Tonbridge & Malling Green Party calls for town centre improvements and better public transport

1 December 2017

Tonbridge & Malling Green Party welcomes the recently announced review of the new Tonbridge High Street regeneration scheme which is long overdue.

On the whole, there is much to commend the scheme but there are some serious shortcomings that need to be addressed. Not least amongst these is the lack of a bus lay-by on the northbound carriageway at the southern end of the High Street which causes traffic to build up and exacerbates the already poor air quality in that area.

By abandoning the proposed London Road/Shipbourne Road link, TMBC and KCC have closed down options for alleviating this and many other traffic congestion issues in the town centre. 

However, we do need to think of other solutions as the present situation is unsustainable and will only get worse. Maybe now is the time to consider a one way system for the High Street with southbound traffic being diverted through Medway Wharf Rd, Sovereign Way, Avenue Du Pay and Vale Road.

This is not a simple or straightforward solution and will involve, for instance, additional engineering work at the corner of Medway Wharf Rd and the High Street, the junction of Angel Lane and Vale Rd and other locations too but it is something which we believe needs to be investigated. 

There are a number of other issues that need to be resolved. Not least amongst these is the purpose of the raised table area south of Bradford Street. This is both indistinct and confusing, causing uncertainty for both drivers and pedestrians. One assumes it is there to help reduce traffic speeds, but since most traffic doesn’t obey the 20mph limit its effectiveness is clearly limited. But the purpose of this feature should be signaled with clear signage and surface treatments, so that everybody knows how this part of the High Street should be used. 

But whatever engineering solutions are proposed, the elephant in the room is the overall need to reduce traffic volume. We are quite simply too dependent on our cars but, instead of tackling this by improving public transport, KCC is proposing massive cuts to bus subsidies which will only make the traffic situation worse.

Encouraging cycling and walking for shorter journeys is a relatively cheap (and healthy) solution and there are measures such as ‘living walls’ that can be employed to mitigate poor air quality by absorbing some of the worst air pollutants but these don’t tackle the root cause of the problem.

We need a fundamental rethink of how we get around and how we design our urban spaces. In fact, as the population of the South East grows, traffic congestion will become a more and more urgent issue. For Tonbridge and the wider borough to thrive, we desperately need an integrated public transport system that is cheap and convenient but, sadly this is not something that is on the radar of most of our current political leaders.