An update on the £115 million infrastructure project, the Victoria Arch widening scheme in Woking Town Centre, was presented to the Council’s Executive at its meeting on Thursday 7 October 2021.
The report to the Executive, produced in consultation with the project funder Homes England and partners (Network Rail and Surrey County Council), set out the project’s progress to date, including the work undertaken to acquire land to the south of the railway line and highlighted key issues which need to be progressed before significant highway works commence.
To ensure the project’s objectives are aligned with other important town centre plans, the Executive agreed the report’s recommendations to progress the following key issues:
- The proposed relocation of the Day Aggregates access road.
- The reconfiguration works to the A320 on the north-side of the Victoria Arch which will support the proposed widened highways and enable access to the Victoria Square development.
- The completion of the community engagement work currently being undertaken to devise and adopt a Woking Town Centre Masterplan, including the need to consult on the number of homes proposed for the town centre between now and 2030.
Cllr Colin Kemp, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Infrastructure, said: “Woking was one of few authorities across England to receive a large scale grant from Homes England, the government agency responsible for allocating and reviewing the Housing Infrastructure Fund.
“This project presents a once in a generation opportunity to tackle and alleviate long-standing congestion and environmental problems created by the existing Victoria Arch bridge and this part of the A320. When finished, it will build a travel network which will serve the borough and its visitors for another century and beyond, and unlock existing town centre sites for much needed housing.
“This is a complex project which requires specialist and detailed exploratory works before key works can commence. At the same time, we are delivering our promise to consult on a Woking Town Centre Masterplan consultation – the overarching vision for town centre.
“By further aligning with other interdependent projects, we will provide a more joined up and efficient work plan for the town centre, as well as reducing the overall disruption to local residents, businesses, commuters and visitors.”
Since the Victoria Arch widening scheme commenced last summer, it has made positive progress on its scheduled milestones, including:
- The voluntary acquisition of nearly all properties located within the Triangle site.
- The demolition and clearance of two-thirds of the Triangle site.
- Ongoing consultation and negotiations with owners of the Triangle properties which remain in private ownership.
- Preparatory work for the submission of a compulsory purchase order to obtain the remaining properties within the Triangle site. (To be submitted to the Secretary of State by the end of 2021.)
- The appointment of a specialist multi-utilities contractor, Skanska, to coordinate and manage the scheme’s intricate utility diversions.
- A revised highways approach accommodating widened lanes, increased height capacity for double decker buses to travel underneath the new railway bridge and improved segregated travel routes for pedestrians and cyclists through a combination of shared and segregated facilities.
- Updating the railway bridge construction method to maximise the time and space available for the complex utility diversions.
Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Infrastructure, said: “The Victoria Arch widening scheme is a vital project for Woking, as it will improve both road and rail transport, and deliver much needed housing for the town.
“We have ambitious plans to improve infrastructure across the county, to support economic growth, reduce congestion and tackle climate change. So we’re pleased to be working with our partners to see this project progressing.
“These improvements will ensure a vibrant community, a growing economy, and ensure Woking has an attractive town centre for businesses, residents and visitors.”
Claire Youdell, Commercial Scheme Sponsor at Network Rail Wessex, said: “This is a really important project for the people who live and work in Woking town centre. We’re fully committed to supporting this vital work and understand it is important to take the time to get it right.”
For further background information about this decision, view the recommendations paper submitted to the Council’s Executive.
About the Victoria Arch widening scheme
The £115 million Victoria Arch widening scheme, mainly funded by central government, will deliver key strategic outcomes for Woking’s residents, businesses and visitors.
When complete, it will provide additional road capacity, reduced air pollution, safer access for pedestrian and cycle journeys, and more reliable bus journeys. It will significantly contribute to the Council’s long-term sustainable transport measures, unlock town centre sites for much needed housing and strengthen Woking’s vibrant business economy.
In addition, the scheme offers Network Rail an opportunity to replace the ageing Victoria Arch railway bridge and renewing the railway infrastructure in Woking, which are essential for the vitality and sustainability of the rail network. Despite a significant reduction in rail passenger numbers during the pandemic, rail patronage is expected to recover in the coming years.
Surrey County Council, Woking Borough Council and Network Rail are subsidiary funders and key partners in developing this scheme. There are well established joint governance arrangements in place between these two organisations with a trusted professional team in place to deliver this scheme.
The scheme is also closely monitored by Homes England and a panel of elected members – the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Oversight Panel. Both monitor progress of the project, through the receipt of programme reports, against key milestone dates, budget and key risks.
Woking Town Centre Masterplan
The Masterplan will seek to establish an overarching vision for Woking Town Centre that will enable sustainable development including new homes, a thriving business and retail destination as well as strengthening Woking as a cultural, recreational and community destination.
The Council has made a commitment to consult residents on the number of homes proposed for the town centre which were set out as part of the Housing Infrastructure Fund grant.