Candidates discuss third Thames bridge for Reading

Reading Bridge Image copyright Philip Halling
Image caption Reading Bridge is one of two current main crossings over the Thames in Reading

Parliamentary candidates for Reading East have been debating how to speed up plans for a third bridge over the River Thames in Reading.

Labour and UKIP blamed the delays in the project on Oxfordshire County Council, while the Lib Dems said more traffic modelling research was needed.

The Conservatives said important progress had already been made with councils on both sides of the river.

The Greens oppose a third bridge and want to promote cycling and walking.

The idea for a new bridge to ease congestion in Reading town centre has been circulating for about 40 years.

'Parties in agreement'

There are three main routes over the Thames in the area, two in Caversham, Reading and one in Sonning, Wokingham.

Speaking during a live debate on BBC Radio Berkshire, Liberal Democrat candidate Jenny Woods said: "We have the traffic congestion within Reading but there are also people who are very concerned about where the bridge is going to go.

"We must see lots of very careful traffic analysis and modelling first to make sure we properly understand the effect this is going to have on our infrastructure."

Labour's Matt Rodda said: "I think the answer is to work on Oxfordshire.

"Reading and Wokingham are in agreement about this and actually all the three main parties are in agreement that we need a third bridge. The question is about how we deliver it and how you persuade Oxfordshire to come on side.

"We've taken a petition from local people from Emmer Green and Caversham over to Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire and I have engaged actively with them."

Image caption The Reading East candidates are Labour's Matt Rodda, the Greens' Rob White, UKIP's Christine Forrester, Conservative Rob Wilson and Lib Dem Jenny Woods

UKIP's Christine Forrester said: "One has got to consider the fact that Oxfordshire is the problem here and they don't want to be overdeveloped on that side.

"Actually, what we've got to do is get all the councils to work together and have a consensus on this. How about banging their heads together?"

Conservative candidate Rob Wilson said: "Taking a few hundred people on a petition is not the answer. The answer has been to get all the local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, all the local MPs together and I've done that by chairing three summits along with John Howell from Oxfordshire.

"The four councils have put £250,000 into a big traffic modelling study which will hopefully report later in the autumn and that is a very important step forward because we have never had Oxfordshire putting money into this before."

Green Party candidate Rob White said: "We think a third Thames Bridge, as well as being massively expensive, we don't think it's going to solve the problems.

"We want to tackle the problems Reading has got... We think the way to do that is to invest in public transport, walking, cycling, to cut down journeys over the existing Reading bridges.

"We can't just keep going on building more bridges, more car parks, more roads."

Click here to see the full list of candidates standing in Reading East and you can listen again to the BBC Radio Berkshire debate on the iPlayer.

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