COUNTY council leaders want to cancel plans for a western bypass and instead pursue building a road bridge to the east of Hereford.
Cabinet members agreed to look into the possibility of a link from Rotherwas to the A438 Ledbury Road and improve walking, cycling, bus services and parking measures to reduce traffic in Hereford.
They have also asked for reports detailing the financial implications of cancelling the southern link road and proposed western bypass.
But any decision to axe these road schemes will need to be made by full council.
Work on the proposed western bypass and southern link road in Hereford was paused last year after the local elections.
The new coalition administration, made up of Independent, Green and It’s Our County councillors, agreed to pause and review the two major road schemes which had been planned by the Conservative Party.
Infrastructure and transport cabinet member John Harrington commissioned a review into the Hereford Transport Package and South Wye Transport Package.
And the completed review, which has cost around £400,000, came up with six different proposals including the western bypass and an eastern crossing.
Other options include schemes which focused on improving walking and cycling networks, buses and controlling traffic demand.
Councillors who scrutinised the report at a meeting earlier this month asked council leaders to abandon the western bypass and reject other major road schemes apart from an eastern river crossing.
Council leader David Hitchiner told today’s (December 3) cabinet meeting that the debate on the Hereford Transport Strategy Review was the most eagerly awaited discussion.
He said he was more convinced than ever that the decision to pause and review the road projects was the right thing to do and said the bypass was one of the major issues that came up during the local elections.
Infrastructure and transport cabinet member John Harrington said the issue of transport in the city was a long standing and emotive issue and given the matter an extraordinary amount of time and thought.
“We are here as a coalition because we care about our communities and want the very best for Herefordshire.”
He said the bypass would take a decade to build and they could afford buy electric buses and run them free of charge for some time and still be “quids in” when compared to the cost of the western relief road.
But former council leader and current Conservative group leader Jonathan Lester said Brexit rather than the Hereford bypass had more of a bearing on the local election results last year.
“The next election will determine whether this administration has judged it right about the transport package,” he said.
He said it was a concerning that almost £500,000 had been spent on a report which came to the conclusion that it was better for a bypass to be built to the west of Hereford to relieve traffic congestion.
“If you look at the overall economic benefits you can only come to one conclusion,” he said.
“The average daily trips 45,000 and 47,000 trips a day. That is the issue you are dealing with Greyfriars Bridge.
He said the western bypass was the only option to deal with this.
Coun Lester also said he was concerned about businesses being taxed for their employers to park on their premises in the city.
Finance and corporate services cabinet member Liz Harvey said she liked some of the walking, cycling and bus proposals that feature across the different transport packages.
She said it would be much easier for people to swap driving for using the bus rather than cycling.
Coun Harvey said another bridge over the Wye in Hereford would make the transport network more resilient.
Commissioning, procurement and assets cabinet member Gemma Davies, who represents the Saxon Gate ward, said voters she spoke to before the elections said a second crossing was needed and that Hereford needed more buses.
“People want congestion to not be an issue.
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“They don’t really care how we get there but we need to get there.”
Her preference is for a bridge on the east of the city.
She also wants to see subsidised bus fares for people in the more deprived areas of Hereford.
Councillor Peter Jinman asked how they could build a hospital in a week in China but it would take up to ten years to build a road in Herefordshire.
WSP consultant Martyn Brooks said roads need to be planned and designed, the democratic process has to be adhered to before it is built.
He also said roads are contentious and it has to go through the planning process.
And then you need to go through the procurement process, and someone needs to build it.
“Ten years is a round enough number to be working with,” he said.
True Independents leader Bob Matthews said his group supported the proposals for an eastern road which would link Rother was with the A438 Ledbury road.
“That is what our local businessmen, emergency services and a large majority of public support.”
He also called for the A49 between Hereford and Ross to be urgently upgraded and said park and ride facilities would reduce congestion.
It’s Our County co-leader Alan Seldon said it was necessary to have a second river crossing on the eastern side.
“Let’s get on with it and do it.”
Green Party councillor Diana Toynbee said transport was one of her group’s main concerns.
She said building new roads should be the last resort and more should be done to encourage cycling and the use of public transport.
Coun Toynbee said they backed calls to axe the proposed western bypass but were open to exploring options of an eastern river crossing.
“Everyone wants to reduce congestion improve air quality, increase mobility, protect the countryside, encourage active travel and decrease social isolation.”
Herefordshire Independents group leader John Hardwick said it had been a long-held belief of his group that traffic congestion in the city needed to be reduced.
“A western bypass would not lessen congestion and they even admitted at one point that it would get worse before it returned back to the same level,” he said.
“The Herefordshire Independents believe the best way forward is to take immediate measures to improve walking, cycling and provision of buses.”
He also supported a new road link from Rotherwas to the A438 Ledbury road.
Liberal Democrat group leader Terry James said he endorsed coun Lester’s comments and said it was clear that most people in Hereford want a bypass.
“There is no doubt about that and they are very very angry about that.
“This is now going to be denied them for even more years now.
“If we are not careful this will also be a shambles and it is not going to improve dramatically the traffic situation in Hereford city.”
But coun Ellie Chowns said the top preference among people who took part in the most recent survey was an investment in buses rather than a bypass or river crossing.
“They want a reduction in congestion,” she said.
She said it was cheaper to reduce congestion by other means.