Council says it has 'learnt its lesson' ahead of two-year road closure

·3-min read
A digital rendering of the Fleming Way plans and Gary Sumner explaining them to locals
A digital rendering of the Fleming Way plans and Gary Sumner explaining them to locals

In September one of the main routes into Swindon town centre will be completely shutting and will remain shut for two years.

This is so that Swindon Borough Council and its contractor Colas Ltd can carry out a £33million transformation of Fleming Way into a Bus Boulevard.

Such major roadworks with forecasted months of disruption are ringing alarm bells for residents of Swindon who have seen similar council-backed road improvement schemes like the Mead Way road widening, or the White Hart roundabout works, drag on and on, missing deadline after deadline.

But at the first of two community engagement meetings held by the council at the Swindon Community Hub where members of the public could speak to Gary Sumner, cabinet member for infrastructure and planning, Craig Walker, the council's project manager for this work as well as representatives from Swindon Bus Company and Colas, the message was one of reassurance.

"I know a lot of people are wondering why we're doing this, but the government set aside some money which we successfully bid for, if we didn't ask for that money for this project, it would've gone somewhere else, so why not here," Craig Walker said.

Swindon Advertiser: Colas' senior project manager Ben Power (white shirt) with locals
Swindon Advertiser: Colas' senior project manager Ben Power (white shirt) with locals

Colas' senior project manager Ben Power (white shirt) with locals

"We're also acutely aware that there's a lack of trust among people because of other roadwork projects in the town, but I want to reassure people that we've spent a lot of time talking to those teams to find out what went wrong, and massive lessons have been learnt."

Craig explained one of the major causes of delays for both Mead Way and White Hart was waiting for utility companies, but that Colas had taken great steps to try and avoid this for Fleming Way.

Ben Power, senior project manager from Colas explained: "We've spent a lot of time investigating where all of the cables are and part of the reason we're fully closing the whole road for two years is so that we can dig the whole thing up and get the utility companies in one-by-one to do everything they need to do, which will speed up the process.

"We're very confident that we can meet all the milestones and hit all the targets."

The major upgrade to Fleming Way will provide a new bus interchange, vastly improved public open spaces and new cycle lane facilities that link up the main cycling routes across the town which all form part of the improvements.

Preliminary work have started already such as the demolition of car parks and the aforementioned cable investigation but on September 4 the main body of work begins, which will cause disruption to the area, but Mr Sumner maintains it will be worth it.

Swindon Advertiser: The Fleming Way consultation in Swindon Community Hub
Swindon Advertiser: The Fleming Way consultation in Swindon Community Hub

The Fleming Way consultation in Swindon Community Hub

"This will be the biggest thing to happen in Swindon for years," he said. "When it's finished it will be the photo people take of the town centre.

"We're hoping it will draw people and businesses to Swindon, Zurich has put money in because of this and other large companies are already looking at us. "

Mr Sumner added that a big part of the council's considerations with the plans for the boulevard had its longevity in mind, the plants used would be hardy long-lasting plants and wildflowers, and the new layout should make it easier for the street-cleaning teams to keep it tidy.

Swindon Bus Company's general manager, Alex Chutter, has maintained that all bus services will continue to run and everyone will still be able to access the town centre for their shopping needs.

He added that full information about how the bus routes will be affected will be released nearer to the time of the closure.

There's another in-person session at Swindon Community Hub on Thursday 11am - 3pm.