CLOGGED UP Commuters, schoolchildren, buses, taxis, rush-hour traffic and drop-offs create a bottleneck PHOTO: Craig Matthews

THE public has a final chance to give its opinions on how to improve the area around Tonbridge railway station.

It is the busiest station in Kent, with around 4.4million passengers using it every year. Commuters and schoolchildren throng the site every weekday.

However, Kent County Council (KCC) has decided that the immediate vicinity is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ because of the sheer volume of usage, which sees pedestrians, buses, replacement bus services, taxis and drop-off car users bustling around a very small area.

County Hall has £500,000 budgeted to be spent on the project during 2018-19 from the West Kent Local Growth Fund allocated by the South-East Enterprise Partnership.

Two drop-in events have been organised, in the Council Chamber at Tonbridge Castle, on Saturday 27 January from 11am-2pm and Thursday 8 February from 3-7pm, where councillors will be on hand to answer questions.

There is also an online -questionnaire at
RevisedDesign. This will be open until February 12, though you will have to register.

Following the improvements made to the High Street, KCC carried out its first consultation on proposals to improve the area around the station late in 2016.

‘With such a well-used space it is vital the design is the best it can be’

Working in partnership with Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, Network Rail which owns the station and the main local train franchise Southeastern, it looked at ways to provide more room for pedestrians and more capacity for sustainable or ‘green’ transport.

The local authority has now decided that a second consultation should be carried out.

A KCC spokesman said: “With such a well-used space, shared by many different users, it is vital the design is the best it can be.”

The main issue to arise from the initial consultation was the necessity to improve the flow of traffic. Among the current proposals are:

1 Larger pedestrian area in front of the station entrance, with more room for cafe customers – removing the six short-stay drop-off bays.

2 Bus stop outside the front with capacity for one bus – but further away than the current bus lane to allow for new forecourt.

3 A ‘puffin’ crossing will be installed in front of the station entrance and also on all other ‘arms’ of the junction, including across Waterloo Road and where the existing pelican crossing is on the other side of it. These would feature advanced stop signs to help cyclists.

A puffin crossing is controlled by sensors mounted on the lights, rather than a timer, which can detect if any pedestrians are on the crossing – there is no flashing amber phase.

4 No right turn into or out of Priory Road (left turn only).

5 Extend both northbound and southbound bus stops on both sides of Quarry Hill Parade so there is capacity for three buses on each.

6 Larger pedestrian area in front of Lidl.

7 Three short stay drop-off bays near entrance of Priory Road.

The plans contain no changes to the station entrance on Barden Road or the taxi rank on Waterloo Road.

KCC’s Senior Schemes Programme Manager, Jamie Watson, addressed a meeting of Tonbridge Forum on December 4, in which members of the community could voice their views.

There were concerns about the proposed location for the ‘kiss and drop’ layby on Priory Road, which was felt to be too away, and -residents also wanted the existing bays right outside the entrance to be retained.

They also called for disabled parking bays at the station, questioned the status of the shop fronts neighbouring the station, sought more support for the taxi rank, and asked if bus operators could be persuaded to review their routes.

Mr Watson said bus services could be looked at as part of a review of the controversial High Street changes, which he told the Forum would also be held this month.

He added that disabled parking bays would be provided by Southeastern behind the station, and that the shop fronts were not part of discussions with Network Rail but could be incorporated.

Review of new High Street

KCC’s Jamie Watson told the meeting of Tonbridge Forum at the end of last year that there would be a review of the improvements made to the High Street this month.

A number of sticking points had been raised by residents, including the bus stop outside Café Nero causing traffic delays and the raised table in the High Street being mistaken for a pedestrian crossing.

Mr Watson advised changes would be made so cars would be able to pass buses in both directions along the High Street and a right-hand turn would be provided. He said bus operators were satisfied with these measures.