Have Your Say – Debate on Transport in Henley

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Email received 1 September 2014

Despite numerous email exchanges that I’ve had, the general attitude seems to be along the lines of “that’s the way it is, we know best, we’re not going to change anything”.

There also appears to be a high degree of illogicality in their responses as well, and frankly disdain towards the electorate.

For example:-

1. The reason why traffic is allowed to build up on Remenham Hill is because the intelligent traffic management system (ITMS) is designed to do that.

2. The reason why the system was designed that way, is to reduce pollution (particularly in Duke Street and the Reading Road).

3. At certain times of the day (around 6:30pm) there is no congestion on Duke Street or the Reading Road, yet traffic still builds up on Remenham Hill.

Why, therefore, is the ITMS not letting more traffic flow in the evening, thereby reducing pollution on Remenham Hill?

Also, the vast majority of commuters coming into Henley via Remenham Hill (and Wargrave Road) are not going to go into Duke Street at all, and anyone subsequently driving onto the Reading Road is leaving the town centre, not coming into it.  So, the contribution to pollution on Duke Street and Reading Road must be neglible at those times of the day. The Air Quality Report from South Oxfordshire District Council states that despite the introduction of the ITMS, pollution continues to rise on Duke Street and Reading Road.

The supposed fact that traffic used to build up before the introduction of the ITMS is also a mute point – I’ve only lived in Henley for 4 years, so can’t comment on anything prior to that.  However, as the saying goes “cause and effect are not closely related in time or space” – so who is to say, unless you look at these issues systemically rather than topically, that some further refinement of the ITMS might reduce congestion and pollution rather than maintain or increase it?

I’m all for a cleaner environment, but let’s address the actual root causes and if interventions don’t provide the required result, try something else!

Phil Stubbington

Email to Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire CC – 15 July

Hi Ian,

I understand there’s a meeting about transport at Henley Town Hall next Wednesday (23rd July)?

I’m unable to attend, but wanted to let you know my point of view.

I have been discussing for some months now with OCC, SODC, Wokingham Borough Council and John Howell the state of traffic congestion in Henley, with nobody taking any action.

As Henley residents, and commuters, my wife and I experience very heavy traffic on Remenham Hill most weekday evenings between approximately 18:15 and 19:00.

The ‘routine’ is very predictable.  Step 1, we sit on Remenham Hill for at least 30 minutes for 1 or 2 miles (or more, on the worse occasions).  Step 2, we reach the traffic lights on the Oxfordshire side of Henley Bridge.  Step 3, we drive into a practically deserted Hart Street (or Thameside and Reading Road junction on days we visit the gym).

The reasons given by OCC for this situation are (a) heavy traffic and (b) actions to address pollution particularly on the Reading Road.

However, as the draft Air Quality Action Plan points out, the intelligent traffic management system (ITMS) was put in place to reduce congestion and pollution, yet pollution continues to rise on the Reading Road.  It also causes both congestion and increased pollution on Remenham Hill.  The ITMS sensors are also only a short distance out from junctions, so it has no ‘visibility’ of the 1 or 2 mile queues it’s causing.

I would be grateful if you could look into this matter, and look forward to your response.

Phil Stubbington

Reply from Mark Kemp, Commercial Deputy Director of Environment & Economy, Oxfordshire CC – 1 August

Dear Mr Stubbington

Thank you for your email to Cllr Ian Hudspeth which has been passed to me for response as the Deputy Director with responsibility for this part of the Service.

One of the main aims of the Henley town centre traffic control is to improve conditions for pedestrians and help reduce the air pollution problems throughout the central areas. The signals at Reading Road/Station Road, Greys Road/Duke Street, Hart/Street Bell Street and the Thames bridge provide linked control in an adaptive, real-time system which will still give the most efficient throughput of traffic.

Henley’s road network cannot deal with all the traffic trying to get through and there will be queuing. A key principal is to hold traffic back on the main approaches to Henley and feed them into the central area at the rate that can be dealt with internally without excessive queues and congestion. Generally, the effect is that the journey time for traffic coming into the town is unchanged. It is just that the time spent queuing is on the outskirts rather than the central area.

Kind regards.

Mark Kemp

Reply to Mark Kemp – 1 August

Mark,

This is a very ‘stock’ answer, and one almost word for word exactly the same response I’ve had previously.

Unfortunately, you’ve failed to read what I’ve said in my previous email – so I’ll repeat it here in another way.

There are queues of 1 or 2 miles on Remenham Hill – and no traffic in Hart Street or the Reading Road.

Overall journey times are massively extended – by half an hour or more (to travel that 1 or 2 miles).

As the South Oxfordshire District Council draft Air Quality Action Plan (http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/services-and-advice/environment/air-quality) says:-

“One of the major actions in the plan was the introduction of an Intelligent Traffic System. This was an Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) initiative designed to smooth the traffic flow within Henley and reduce queuing times. OCC predicted this would have a positive effect on air quality; however the NO2 concentrations continued to rise.”

So, not only is the adaptive traffic management system having no positive effect on air quality or congestion, it’s creating pollution in other areas (e.g. Remenham Hill) by causing queues of traffic.

I’ve also included John Howell MP, and the two local newspapers on this email, as I feel that Oxfordshire County Council are systematically missing the point – and failing to even visit the area at the times the problem occurs to see the reality of the situation.

Regards,

Phil Stubbington

Email to Mark Kemp on 6 August with Mark’s reply in red dated 7 August

Hi Mark,

This still makes little sense.

So, in summary, the system causes queuing on Remenham Hill because that’s what the system is designed to do. Correct, if there is more traffic than the internal network can cope with the queue will be held on that approach.

Talking in overall trends, rather than one example of the Sonning Bridge closure, the system doesn’t reduce pollution.  Unless, of course, you’re saying that the SODC Air Quality Action plan is wrong?The point was that if we allow more traffic to enter the town we know the pollution levels rise, this is strong evidence that holding back queues does reduce pollution in normal operation. 

I also don’t understand how the lack of a queue on the Reading Road indicates that the system is working, but the presence of a queue on Remenham Hill doesn’t indicate the opposite (that it isn’t working)?As above, if there is more traffic than the network can cope with a queue will form on that approach, conversely if the level of traffic can be accommodated a queue will not form.

I’m sure your engineers are very experienced, but as the sensors on these approaches are only a limited distance out from the junctions, the system has limited visibility of any queuing.The system is fully aware when there is congestion on the Remenham Hill approach. It will allocate as much green time as can be tolerated. It does not need to know how much further the queue extends. The policy is that, whatever the queue length, the queue is stored on the approach.  

Thanks,

Phil

What do you think?  Leave your comments below….

4 comments
  1. Graham Jones says:

    I fully understand Phil Stubbington’s view and recognise that Mark Kemp’s reply shows that he has not attempted to address the matter.
    The evening queue on White Hill is unacceptable and demonstrates that Intelligent Traffic System needs modification and that it needs to have data relating to the queue on Remenham Hill (If it does not already have such data). I suggest the following for consideration.
    1 As Reading Road is relatively uncongested, give greater priority:for Remenham Hill traffic at the Bridge and Duke St traffic lights.
    2.Install traffic lights at Remenham Lane, which is used as a “rat run”.The objective should be to ensure that the traffic turning right towards Henley experiences a similar delay to traffic on Remenham Hill.
    3.Install traffic lights at Wargrave Road. The objective should be to allow traffic from Henley to turn right when the Remenham Hill traffic is stopped and to ensure that Wargrave Road traffic towards Henley experiences a similar delay to traffic on Remenham Hill.
    With attention to a few more details, this could be truly intelligent

    Reply
  2. Keith Pratt says:

    Everyone is missing the root cause of the problem. Yes traffic engineers believe in traffic lights as the tool to create pulses of traffic. All well and good but it fudges around the root cause which is too much traffic. Traffic should be kept moving, and surely the only way to improve our environment and air quality here in Henley is to create an internal ring road system, where the traffic will continually be on the move around Henley at all times. This is possible if common sense is applied to the problem and if one frees your mind to the established constraints of always using traffic lights. Relying on a computer system is utterly ridiculous. The wailing of the Henley shopkeepers, that this idea would rob them of trade, is also ridiculous as most of the vehicles using Henley are travelling through and not stopping. Ask the question, would you stop off in a town that had taken 30 minutes to access. I would never ever return.
    Appreciate some comments on my ideas.

    Reply
  3. iAN McGaw says:

    The biggest traffic problem in Henley is caused by vehicles parking with their nearside vehicles on the pavement regardles of the existence of any yellow line(s)

    Reply
  4. Dave McEwen says:

    Henley has major problems of congestion and pollution. Remenham Hill suffers the worst tailbacks but there are often tailbacks on the other main entry roads into the town. Keith Pratt is right in that the root causes are not being addressed. Henley in Transition has been looking at the problems for 2 years now and have put forward a host of ideas:
    excluding HGVs that shouldn’t be passing through the town, improvements to public transport including a frequent town bus service incorporating a park and ride, a car share scheme, a Henley Car Club, a shared taxi scheme, a 1-way system with increased pedestrianisation, improvements for cyclists etc etc
    We are now trying to meld the ideas into an overall Henley Transport Strategy. Do join us! The next meeting is at 7.30pm on Wednesday 24th September in the King’s Arms Barn. For more info see henley-in-transition.org.uk/projects/transport

    Reply

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