Changes have been made to a major new cycling route because of rising construction costs.
Somerset West and Taunton Council secured £13.9m from the government’s future high streets fund to deliver its regeneration projects at Coal Orchard and Firepool in Taunton, as well as delivering new pedestrian and cycle routes throughout the town. The council announced in June that construction would soon begin on a flagship new £3.5m cycle route which would link Taunton railway station to Vivary Park via these regeneration sites and the town centre’s main shopping street.
But a key roundabout in the town centre has now been removed from the scheme due to rising costs and the impact of bus service improvements along East Street. Councillor Mike Rigby, portfolio holder for economic development, planning and transportation, provided an update about the project to the full council on September 6.
He said in his written report: “The active travel element of the the future high street fund grant allocation creates cycling improvement schemes that focus on delivering an enhanced cycle route between Taunton railway station, through the Firepool and Coal Orchard developments to Vivary Park with additional cycle-parking. Due to rising costs, as seen across the whole construction industry, coupled with the potential impact of bus service improvements along East Street and beyond, we have taken the decision to remove the Market House roundabout from scope at this time until additional funding can be secured, and the impact of parallel activity assessed.”
Mr Rigby said: “Schemes currently being progressed through design stages include a new bridge over the River Tone, a cycle and pedestrian priority parallel crossing at St James Street, and a new crossing from High Street to Vivary Park. Cycle parking ‘hubs’ are also being implemented, with a range of both secure and sheltered cycle parking with public cycle repair stands and pumps.
“The pace of delivery remains a key consideration, with all future high street funding required to be spent by March 2024, but the programme is progressing to schedule. Consultation with Somerset County Council, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and local cycling groups has been undertaken, with further consultation to take place in the coming months.”
“After Station Road, it was top of the Taunton list for spots where they felt most vulnerable. The council were granted funding but now they are backtracking and say they cannot do any improvements to it [the roundabout] for cyclists.
“Neither of the reasons we have been given – the overall cost has increased and a bus priority scheme on East Reach might affect the roundabout – in our view hold water and should prevent the council improving the junction as soon as possible. A cheaper and simpler scheme could go ahead at this junction which can retain some of the cobbles but providing a smooth, three-metre-wide surface in matching colour for cyclists to use.”
Councillor Martin Peters, who represents the Manor and Tangier ward in Taunton, added: “I cycle daily and have experienced the difficulties with the surface on this roundabout myself. Our local councils say they are encouraging cycling for all the health and environmental benefits, plus a reduction in congestion, but this cobbled road is an awful surface, and is an obvious example of infrastructure that discourages cycling.