Following two fatalities and untold numbers of collisions over recent years on Thamesdown Drive, North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson responded to residents’ concerns by calling his first public meeting in smart new offices at the Orbital Shopping Park reception building.
A motorbike illegally roaring through the adjacent ‘bus only’ link road outside set the tone for what was to be a good natured yet passionate discussion on Friday 22 July.
Elected Police Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson, was joined by Wiltshire Constabulary Superintendent Armstrong and Swindon Borough cabinet member for highways, Cllr Dale Heenan.
A surprisingly high turnout of the public on a warm summer evening was fortified by the presence of all local ward councillors and a smattering of parish councillors from Haydon Wick and Blunsdon.
One after another, speakers described near misses, excessive speed, ‘weaving’ and even ‘racing’, and lots of obvious indecision where road markings are confusing or incomplete. But most highlighted stopping at red lights to be almost ‘optional’ for some drivers as the most pressing issue.
Statistics presented by Superintendent Armstrong confirmed this as the leading cause of collision on Thamesdown Drive. Much was made of the availability of widespread in car video evidence as a potential basis for prosecution. Surprisingly and for the first time, she stated police were prepared to adopt compelling evidence gathered by the public as a basis for prosecution. Also recent initiatives by the police using special constables to monitor vehicle speed were commended.
It quickly became clear however that, above all else, the public were seeking the use of camera technology on Thamesdown Drive, both to monitor speed and adherence to red lights.
Haydon Wick Councillor John Stooke summed up the view stating that camera technology worked, citing the Torin Way Bus Gate, but argued the borough council cannot be expected to fund a proper camera programmes with all income from fines going to central government. Justin Tomlinson understood this and said he will raise this with Ministers in Transport and the Justice Department.
Cllr Dale Heenan then surprised the meeting by announcing he had identified £180,000 from developers which could be spend on cameras to control drivers jumping red lights.
Angus Macpherson spoke positively, stating, whilst he could not influence operational matters, his office was receptive to effective safety improvements and he would support all of the measures on the table.
The final request was that a managed programme of junction by junction analysis, looking at road marking and traffic light behaviour should be urgently put in place by the Borough Council.
In thanking residents for making the effort to turn out the MP ended the discussion on an optimistic note, by setting series of objectives for the panel and promising to reconvene, in perhaps more informal ways, as soon as real new proposals were on the table.
Addendum: Cllr Heenan tweeted: ‘Its all up to the Police & Crime Commissioner to follow through. SBC can’t legally do it alone’
Photos by Richard Wintle of Calyx: the top table representatives, from left, Cllr Dale Heenan, Justin Tomlinson MP, Superintendent Ferguson, PCC Angus Macpherson