AN INDEPENDENT report has concluded that building the long-awaited Thamesdown Drive extension would not bring the benefits needed to justify the costs.

For around 20 years, there have been calls for Thamesdown Drive to be extended down to the Barnfield Roundabout to ease congestion in the area.

But the report, commissioned earlier this year by Swindon Borough Council to look into around 15 options to address the issue, said improvements to existing roads, such as Mead Way and Akers Way, would be a better option.

Some were discounted straight away but benefits and costs of others were examined.

It has concluded that an extension will not deliver traffic benefits to the town, will cost in the region of £50m and could take more than a decade to complete.

Another option includes upgrading part of Mead Way, making it a dual carriageway and improving Akers Way and Cheney Manor Road. This would cost far less, in the region of £15m, and require fewer legal battles as an extension may be subject to a number of legal challenges, the report said.

It is also hoped this would help to bring life back to the Cheney Manor Industrial Estate.

This report was simply an option appraisal and if any option is to be pursued a full business case will need to be put together.

It will go before the council’s scrutiny committee on December 15.

Councillor Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham and Dorcan) said while he understands everyone wanted the extension, a better approach would be to develop a master plan for the Cheney Manor Industrial Estate and then develop the road from there.

He said: “The £50m Thamesdown Drive extension to Great Western Way is something residents, councillors of all political parties and our MPs have wanted to see built for 20 years.

“But often all we hear is ‘we want the road, build the road now, you aren’t doing enough to build the road, we will build the road since you won't’ and so on.

“A dose of reality is needed because asking crucial questions like ‘would the new road solve the rush hour delays on Whitehill Way, Mead Way or Akers Way, if not, then what would?’ means you reach a different answer.

“I believe the very first thing the Council needs to do is agree a new master plan for the future of the Cheney Manor Industrial Estate. Then let the evidence make the case, which is £15m of improvements targeted to solve the traffic problems along Whitehill Way, Mead Way and Akers Way.

“The choice we face is simple, spend £600,000 designing a new £50m road that will lead to longer rush hour delays on Great Western Way, or find an alternative, a ‘plan B’ that is more realistic and achievable.

“If the council Scrutiny Committee agrees next week, then a cross-party task group could be formed to nail this challenge and make real progress on this 20-year problem.”

However, Labour reacted angrily to the news, saying a road to cope with all the new houses set to be built was vital.

Labour group leader, Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney), said: “This is disastrous for the future of Swindon. This road will make an enormous difference to traffic flow in North and West Swindon.

“To abandon it now is a further kick in the teeth to those suffering from the current road chaos in the town. It seems not a question of this road, or dualling others. We should be looking at both.

“Without the Northern Link Road, Swindon will have a system for 80,000 people trying to serve a population of 200,000.”