Chichester’s transport hub could be scaled back

The next two phases of an ambitious £3.3m bus and rail interchange planned for Chichester may be drastically scaled back.

Instead there is now a proposal to upgrade access and safety for pedestrians and cyclists at the railway station – and to improve roadside bus facilities in the city centre.

The current scheme envisages building the interchange on the north forecourt of the railway station, allowing buses to access the site before the closure of the bus station, across the road.

But a new county council report said this design would not have the capacity for the increased numbers of buses accessing the city.

The Chichester Quality Bus Partnership, whose membership includes representatives of the county, district and city councillors, as well as bus and rail operators, is now recommending the scheme should be scaled back to improve access and safety at the railway station. It is proposing money should be redirected to improve roadside bus facilities elsewhere in central Chichester.

This idea will be discussed by West Sussex County Council’s Chichester south county local committee on Tuesday, February 8, before a decision is taken by deputy county council leader Lionel Barnard, who has responsibility for highways and transport.

The ‘initial works phase’ of the interchange was completed in 2007-08, including road layout improvements, a taxi rank, and the installation of new bike racks with shelters and CCTV on both sides of the railway crossing gates.

Two further phases were planned, including the construction of the interchange on the north side of the railway station, and alternative access via a new bridge at the south-western corner of the site, next to Waitrose.

“The scheme was designed some years ago, when there were far fewer buses accessing the city centre using the current bus station and/or passing the rail station,” said the report, which goes before next week’s committee meeting.

“In addition, it has been recognised the majority of rail-users coming into Chichester walk to the city centre rather than using the bus, and that it is healthier to do so.”

The partnership had reviewed the proposed scheme designs, and believed the bus-rail interchange would no longer be fit for purpose.

It also believed there was not enough space on the station forecourt to allow sufficient numbers of buses to access the site and make the investment worthwhile.

It was proposed options for improvements to bus facilities in West and South Street and Market Road were explored, alongside alternative city centre bus infrastructure improvements.

The report added that so far £776,000 had been spent on the improvements to the railway station through the scheme, and the costs of the planned phases would be ‘considerably more’.