Bus Link or White Elephant?

Bus Link or White Elephant?

Following Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce’s proposal for a guided busway along the Downs Link recently reported by the Surrey Advertiser, the Cranleigh Civic Society expressed concerns that the proposal was yet again misleadingly justifying substantial and unsustainable growth in Cranleigh.

This is yet another attempt to justify massive housing development in Cranleigh, despite recognition by Waverley Borough Council that “housing need” is not concentrated in this part of the borough.

Almost a year ago, Cranleigh Civic Society carried out an in-depth investigation into the proposed guided busway to relieve congestion on the A281 between Horsham and Guildford.  We visited and studied the guided busway in Cambridge with an engineer who worked on the scheme and researched other similar schemes to see if it could be implemented here.

Guided Bus Cambridge

guided bus side wheels

The budget of £24M suggested by Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce does not take into account any land acquisition, the cost of building bridges, any flood mitigation methods that Surrey Highways have confirmed would be required, or any major upgrades required on the connecting road system to accommodate a level crossing, a major interchange, or the construction of a roundabout.  The busway if it went ahead would have to terminate near to Shalford, and there would leave its guided tracks and join and add to the regular traffic jam crawling into Guildford.

To investigate this matter further we would welcome the Chamber of Commerce sharing any up-to-date Balfour Beatty estimates with us, as well as their own detailed budget on the additional £4 to £5 million that they say would be required to complete this project. We would also welcome the Chamber of Commerce’s projections for the numbers of users of the service, and their plans for the ongoing financial viability of the line.

The Cranleigh Civic Society met with Surrey Highways Paul Millin who has undertaken an extremely comprehensive study, including a viability study into this proposal (spanning several volumes), and who advised our MP Anne Milton only last year that “even at the upper range of new housing. It is not clear that any potential increase in demand/patronage would be sufficient to make reopening the Guildford-Cranleigh link for rail or as a bus ‘guideway’ economically justifiable.” He also estimated the cost of the guided bus at “several tens of £millions. Finally, he concluded that “spending taxpayers’ money on revisiting earlier work seems of little value.

We queried the “upper range” referred to with Paul Millin and were advised that this would be nearer to 10,000 additional houses (Cranleigh currently has approximately 4,500). That would treble the size of our village!  It is, therefore, naive to believe that 1,500 houses alone in Cranleigh could fund the initial build of such a busway, as well as fund the ongoing running costs of the scheme.

From recent responses on the Surrey Ad’s letters page, it appears that we are not alone in believing that this scheme is not at present financially viable, or realistic, and any benefits have not been proven to outweigh the drawbacks.