Radical rethink is rejected as Tonbridge station keeps ‘kiss and ride’

Pam Mills

TONBRIDGE railway station will keep its drop-off points outside the main entrance after residents said they did not want radical changes to ease the traffic burden.

Councillors voted to keep the existing layout after examining the findings of a public consultation, which rejected a proposal to move the bays to Priory Road.

A redesign had been put forward by Kent County Council (KCC) to change the station approach in order to reduce congestion around the transport hub.

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Joint Transportation Board made their decision after more than 200 people gave their views on the plans.

It is the busiest station in Kent, with around 4.4million passengers using it every year. There are also multiple bus stops in the vicinity which serve the students attending the plethora of schools in south Tonbridge.

Commuters and schoolchildren crowd into the site on weekdays and KCC had decided that the area was no longer ‘fit for purpose’.

County Hall have a budget of £500,000 which must be spent on the project during 2018-19, allocated by the South-East Enterprise Partnership.

After the improvements it made to the High Street, KCC looked at ways to provide more room for pedestrians and more capacity for sustainable, ‘green’ transport.

The consultation proposed a larger pedestrian area in front of the entrance, keeping the existing bus stop but positioning it further away to allow for the new forecourt.

That meant removing six short-stay drop-off points, installing three bays at the top of Priory Road instead.

Forty-five out of 195 respondents, or 23 per cent, thought these were too far away from the station. Many thought car-users would use the bus stop at the entrance instead.

Residents suggested a ‘kiss and ride’ bay at the entrance to help the elderly and disabled, and to reduce the taxi ranks on Waterloo Road in order to put bays there.

The KCC proposal suggested extending both northbound and southbound bus stops on both sides of Quarry Hill Parade so there was capacity for three buses on each.

However, it was feared that at the evening peak time this would create a ‘pinch point’ with traffic backing up to the Pembury Road roundabout.

Councillors were asked to vote either to move the drop-offs to another location to make room for another bus stop or retain them – with no room for the extra bus stop.

They decided on the latter. Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste, Mike Whiting, will now make a final decision.

Nina Peake of Southeastern also outlined a proposal to create a cycle hub at the Barden Road entrance that would help the forecourt, providing a drop-off facility and step-free access to the station.

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