The eternal optimist

I see that Mr Cartwright from the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust is, once again, demonstrating his contempt for the people of Swindon, brushing aside any concerns that are expressed. In response to an Adver survey showing over 63% of a sample of 1000 people were against the proposals to reintroduce a canal to central Swindon, Mr Cartwright takes the ‘glass one third full’ approach.

It still means that a third of people support it. A lot of people’s response is probably because there has been a lot of negativity in the newspapers about the canal. Then when you ask people a yes or no question like this they immediately think of all the negative aspects – it’ll cause traffic problems, it’ll cost me lots of money. I think we need to get across to people that the canal will not cost them anything and that the traffic problems in the centre have to be solved with or without the canal.

His “it won’t cost a thing” argument is getting monotonous now. It may not appear in the council tax, but ultimately, whether it be by companies re-developing central Swindon passing a levy onto the people, or central government taxation, we will end up paying the £52M that the canal will cost. Let’s also not forget that the £52M price tag does not include the costs of buying land nor of works to relieve traffic congestion resulting from the canal.

Speaking of which, Mr Cartwright’s comments about traffic congestion suggest that he has not read the report that his own organisation and Swindon Borough Council commissioned.

To conclude; this initial modelling work indicates that closing Westcott Place and Faringdon Road to general traffic would have some negative traffic impacts, including increases in traffic delay, increased journey lengths (due to detours), and possibly the loss of some on-street parking. However, the modelling shows that other areas of the network will experience reductions in traffic/congestion, and hence, overall the network would not reach capacity and therefore could accommodate the closure of Westcott Place and Faringdon Road. However, other potential future year changes may also add to congestion in the Borough, which may result in unacceptable delays.

That’s not the benign outcome that Mr Cartwright is trying to portray, but a statement that building a canal will bring forward the time when Swindon’s streets reach gridlock.

If Mr Cartwright wishes to gain the support of the people of Swindon for his plans, he needs to address their concerns, not dismiss them.

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