Traffic congestion in the Wokingham area

Yesterday during one of my sessions knocking on doors and listening to views, I was struck by the force and regularity of the view on a single issue – traffic congestion. I just ask people to tell me what is on their mind without prompting. In so many cases people said they thought the traffic jams in the  Wokingham area are too great. They recognised the need for additional housing and understood the new building going on, but were keen to say more has to be done to provide capacity for people to get to work, to take their children to school and to go to the shops.

I agree. I was able to report that  both the Council and the government agree, and are making more cash available for road improvement. In the Wokingham/Reading area we see major investment underway. On the A 327 to Reading there is the Shinfield by-pass (nearing completion), the new bridge over the M4 (completed), and the planned Arborfield by pass. On the A 329 work is in hand on the Winnersh by pass. In the town of Wokingham the new station link is open. There are plans for the new southern and northern distributor roads to the east of Wokingham, with a planned new bridge over the railway. There is also a proposal to widen the road under the railway bridge on the Finchampstead Road.

I have asked the Council to look again at smaller schemes and traffic management issues. There are criticisms of the phasing of lights at the Station approach from Wellington Road, with  red phases when the level crossing gates are already down, and at Winnersh crossroads. There are a number of places where traffic sensitive lights would be better, or where lights could be withdrawn from roundabouts or made part time. There are various junctions where segregation of left and right turning traffic, different phasing of lights, and more carriageway capacity at and near the junction would help. Bracknell has recently upgraded capacity at the Coral Reef junction of the B3430 with the A 322.


  1. Lifelogic
    January 15, 2017

    Well let us hope for some new road space, bridges and underpasses. Government policy for years has been to block and congest the roads due to some mad group think religion that bikes, trains and public transport were the answer. This while taking vast sums off motorists yet failing to provide the road space needed, while mugging them for even daring to put so much a tyre in an empty bus lane, or staying 1 min too long parking as perhaps their child needed the loo or something.

    With self drive cars and takes communal transport will make little sense other than for a few inter city and commuter routes.

    Let car and trains compete in a free market. Why tax cars hugely and subsidise trains and buses. They are less efficient and usually use more fuel too per useful door to door mile. Cancel the absurd HS2 for a start.

    There is nothing environmental, efficient or productive about a government policy of deterring travel by deliberate congestion.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 15, 2017

      Where is the logic in giving half of the road space over to often empty and infrequent buses or setting lights so that the vehicles (perhaps 95%+ of the traffic) get only 10% of the green time? Also having to wait behind the bike encouraged to push in front of them and hold them up by big bikes signed painted on the road. Why do taxis get priority lanes over self driven cars too? Taxis are less efficient as they often make redundant pick up and drop of journeys empty.

      We need to kill the green blob and get the roads to flow. Good, indeed essential, for business productivity too. Give Patterson, JR and Lilley types a job and fire the green blob loons who still dominate the Cabinet.

      What is the real cost in fuel, time wasteland pollution of this congestion by government design?

    2. Anonymous
      January 15, 2017

      So where do all the extra cars park ?

      “They’ll be automated.” Do the automated cars go back home on their own and come back again ?

      I don’t think automated cars will be allowed out on their own with a qualified driver to manually override it if there is a fault.

      Would you let your automated car out on its own doing its own thing with your licence at stake ?

      1. Anonymous
        January 15, 2017

        Should read: without a qualified driver.

      2. Lifelogic
        January 16, 2017

        Well it certainly will happen and fairly soon.

      3. Lifelogic
        January 16, 2017

        They can park in car parks of course. These can be high rise or underground if needed. I am no great fan of electric cars with the current premature technology (limited range, long charge times and very expensive short life batteries which replaces the £50 fuel tank with £10,000+ batteries) but they certainly are coming. They will need parking with charge points.

        The advantage of electric cars in cities is that the pollution they produce is at the electricity generating plant and not actually in the city. Though petrol and gas powered cars can actually be pretty clean anyway.

        Self driving car and taxis will be coming in the medium term too.

      4. David Price
        January 16, 2017

        Why would it be a personally owned vehicle? Most cars spend the vast majority of the time parked somewhere so why not have shared cars then it matters less where it is parked. They have car pool schemes in German cities which seem to work quite well.

        If you have automated vehicles then why should a human park them – design more compact car parks to suit an automated process.

  2. alan jutson
    January 15, 2017

    John as you well know I have been making comment on this local issue for years.

    The fact of the matter is whilst the Council have allowed a huge amount of new housing to be constructed, the infrastructure has not been upgraded much at all.

    The new Southern and Northern relief roads of which you speak will go through new housing estates, on single lane housing estate roads where parking takes place, thus they will not be relief roads at all, indeed the southern route is planned to exit onto the A321 between two low railway bridges (near the Tesco Roundabout) where the road narrows, and is completely unsuitable for large lorry transport.
    Given the number of lorries which have crashed into the low bridge over the years, I would have thought the Council should have recognised this problem of many years already.

    Yes the new bridge over the M4 and new upgraded road to Arborfield should help, but with masses of houses still due to be built in that area plus even more on the planning schedule is the new road wide enough ?

    Certainly the Shute end modifications are better, but why still no right turn into the Station, this could be accommodated in such a simple manner, without altering the traffic light sequence.

    Sorry to say the Council have been trying to play catch up after decades of failure, they really do need to PLAN AHEAD, although this is now made much more difficult because all what was spare and empty land to the North (which could have linked directly onto the A329M), has now been granted planning approval for more housing.

    A great opportunity lost, and I am afraid the log jam of traffic for years to come will not help the traders in the Town at all, or indeed the residents local travel arrangements/movements.

  3. Denis Cooper
    January 15, 2017

    JR, I would just politely say to your constituents, and also to the constituents of your neighbour and my MP Theresa May in Maidenhead, that you cannot reasonably vote to stay in the EU and so accept that we will have no effective control over the volume of immigration from the rest of the EU, and then complain about the inevitable adverse effects of mass immigration such as increased road congestion.

    And I would just as politely say to the EU immigrants that this is not a criticism of them but of our own politicians who we have elected, for after all the main reason they are on the roads is because they are not sitting around doing nothing and collecting benefits but rather they are doing what the natives are doing – going to and from work, going to and from shops, and increasingly over time taking their children to and from school.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 16, 2017

      But Theresa May apparently actually believed we had control of our borders, even while in the EU, through Schengen! She even assured the nation’s voters of this in the referendum campaign. This after presiding over mass uncontrolled immigration for many years as Home Secretary.

      I think we can safely say than many such people are not “reasonable” (nor even truthful) they are, after all, politicians. They tend to say what they think is expedient for their audience at the time and forget it a few days later.

  4. Douglas Inglesent
    January 15, 2017

    Hello John. Tell me somewhere in larger towns in the country where similar if not worse traffic jams arise. Sadly many people seem to think that it is not bad enough and so need to import more people into the country.

  5. Bert Young
    January 15, 2017

    I wish our local MP paid as much attention to our traffic problems as John does with his constituents in Wokingham . Increased housing and traffic volume has made going to work , to school , to do the shopping and all the other menial things ( like a visit to the surgery ) a nightmare .

    A Neighbourhood Plan is about to be presented that will emphasise the problems we have ; hopefully it will be approved . By-passing villages and siting new developments will be featured as will other recommendations to alleviate some of our headaches . In the end it will be up to higher powers that exist to seal it off – therein lies the rub!.

  6. Lesley
    January 15, 2017

    Why is it that the MP has to intervene on what should be a County Council – and County Councillor -question?

    1. alan jutson
      January 15, 2017


      “Why is it that an Mp has to intervene”

      Simply because the Council refuse to listen, and our Mp has concerns about the present and future of the area.

      Sadly there is little alternative to the present Conservative Council because the LibDems have had equally stupid and useless expensive idea’s in the past.

      Seems at last some of the LibDems may be starting to work it all out, but too little too late to make any real difference now.

    2. matthu
      January 15, 2017

      Because central government have caused the mess in the first place and need to help to alleviate it by increased funding? Presumably by utilising the much higher inflow of money that they have gathered over the years from the much higher than anticipated level of immigration and not by increasing taxation.

    3. Denis Cooper
      January 16, 2017

      No county council now, county councils do not easily fit into the EU model for its local government and so Berkshire was divided into unitary authorities.

  7. English Pensioner
    January 15, 2017

    Wokingham is not the only town to be affected by this problem. Whilst most of us appreciate the need for new homes, unfortunately that is all that seems to be considered in the quest for more homes. No-one seems to think about the infrastructure, roads and parking just are but one facet of the problem.
    More schools, doctor’s surgeries, improvements to the electricity supply and surface water drainage are all things that need to be considered. The trouble is that there seems to be no real co-ordination, once the council grants planning permission, these are all someone else’s problems.

    1. Anonymous
      January 15, 2017

      We have had hundreds of houses being built while services are being CUT !

    2. Alexis
      January 15, 2017

      hear hear

  8. Liz
    January 15, 2017

    The trouble with computer traffic models is they do not take into account changes in driver behaviour which result from new road layouts. It now often takes longer to get to the station than it did before mainly because the light phasing does not reflect new traffic flows.Yesterday there were lane closures, road closures all over Wokingham most of them due to housing construction. Some lanes were closed with no activity taking place. Road capacity on the major roads has probably decreased since I came to Wokingham 20 years ago mainly because of priority and money given to creating under used cycle lanes and lane reductions. However unless, and until, the level crossing problems are addressed there will be continuing and increasing traffic congestion in Wokingham.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 15, 2017

      The trouble with computer traffic models is they are often designed by people who are infected with the state sector road/car/truck religion.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 16, 2017

        the state sector anti road/car/truck religion I meant.

  9. rose
    January 15, 2017

    This was the first thing I noticed in the Blair years: a huge increase in traffic, both on the roads and on the pavements.

  10. Lifelogic
    January 15, 2017

    Cancelling the absurd HS2 and Hinkley C and spending the money on more roads, underpasses, overpasses, parking and more sensible lights and junctions that flow would do at least 1000 times as much good as these bonkers projects.

    As it happens I recently booked a London to Bimingham Central rail ticket (for travel in the middle of a weekday and back the next day) and it cost just £5.50 each way, so clearly there is a lot of free capacity on this route anyway. I do not care at all about getting there ten minutes earlier, as I can work or read on the train anyway. So what is the point of HS2?

    If government really have to deter cars from travelling it should be done by intelligent (time dependent) road charging and not by intentionally causing damaging congestion by poor roads. That way the money raised can be used to expand and improve the road capacity. This rather than just pissing it down the drain by wasting everyone’s time and fuel as now.

  11. Ken Moore
    January 15, 2017

    Uncle Redwood,

    I don’t understand this…perhaps Wokingham borough council can squeeze 5% or maybe 10% more capacity out of the existing network but that’s it. Population growth will swallow that up in a few years. It’s like firing a pea shooter at a charging elephant.

    It’s not a long term solution – there needs to be an emergency brake on immigration to ease pressure on migration honey pots like Wokingham. Politicians in general with their need to placate angry voters and 4 year horizons just do not understand the concept of exponential growth (not a dig at JR personally)

    Increasingly, councils are finding themselves in the dock, falling foul of well funded ‘predatory developers’ that offer ‘no win no fee’ deals to landowners. The Conservatives foolishly decided councils must prove they have a ‘5 year supply of building land’ to meet an unsustainable demand for new housing?.

    In Wokinghams case, developers are able to appeal to the planning inspectorate to overturn decisions taken by local people. The developer is able to ‘explot loopholes in local planning laws’ to bulldoze aside local people.

    Is there anything you can do as a local mp ..or is the power completely with one elected planning inspector?. The whole systems seems rotten and needs a re-think imo.
    I feel sorry for the people of Wokingham – plainly the place is full to bursting and no amount of tinkering with the road network is going to work long term.

    1. rose
      January 15, 2017

      So why, do you think, did the people of Wokingham, whom you feel sorry for, vote for getting on for a million extra people a year?

      1. Ken Moore
        January 15, 2017

        Now that is an interesting question….I suspect many thought they were voting for a party led by a Conservative…
        Instead they got lumbered with the ‘heir to Blairs’ purple Conservative party. People are slowly waking up to the disdain that Lib/Lab/Con had/have for what they sneeringly describe as ‘populism’… but what the public call ‘democracy’ and ‘common sense’. ..

        The British ability to not take anything really seriously that doesn’t involve war or football is probably a factor too.
        I feel sorry for anyone that bought into any area offering peace and space…….. only to find that ruined by the reckless actions of a clique of grandstanding politically correct politicians that are insulated from the damage they create.
        Just ask the people of Wokingham who have had unwanted housing development rammed down their throats – the so called Conservative government changed the rules to allow unelected planning inspectors to overrule them.

        1. rose
          January 16, 2017

          Actually, I meant why did so many of them vote in the referendum to stay as a subject nation of the EU, and subject to Free Movement of People?

          They couldn’t have a better MP. We wish he were ours.

  12. bigneil
    January 15, 2017

    Congestion is not just in your area John. As a million extra people arrive every few years – most with no road sense or valid license – congestion is going to carry on. More people = more houses = more roads. There used to be 2 roundabouts between where I live and the local town. This has doubled with the new ones providing access to large, and still growing, housing estates. Soon the whole 5 mile will be reduced to a 30 area – and every extra vehicle slows someone else down, which slows others down etc etc. eventually it will all come down to a near standstill. Look at India – a seething mass of people where the roads shown in their cities are chaotic. That is where we are heading – very quickly, but not in actual speed.

  13. Bob
    January 15, 2017

    Nigel Farage warned that open borders in a country with such generous welfare provision would lead to:
    – Traffic congestion
    – Overcrowding on public transport
    – An NHS crisis
    – Shortage of school places
    – Housing shortages
    – Inflated property costs
    – Overcrowding in prisons
    – Unsustainable pressure on public services

    Sadly, successive governments chose to dismiss Nigel’s warnings as racism, and the Tory Party are under police investigation for election fraud due to their desparation to exclude him from Westminster.

    Six months on from the referendum the British people are facing the consequences of open borders while still paying £1 billion per month to Brussels as people lay dying in British hospital corridors.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 15, 2017

      Indeed, unless of course the government had made proper provisions. But the, mainly low paid, immigrant workers do not pay sufficient in tax for this to ever happen hence the huge deficit.

      This particularly when the state sector in the UK is so inefficient, inept and bloated. Things like the NHS can never work properly as currently structured anyway, as is clear to anyone who takes a look.

    2. rose
      January 15, 2017

      “as people lay dying in British hospital corridors.”

      And others are camping in tents in this weather, or sleeping in doorways, so that people who have been given EU passports can be housed at public expense.

  14. Original Richard
    January 15, 2017

    I have no knowledge of Wokingham traffic but I have found that 50% of the times I have travelled half way round the M25 on the western side it has taken 4 hours or more simply because of the weight of traffic.

    Unless we have a government which curbs our very high levels of immigration either road pricing or rationing or both will be inevitable.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 15, 2017

      Indeed I nearly missed a flight from Gatwick last summer, due to it taking nearly 4 hours to drive 60 miles no blockages, just slow moving all the way due to weight of traffic. More road space is clearly needed, better junctions, over passes, tunnels it is all fairly obvious.

      The M1, M25, Blackwall Tunnel, M4, M3,M5, A1M, M2, M20 are very all very overloaded much of the time in my experience. Must cost a fortune in wasted time and delayed deliveries.

      1. Original Richard
        January 15, 2017

        Which is why developing Gatwick, an airport to the south of London, to increase national airport capacity is a nonsense.

  15. Span Ows
    January 15, 2017

    John, I am sure you know that it is the same EVERYWHERE. Horrendous and hard to find a solution short of banning cars.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 15, 2017

      The solution is very simple more roads (and road charging if any rationing is needed at peak times). You do not sensible ration by congestion and inconvenience you ration by price. Or fewer people.

      That way you get money in and can use it to make more provision.

      Banning cars and trucks will hardly help the economy.

  16. David L
    January 15, 2017

    As a town centre resident, I wonder why the regeneration couldn’t have waited until the new North and South roads were completed. I frequently hear emergency vehicles stuck in the congested Denmark Street. I hope no-one has suffered as a result.

    On another point, there doesn’t seem to be any provision of shopping areas within the new estates around Wokingham; so new residents have to compound the problems in the town centre.

  17. Raymond
    January 15, 2017

    Does Wokingham have an urban traffic control system, which should help? Anyway, I think historically increasing traffic (and therefore traffic congestion) has been primarily caused by increasing real incomes. In recent years the principal cause has been increasing population with the vehicle per person ratio staying more or less constant.

  18. matthu
    January 15, 2017

    Part of the problem in Wokingham is still the huge delay brought about by manual raising and lowering of the railways crossing barriers. The crossing on Easthampstead road is usually lowered at 08:23 and not raised again until 08:30 every morning. I suspect a similar delay may be repeated 4 times an hour which explains why there is a 50% chance of being delayed by these crossings, even without increasing the number of trains.

    If the boom is lowered at 08:23, the first train passes by at 08:25, what can possibly justify keeping the boom down for another 5 minutes while drivers wait for the next train to arrive?

  19. Old Albion
    January 16, 2017

    JR, you could be talking about Maidstone. The Gov. has compelled KCC to build many thousands of new homes (thanks to our uncontrolled burgeoning population) on green field sites all around the town. I’ve lived here only ten years, the place has gone from the garden of England to the concrete jungle of England with accompanying traffic jams. No significant money has been spent on the infrastructure. It’s madness.

  20. David Price
    January 16, 2017

    Isn’t this just one part of the problem along with residential housing and commercial/industrial development. Or is the sole purpose of places like Reading and Wokingham to act as dormitories for London?

  21. ChrisS
    January 16, 2017

    Being originally from Maidenhead and now living in Dorset, I avoid Berkshire as much as I can. Not having lived there since 1978, I can make some observations from a detached viewpoint :

    I’ve been self employed since 1992 running my IFA practice from a purpose built office suite at home. That has always been highly efficient, no time or expense wasted commuting, minimal cost and my business model has involved little time wasted on travel of any kind.

    So, when I do venture to Berkshire, I am constantly amazed at the many millions of hours wasted by people commuting in every direction. The roads into and out of Reading are gridlocked as are those around Slough. We need not even mention the trains to London !

    The blame can be laid at the door of thousands of medium sized and large businesses whose CEOs like to stroke their ego each morning by driving up to a large prestigious office block along the M4 corridor and see all those BMW and Mercedes company cars in the car park. Others appreciate the view from their towering office suite overlooking the London skyline.

    Even modern companies like Google and Apple have fallen into the same trap, opening new offices in, of all places, Kings Cross and Battersea in the very centre of London !

    Why did they not base their new HQs in the countryside like Vodafone did in Newbury many years ago ?

    And, with modern technology it is all so unnecessary – nobody, and I mean nobody, needs to be in the office five days a week and basing a business outside London has so many advantages, not least, saving the employees from the treadmill and waste of the daily commute on Southern Trains.

    A rethink by employers on how to structure and run a business is the only way we are ever going to solve the traffic problem. It would help if the Treasury had a revamp of business rates and treated satellite offices as part of the whole HQ. That, and better use of IT, might help make it easier for businesses to operate from locations closer to where their employees want to live.

  22. Mike Wilson
    January 16, 2017

    The level crossing on the Easthampstead Road has absurd timing – in that the barriers come down a full two or three minutes before a train. When trains are relatively close together, the barriers can be down for 6 or 7 minutes with a queue back to past Holme Grange.

    I realise safety is important but this is an insane over-reaction. If the level crossings in areas of South West London like Barnes and Putney – which feed huge numbers of trains into Waterloo – worked on this basis, the barriers would never be up!

    One minute before a train arriving is plenty of time with a clear warning not to enter the level crossing unless your exit is clear.

    Has anyone ever actually asked the people of Wokingham if they want thousands and thousands of new homes and more and more people living here? It is beginning to feel a bit like living in London around here – but without the public transport.

  23. Freeborn John
    January 16, 2017

    The improvements in the area are all so small and insignificant. The scale of the traffic problem in this country really needs to be met with solutions of the same scale. For example the A329(m) should run all the way from Reading past its current endpoint in Bracknell to the M3 lightwater and on to the A3(m) in the Guildford area and possibly further to Gatwick. It could also be extended north from Reading to the M40. This would provide capacity but also resilience to the regional motorway network.

  24. Thames Trader
    January 16, 2017

    Where I live east of JR’s constituency there are numerous junctions in Labour-controlled Slough where the traffic lights obstruct the traffic flow instead of helping it pass through. I complained to the council about one particular set of lights where there are long queues at even 7am (a sure sign there’s a problem) only to be told they didn’t have the money to put in fully traffic controlled lights. I’m convinced they are timed to favour local residents in Slough rather than treating everyone equally including those from outside the borough.

  25. JJE
    January 17, 2017

    No mention of the third bridge over the Thames ?

  26. MikeP
    January 17, 2017

    Yes traffic congestion in the Wokingham area is appalling and I believe the northern Distribution Road may take 2 years yet even to be started and when finished will spill all that southbound traffic at the already heaving Tesco Roundabout.
    Last night (16Jan) was a classic example, with homebound workers completely stymied trying to use Barkham road owing to new roadworks by the Bull at Barkham. Southbound traffic was probably 10-12 times that going northbound, allowing a huge queue to develop. It took me 55 minutes to travel 7 miles to Three Mile Cross via this pinch-point and the as-yet-unfinished Shinfield bypass (which was to have been completed by “Autumn 2016” on the original signage).
    So please add to your list of points to raise:
    – the phasing of road work lights to be traffic sensitive
    – better coordination of roadworks so alternative routes are available to avoid them
    – more honest and realistic advertisements of when works will be completed
    – better project management and holding contractors accountable for completion by their advertised timescales

  27. Peter Dennis
    January 18, 2017

    I am saddened to read many comments saying the traffic has been caused by immigrants. Rather I suggest this is, in part, to economic factors where people from all over the UK are coming to this area due to it being the silicon valley in the UK, easy access to London. Tying this to the EU is not valid in this case. Note I am not a native of this area (originally Worcester) and nor are many of my friends and colleagues. We have to be sensible about how we travel …. I see cars every day with one person in them travelling the same path as other cars. Yes car sharing, buses, other public transport mimght be inconvenient but needs must.

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