Reading Borough Council applied for £300m from the national Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) to sort out long-standing infrastructure issues and help reduce congestion recieved cross-party backing in July, but Conservatives in West Berkshire and Wokingham opposed the move because it may result in charges being levied on motorists.
Executive member for Transport on Wokingham Borough Council Cllr Keith Baker said his party recognises the potential benefits of a third bridge but insisted on "binding consultation of its residents".
Conservative-dominated Oxfordshire County Council also came out against plans for a third Thames bridge unless it was restricted exclusively to use by cyclists, pedestrians and public transport.
3,600 households in Shiplake, Sonning Common, Harpsden, Binfield Heath, Eye and Dunsden, Kidmore End and Mapledurham have since been surveyed on the plans with a resounding 98.7% giving the thumbs down, although only 30% responded.
Eye and Dunsden Parish Councillor, David Woodward, who is chairman of the South Oxfordshire Parishes Transport Innovation Group, explained:
"Reading’s consultation has been too little, too late — telling councillors what is in the bid at the last minute is not the same as asking local people what they think."Deputy Leader of Reading Borough Council, Labour's Cllr Tony Page, called on his political opponents to be more pragmatic as the government-imposed rules on bids to the fund require charging to be considered as part of any package.
Reading LibDem Transport spokesperson Cllr Ricky Duveen explained that the funding bid is designed to have far-reaching effects which will have a major impact. He added,
"the TIF bid... recognises that if all the proposed measures do not seriously lower the levels of congestion in Reading town centre in the coming years then some form of charging will be needed."Meanwhile Adam Hewitt reports on a leaked document outlining the areas which may be included in the charging zone.
Cllr Page offered the reassurance that Reading residents would be exempted from charges which could be between £2 and £4, but said no final decision had been reached on this yet.
Update: Adam Hewitt provides full details of the £300m funding bid to the Transport Innovation Fund.
Reading has long been a bottleneck for road-users, with particular 'pinch points' created as traffic funnels through the town and across the rivers, so until there is political agreement across local councils about how to proceed towards a solution ordinary residents will continue to suffer.
If the parties in power cannot decide then it is time for a wider public debate on the future of local transport.