THE strategic approach being taken to cope with traffic generated by 15,000 new homes in Basingstoke has been challenged by a Hampshire County councillor.

The option favoured by Hampshire County Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system based on buses.

Cllr Stephen Reid from Hampshire County Council (HCC) said: “The Councils are hoping for what they call 'modal shift', persuading people to move out of their cars and into public transport instead. Work has taken place on producing an MRT plan, to understand where the routes might go.”

He said three priority corridors are emerging including:

• B3400, North Manydown, Leisure Park, Town Centre

• A30 south-west corridor, including Ringway West and Churchill Way West

• A33 Ringway to Chineham, Taylors Farm and east of Basingstoke

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He continued: "But there are obstacles to this. In some locations, there may not be enough room to allow the provision of bus priority measures such as bus lanes and bus gates. For example, I don't see how the A30 and the Brighton Hill roundabout could give priority to buses without significantly increasing delays for motorists.

"And I see another fundamental flaw. Many people don’t want to catch buses. If they have them, they want to use their cars. For this strategy to work, the planners need to achieve a wholesale change in attitudes on the part of the public. That’s a big ask - and a huge risk.

"This is even more true since the pandemic. At a meeting I attended, Stagecoach reported passenger numbers at 65 per cent of previous levels in Basingstoke. That may be due to more working and shopping from home, but it also stems from nervousness about contagions.”

He said he has seen this process fail before.

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He added: "I witnessed the failure of ‘modal shift’ even before the pandemic: When Beggarwood was built, for example, developer contributions were used to subsidise a bus route for three years. The idea was that by the end of that time, the bus service should be self-sustaining. It wasn't. When the money ran out, Stagecoach said there were not enough passengers to justify the service. But by then the houses had been built.

"So, experience says that a transport strategy based on MRT alone will be a massive gamble. At worst it would see the cars of 15,000 new homes put onto an already overloaded road system, which is a recipe for gridlock. To allow developments of this magnitude without building the roads to handle the traffic is, to my mind, fraught with danger.

"To put it brutally: 15,000 new homes need more than a bus lane."