The revised Design and Access Statement in support of the East MRT, paragraph 4.4 makes the claim that:
“Observations demonstrate that the eastern corridor has reached capacity. This will seriously restrict economic growth.”
The road traffic counters data included in the planning application show that the traffic on the London Road has been falling over the period shown, 2007 to 2014. Since this doesn’t support the justification for the MRT it is put down to faulty counters or the traffic being self‐limited. No update has been provided to show whether the figures for 2015 or 2016 are in line with this trend. Other sources of data such as the Department for Transport Traffic Counts confirm the decline in vehicle trips along the A4 London Road and the National Travel Survey confirms the decline in vehicle trips per person per year. It also shows that the main reasons for this are reductions in commuting and retail journeys. See Figure 1 Counts showing the reduction in daily journey along the London Road and the likely reasons for it from the National Travel Survey. These are changes brought about by improved technology that supports remote working and online shopping.
The statement does nothing to consider other forms of transport. Cycling, walking and public transport, which should be the prioritised forms of transport. Whilst the Thames Path is very busy with commuters cycling and walking, it certainly hasn’t reached anywhere near its full capacity. Neither has the rail network.
Figure 2 illustrates the planned East MRT route runs directly parallel with the existing rail network both along it length and the anticipated feeder network.
The recently announced Digital Railway Strategy will enable a 50% increase in rail capacity without any need to change the physical infrastructure. This is achieved through moving the signalling from the track side to the cab. The result of this is that trains will be able to operate safely with smaller distances between them and as a result it will increase hugely the capacity of the existing track.