Kelston private toll road
Kelston toll road opens to traffic
2nd Aug 2014 - An opportunist businessman yesterday opened a new private toll road across fields around the site of a closed main road - but council chiefs have advised drivers not to use it.
The 400 metre stretch of road has been laid around the spot on the A431 between Bristol and Bath which has been closed since February, and will cost car drivers £2 to use.
It has cost Kelston Toll Road Ltd £150,000 to build the road and Mr Watts estimates it will cost another £150,000 to run the toll road for five months.
The toll road needs to have 1,000 cars a day if the scheme is to break even.
The road, which does not have planning permission and has not been given safety certificates, re-opens the A431, which is an important ‘back road’ between Bath and Bristol to the north of the River Avon, and massively used by commuters between the two cities.
The main road was closed in February’s unprecedented wet weather when a landslip collapsed the road. Local villagers in nearby Kelston, halfway between Bath and Bristol, have long criticised Bath & North East Somerset council for their tardiness in getting the road reopened. Congestion on the only other direct route, the A4, has become a major problem this year.
Ironically, just as businessman Mike Watts opened his toll road early, B&NES council confirmed work had finally begun on rebuilding the real main road.
Mr Watts, who runs businesses in the centre of Bath, hit upon the idea of creating a new road around the closed part in Kelston when it became apparent council chiefs were not going to be able to reopen it quickly.
He set up a new company, Kelston Toll Road Ltd, to build the road and employ the people to collect the toll. The 400m stretch will have two permanently-manned toll booths at one end, collecting £2 from car drivers and £1 from motorcyclists travelling in each direction.
He said they would be applying for planning permission retrospectively, although it is likely that by the time any planning decision is reached, the proper A431 could well be reopened anyway.
The road will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with toll operators there all the time, and the site monitored by CCTV cameras and even a live webcam feed to the internet.
VIDEO: KELSTON TOLL ROAD FROM ABOVE
Drivers who will regularly use the route can bulk buy 12 toll passes for the price of ten. It is estimated that, for the company to break even, 1,000 cars are needed a day. It has cost Kelston Toll Road Ltd £150,000 to build the road and Mr Watts estimates it will cost another £150,000 to run the toll road for five months.
Yesterday, Mr Watt said people were welcome to use the road, and he wanted to provide an option for commuters. “We didn’t think it would be open until Monday but we were able to get it ready sooner than we thought. The A431 remains officially closed but people can now use the toll road if they want to.
“There will be some people who will be reluctant to pay the money but it is an option for people if they feel it will save them money in terms of the fuel costs and time.
“If people don’t want to use the road then don’t. The drive behind it is to get Bath and Bristol back on track because the impact is far more reaching then just the residents of Kelston,” he added.
Beleaguered local businesses along the A431 have welcomed the new road. The landlord of the local pub, the Old Crown in Kelston, said he’d lost £2,000 in trade, and was so keen for the road to succeed, he was offering to pay the toll back along the road for any customer who spends more than £20.
“We’re looking forward to getting back on track,” said Dean Chappell. “Once this is all sorted we will probably have to re-launch the pub and build things back up again. We hope we can give people an incentive to come here.”
But B&NES council said it could not endorse or support any driver using the private road, and warned that its concern was not only that the road does not have planning permission.
“It’s not just the planning, it’s the legal aspect of drivers using the road, and also safety – the area around the road where the landslip occurred has only just stopped moving, which is why work has only just been able to begin,” said a council spokesman.
The council questioned whether drivers would be insured driving on the road, and whether the road meets safety standards.
“We appreciate the difficulties that local residents have experienced since the emergency closure and work has started to deliver a permanent solution as quickly as possible, but will not encourage proposals that have not been proven to be safe or compliant with statutory requirements.
“The Council continues to monitor the site for further movement. Although the ground has stopped moving, this remains an active landslide which could move without warning. In the absence of any information from the toll road promoters the Council has concerns about the impact of traffic loading on the land above the slip.
“The Council is not in a position to support the temporary road option as we have not been provided with any evidence/information to support the application. A temporary toll road requires Planning Permission and no application has been received. In view of public concerns the Council’s Planning Enforcement team are currently investigating this matter.
“The Council has no details to confirm the toll road design meets safety standards and no evidence that insurances are in place for any member of the public who use the private toll road,” he added.
“The Council will need to bring in many vehicles to construct the permanent repairs and the temporary toll road access is likely to generate a need for more traffic management on site, prolong the construction period and increase the cost of the repairs.
“The Council has already considered – with the support of independent engineering consultants – a bypass road on the south side of the closure, where it would not increase loading above the land slip. This was not considered viable to progress,” he added.