A417 Closure Proposals Announced

A417 Petition PicNetwork Rail has released its formal application for closure of the A417. The NR proposal raises a number of important questions:

1. The closure is scheduled for 6th September for ‘approximately 4 months’. The lack of certainty is ominous – how confident are Network Rail that they can complete the works within the four months (which already seems excessive)?

2. The diversion plans show (as expected) that the main diversion will be via the A420/A415/A338. These roads are already overcrowded and jammed at peak times. The A338 will be dealing with the upgrades to its bridge at the same time so welcoming up to 7000 additional vehicles will be a huge challenge for those using the road.

3. There is a one-way ‘mitigation option’ through Kingston Lisle, but it is not clear when/if it will be brought into action (described as ‘if required’). This idea appears to have been drawn on a map with a felt-tip, so one wonders how much consideration this plan has actually received.

4. Denchworth is marked as ‘Access Only’ but again it is hard to tell whether there will be a serious attempt to protect small villages with single track roads from the inevitable attempts to cut through in both directions.

It is ridiculous that we have been put in this position – Network Rail has had 5 years to come up with a way to upgrade the bridge without closing the road. The idea that the ‘only viable option’ is a 4 month complete closure is unconvincing. Also the idea that this work will be completed on schedule through the winter seems unlikely to me. On a procedural level I am also disappointed by the apparent way that OCC officers cut a deal with NR to close this bridge in exchange for a new bridge on the A338.

The public meeting at 7pm on 22nd July at Faringdon Corn Exchange has been called to give everyone a chance to discuss the proposal, get more detail on the mitigation solution and to give their views as to whether OCC should approve the application. This should be a ‘consultation’ after all!

A Senior Programme Manager from Network Rail will be there, along with the OCC Cabinet Member for Transport. I will take the opportunity to present our petition against the closure. We now have nearly 900 signatures, which is fantastic – thank you for your support. If we can raise 1000 by the time of the meeting that would be even more compelling.

The public meeting is the last chance to put forward your views on this road closure with all key stakeholders present. Please do come to the meeting and make sure your views on this closure are heard.

A417 Meeting 7pm 22 July 2014

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