Aims of the scheme
Smartlink is an element of the transport strategy for Ashford (along with M20 motorway, junction 10 improvements, junction 10A development, a new Victoria Way and the dualing of Chart Road. ) It is intended to increase ithe number and proportion of trips by sustainable means, particularly passenger transport. The aim is integrated bus provision across the town.
The plan is to give the Smartlink buses priority over other traffic and passengers improved waiting environments with real time travel information.
A three-legged Smartlink system is proposed linking the town centre with
- Chilmington Green to the south-west, possibly serving Cobbs Wood, Godinton Park, Singleton and Stanhope.
- Finberry to the south-east, also linking with the Orbital Business Park, Waterbrook, the Newtown Railway works, Designer Outlet and the International railway station.
- The Warren to the north-west, serving the Eureka leisure development at junction 9 of the M20.
Parking will play a key part in the overall strategy for encouraging use of alternative modes of travel and demand will be met by both the construction of new car parks and by the development of Park & Ride at the edges of the town. Three Park & Ride sites are proposed to anchor the new system with a phased implementation programme over the next ten years.
The three-legged proposal has been to a large degree prematurely announced, aligned with particular developer land-owners interests in mind, over the interests of others.
One of the constraints to implementing Smartlink is the lack of height and width underneath the existing Newtown Road bridge, which lies upon the Cheeseman's Green route. The existing bridge headroom only allows use by mini-buses, restricts two-way traffic and only incorporates a narrow elevated footway on one side of the carriageway. Several scheme options have been assessed and the preferred option is to replace the existing bridge with a new bridge to current design standards. This will improve accessibility by bus, cycle and pedestrians between the town centre and the surrounding south-eastern area of the town.
Proposed works include -
- Improving the existing headroom under the bridge from 3.0 metres to 3.7 m in order to allow use of Newtown Road by single decker buses, including future Smartlink buses.
- To increase the width of the carriageway from 5.1 m to 6.3 m to allow the free and safe flow of two-way traffic including buses.
- To replace the existing narrow 1.5 m elevated footway with a 4.25 m wide segregated footway/cycleway to facilitate the safe passage of cyclists and pedestrians.
In the longer term, the objective is for Newtown Road to be improved in further phases to provide a strategic highway network extending south-east of the town to provide improved multi-modal access to the housing areas of Cheeseman's Green and the employment areas of Waterbrook and the Orbital Business Park.
It is planned that the estimated £30,000,000 cost of the development will be funded -
- within the new housing areas of Cheeseman's Green and Chilmington Green, by the developers and ultimately the new homebuyers
- the remainder being allocated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM)
The proposal is to deliver Smartlink in two phases, phase one by 2012, with phase two by 2016, dependent upon the development of Cheeseman's Green and Chilmington Green. In practice, it is expected that the Park & Ride scheme will be in place by 2009  (originally 2008), using conventional buses, but then "streetcar" type vehicles will be brought into use as the development continues.
- Ashford Borough Council SMARTLINK scheme appraisal 31 March 2006. Archived 31 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Cite error: Invalid
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- Kent County Council A report by the Head of Transport Projects to the Highways Advisory Board on 2 May 2006
- Ashford's Future