that it won’t be long before drivers will start to see the difference. 

Using modern technology, it is hoped to utilise smart traffic lights to reduce queues, introduce electric signs that can give up-to-the-minute travel information and advise on the fastest routes. 

“We need an electronic version of the Battle of Britain control room,” Cllr Halsall told The Wokingham Paper. “We’re building it now.”

His control room, being created by senior council officials, will look at blackspots such as the A329 Reading Road and Nine Mile Ride. 

It is also hoped that there will be benefits to the way in which utility companies dig up roads. 

“It will give us a smarter approach to traffic jams and should alleviate traffic congestion. We’re taking the battle to where the traffic congestion actually is, not where we think it is.”

And the scheme will have an added benefit of tackling the recently declared climate emergency. 

“This will help reduce our carbon emissions,” Cllr Halsall said. “It’s part of our scheme to reduce carbon emissions by 2030: moving traffic releases less carbon than stationary traffic. 

“This is a win-win-win,” he added. 

It is one of a number of initiatives that Cllr Halsall has been planning to help turn the borough around, but it’s not a quickfire election gimmick. This is a project that he feels will take a number of years to see through, not least as preparing the various electronic signs and systems will take time and cost money. 

“We have a finite number of roads,” he explained. “We have a long-term ambition to reduce car use, it’s unrealistic in the short-term.”

Cllr Halsall felt that the scheme would take around three to five years in all. 

“It’s not a sticking plaster solution: it will have short- and medium-term effects, but we’ll be using technology to optimise traffic. 

“It’s not as if we’re starting from scratch,” he added, saying there were some smart traffic lights already in place. “We don’t necessarily use these as we could.”

Such a project won’t be cheap – Cllr Halsall estimates that it will cost between £3 million to £5 million, with the coming from the council’s medium-term financial plan. 

“We’ll find the money for it,” he pledged. “It’s too important an issue not to. 

“Traffic is an issue that affected everybody. It affects every person in the borough. At the end of the day it’s what they worry about, and they hate being stuck in traffic jams. We must do all we can to alleviate it. It is incumbent on us to do so.

“We’re going to do this, we have an obligation to keep people moving.”

Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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