THE A36/A46 CORRIDOR [Trunk road, part of the Strategic Route Network from M4 to M27
A46 Bath to Tormarton (M4 J18)
The A46 north of Bath through the Cotswolds AONB to Tormarton was part of the Department of Transport (DOT) project to build a fast dual-carriageway between the M4 and the M27 near Southampton. This section of the road faced difficult engineering as well as landscape obstacles and was withdrawn by the government for environmental reasons in 1994.
Bath A36-A46 link
A36-A46 link east of Bath: Department of Transport proposals for a viaduct across the flood plain of the Bristol Avon in the landscape setting of the city of Bath (World Heritage Site) were rejected in 1992. In its decision letter the government accepted the recommendations of the inspector at a local planning inquiry and summarised his conclusions: ‘… he concluded emphatically and without any reservation against the case for the A36 Link, considering it to be unimpressive in trunk road terms, prejudicial in some important respects, intolerable in its landscape impact and devastating to recreational amenity (13.128).’
The thirty years since the road was scrapped have brought a stream of proposals for reviving the link, even though it would do little to relieve congestion caused by the city’s E-W traffic .
An 18tonne weight limit imposed on the A36 Cleveland bridge was justified by the need to repair the bridge and reduce traffic pollution. It is believed that BANES would like to make the limit permanent.
Wiltshire Council lodged a formal objection to the plan in December 2021. Cllr Clewer, leader of the council, wrote to BANES, citing Defra guidance on clean air zones: ‘I can confirm that Wiltshire Council will formally oppose any proposal that results in the displacement of the most polluting vehicles...to surrounding areas'.
On 23 August 2022 the M4-DC study team told campaigners: ‘A new link road will be one of the possible interventions that is being considered as part of the study to understand costs, deliverability, impacts, and benefits.’
Rail: Bath Spa is on the main line from London to Bristol and the West Country and on the Cardiff to Portsmouth line serving the commuter towns of west Wiltshire.
Photos: Kathy Jordan’s pics of Avon flood plain and Kennet and Avon Canal. Document: TERN proposal doc and map from EU Parliament for Euroroute from Cherbourg via Poole, A350, A36 and A46 to M4).
A36 Beckington to East of Bath: Scheme withdrawn after the rejection of the A36-46 link.
Garrison town between Salisbury Plain and the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). War Office / MOD interests ensured that the remarkable landscape of the Plain and its escarpment would not enjoy the protection recommended by the Hobhouse Committee in 1947. Campaigning by the White Horse Alliance persuaded Natural England to list an extension of the AONB round the western escarpment of the Plain as a candidate for AONB status. [Link to Alan James landscape report on website] Designation is unlikely without the support of Wiltshire Council (See A350 Corridor: Westbury, below).
Roads: The A36 and A350 corridors converge at Warminster and share the bypass which carries both routes for a few miles round the south of the town.
Rail: Warminster is on the line from Cardiff to Portsmouth via Bristol, Bath, Trowbridge, Westbury, Salisbury and Southampton.
A36 Codford-Heytesbury ‘improvement’: Located near the head of the Wylye Valley, this 5km road project was a Wiltshire County Council plan. The council was forced to withdraw it after the Department of Transport re-assessed its Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR). DOT found that a corrected weighting of the landscape impact of the road - located in the Cranborne Chase AONB and between the edge of Salisbury Plain and the Avon SAC - made the road very poor value for money. It was culled by the Secretary of State in December 2001. WCC had by then spent about £3m on scheme preparation.
A36 Southern Salisbury bypass: This DOT scheme was rejected by government in July 1997 following re-examination of the environmental evidence. None of the government watchdogs objected at the first inquiry. After independent ecologists working pro bono with anti-bypass campaigners discovered rare flowery meadow (MG8) grassland that had been missed by DoT’s ecologists, English Nature gave it a rapid SSSI designation and also recognised the potential impact of the proposed road on the Wiltshire Avon candidate SAC.
Other watchdogs then woke up, belatedly recognising the damage to the landscape setting and heritage of the cathedral city that would result from building and operating an elevated road across the flood plain of the Avon. The DoT’s assertion that the road would ‘afford the motorist splendid views of the cathedral’ now counted for less than the fact that Constable had already painted splendid views of this ‘quintessentially English landscape.’
The southern bypass would have extended northwards up the valley of the River Wylye (one of the five rivers of the Avon chalk stream SAC) to Stapleford, approximately 10km NW of the city.
Following cancellation of the bypass the Government Office for the South West (GOSW) set up the Salisbury Transport Strategy, leading a steering group consisting of Wiltshire County Council, Salisbury District Council, the Highways Agency and consultants WS Atkins. It was promised to be a model on how to solve traffic problems without building more roads. However when a ‘Preferred Strategy’ was put forward in April 2000, over half of the proposed expenditure was allocated to new roads in the form of a Wylye Valley Relief Road and the Brunel Link/Harnham Relief Road. Taken together these two roads would have followed much of the route of the scrapped southern bypass.
The cost of the Wylye Valley Relief Road grew from an estimated £15 million in 2000 to £38.6 million in 2004 and it was subsequently dropped.
Planning applications for the Brunel Link/Harnham Relief Road were submitted first in 2002 and then in 2005; both received large numbers of objections, and were withdrawn.
The A36 Salisbury bypass is one of those zombie roads that lives on in the dreams of chambers of commerce and MPs and the nightmares of environmentalists and campaigners for transport justice. Salisbury’s MP, John Glenn, believes the city needs an A36 bypass. Veteran transport activist Margaret Willmot has shown that the scheme axed in 1997 could not be built today because long sections of the route have been built over or soon will be. [See maps by MW?] The MP is undeterred, claiming that ‘relatively minor deviations’ would avoid the environmental obstacles of the Avon at Britford and new housing development at Robarrow, Netherhampton Road and St Peter’s Place.
Margaret disputes that the deviations he proposed - south of the hospital, east of Britford, through the Longford estate, west of Wilton and through the Wilton estate - would be ‘relatively minor’.
Rail: Salisbury is on the line from Cardiff to Portsmouth via Bristol, Bath, Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster and Southampton. It is also on the line from London to Exeter. Reinstatement of the second track between Salisbury and Exeter has been proposed for decades, notably by the Bristol\Bath to South Coast Study.
Container trains from Southampton cannot follow the line west of Salisbury because of low headroom in the tunnel to the east of the station. They can however go north to the Midlands.
Wilton: Reopening the station has been proposed for many years, most recently as a park-and- ride and commuter station on an extended TransWilts service from Salisbury to Swindon. Reopening Porton station has been shown to be viable for many years but it too languishes on Network Rail’s distant-future-project list.
Illustrations: material from Margaret Willmot. Photos: Avon Navigation and fishing lodge; memorial stone.
Wellow bypass: First section of a DoT plan to build a fast dual-carriageway from M27 J2 (Ower) to M4 J18 (Tormarton). Withdrawn by government in April 1994 after failure to pick an acceptable route through the tranquil Blackwater Valley either north or south of the ancient church where Florence Nightingale is buried. This area is further constrained by its location in the consultation zone of the Mottisfont bats special area of conservation (SAC).
Any route south of the existing A36 would have to run through the New Forest National Park, protected by national and international designations including SAC, SPA, Ramsar and SSSI. An online scheme would have to cut through the southern fringe of the village, requiring demolitions and provoking fierce opposition. Hants County Council has opposed increases in capacity along its section of the A36 for the best part of 30 years.
Photo: 1. Cattle grazing on route of A36 Wellow bypass; 2. This sunken lane would have been filled in under DOT’s bypass scheme.
A36 Wellow to Alderbury: DoT was working on a scheme for this next section of the superhighway when the Wellow bypass was scrapped. The undeclared project was quietly dropped. The road would have made a deep cutting through the chalk ridge south of Pepperbox Hill, a nature reserve owned by the National Trust.
Because of the economic and territorial interests of the councils that persuaded the government to set it up, the M4 to Dorset Coast connectivity study ignores powerful generators of traffic that aren’t on the Dorset Coast but nevertheless feed into the study area. National Highways is investing heavily in junction improvements and miles of dual-carriageway bypasses at Arundel and Chichester along the M27/A27 South Coast highway from Hastings to Southampton.
This corridor, linked to the M3 and the airport and the port of Southampton constitutes what enterprise partnerships and councils regard as the Solent growth area. Central to this vision is a revival of plans for the Dibden Bay deep-water container port on Southampton Water, rejected after a planning inquiry in 2004.
The inquiry inspector found that the port would have had unacceptable impacts on the ecology of Southampton Water, designated under EU law as a special protection area (SPA) for birds. Associated British Ports could not demonstrate that there was an imperative need for a new container port at this location because it owned other potential sites.
The European nature directives, embodied in UK law in for example the Habitats Regulations, are unlikely to escape the attention of a government pledged to ‘light a bonfire of red tape’ and seize the ‘opportunities opened up by Brexit’. Greenpeace believes the Habitats Directive is in imminent danger: https://action.greenpeace.org.uk/protect-and-restore-nature-in-england
These tawdry dreams come together in a third: Southampton was identified as a ‘Freeport’ in the Government’s 2021 spring budget*. If the vision of ‘global Britain‘ ever materialises in the form of even bigger container ships following an even deeper-dredged channel up a bird-free Southampton Water to a new ‘Solent Freeport’, the A36-A46 route will once again be seen as part of the wiring for global economic growth – 80tonne trailer trucks, giant regional distribution centres (RDCs) cascading world produce down to ever-larger supermarkets and low-skill automated factories.
You may be asked which route you prefer for ‘your’ bypass but neither your council nor your government is likely to ask if you share this grim vision of the future, bringing the sound and stink of container trucks through your environment, day and night.
Rail: Southampton is on the Cardiff – Portsmouth line; the main line from London to Weymouth (via Poole) and on the south coast line to Portsmouth and Brighton, shadowing the M27/A27 route to Brighton and Hastings.
The port has good infrastructure for rail-freight with a dedicated freightliner siding. Container train services are constrained by limited capacity in the tunnel under the city. A branch line into the Eastern Docks carries trainloads of cars for export. An extension should be possible to deliver cruise-ship passengers to the Queen Elizabeth Passenger Terminal; boat trains used to carry passengers from Waterloo direct to the quays serving ferries to the Channel Islands and France.
Any new container port on the west side of Southampton Water could be connected to national networks by upgrading the single-track ‘Waterside Line’ serving the Esso refinery at Fawley. The line was closed for passenger services in 1966.
Network Rail has launched a consultation on reopening part of the line for passenger services. Trains would run from Southampton to Marchwood and Hythe. NR has been given £7m to develop a plan, including reopening Marchwood station and building a new one at Hythe. See www.networkrail.co.uk/watersideline
At present there are no plans to extend passenger services southwards to serve large commuter settlements at Hardley, Holbury and Langley. A further short extension could connect to the ‘Fawley Waterside’ development proposed for the old power-station site between the refinery, and Calshot at the mouth of Southampton Water. Network Rail says that if the service to Hythe is popular ‘further extension of the railway could be considered in future.’
Network Rail’s progressive, if less than visionary, scheme may be contrasted with Hampshire County Council’s more traditional remedy of spending many millions on increasing the capacity of junctions on the A326 from Fawley to the M27, regularly congested to a standstill in the AM and PM commuter peaks.
Ferries: There are fast ferry services from Southampton’s Town Pier to the Isle of Wight and slow ferries to Hythe. Could they also serve the Fawley Waterside development and so take some of its commuter traffic off the A326 while bringing tourists to historic Calshot, its beaches and activities centre on the edge of the New Forest?
Junction 2 of the M27 also connects to the A36. The DoT’s expressway to the M4 would have taken a new alignment from here, looping north of West Wellow and on towards Salisbury and the M4.
Photo: Container ship on Southampton Water
* Note: At the same time as it accepted Southampton’s freeport proposal the government rejected the £50,000 bid from Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council.
See A350: Poole
A350 CORRIDOR in Wiltshire [from M4 J17 near Chippenham to A36 at Warminster]
Wiltshire Council and its predecessor Wiltshire County Council have spent decades and millions of pounds trying to turn this slow road through north and west Wiltshire into an ‘economic growth corridor’. Humiliated by what one councillor called ‘the loss of Swindon’ in a boundary change, and left only with a string of five small towns including the nondescript county town of Trowbridge to turn into an equivalent hive of enterprise, the boosters seized on fast new roads as the engines of growth. Ideally their new expressway would connect to the global economy via a Channel port - Poole or Southampton, or both.
A350 Chippenham bypass
Having dualled the A350 from Junction 17, WC is continuing the dualling of the Chippenham bypass round the west of the town. It also wants to fund further improvements to the motorway junction enabling it to carry more traffic into its growth corridor and improve commercial vehicle access to a proposed new employment area near the motorway junction.
See: Junction 17 – M4
It has announced a consultation on the proposed junction improvements, and on preparation of an August 2022 Outline Business Case for a £27m bid to DfT for the project. Wiltshire Council seeks feedback on plans to improve Junction 17 of the M4 near Chippenham
East of Chippenham ‘distributor road’: Under what it calls ‘Future Chippenham’ the council wants to build more than seven miles of new road to open up land for 7,500 houses in open countryside east of the town. WC reported to a Cabinet meeting in October 2019 that it had applied for a grant of £75m to the Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF). Homes England accepted the bid. Council officers said this road would not be an A350 eastern bypass. The proposed route would however leave the A350 north of Chippenham and rejoin it south of the town. And the council claimed it would reduce traffic congestion in the town, which suggests it would in practice function as a second bypass of Chippenham.
In January 2021 Wiltshire Council opened a consultation on ‘Future Chippenham’ asking the public to select a route for the seven-mile road. When the consultation ended in March, 1,000 people had taken part. Nearly 80% told WC they didn’t want any road at all. Chippenham Town Council responded to the consultation by voting unanimously against Future Chippenham.
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, told a meeting of 200 protesters in December 2020: ‘This road and houses must be stopped’. The protest reflected growing opposition to the scheme by local organisations including Campaign Against Urban Sprawl to the East of Chippenham (CAUSE), Bremhill Parish Council, Friends of Marden Valley and Wiltshire Climate Alliance (WCA).
Chippenham-based groups have joined forces with Stop The Melksham Bypass Group to form the A350 Alliance (North) of campaigns against road schemes at the northern end of the A350.
WC has since shrunk its grandiose ambitions for the Chippenham distributor road. The pioneering municipal property developer with its four ‘Stone Circle’ companies now wants to reduce the scale (and financial risk) of its great project.
In July 2021 a cabinet meeting decided to proceed with only the southern section of the distributor road, from the A4 through to the A350 junction at Lackham roundabout, and only ‘around 4,050 new homes and associated infrastructure over the next 20 years, subject to the Local Plan review and the Housing Infrastructure funding (HIF) from Homes England.’
A year later, on 12 July 2022, the council admitted that Homes England had not yet agreed to fund the revised scheme: ‘Cabinet acknowledged that the council has not yet secured a revised Grant Determination Agreement (GDA) with Homes England to reflect the council's decision made last year for a revised scheme. As a result, the council has continued to progress the Future Chippenham programme in good faith but at risk. Cabinet therefore agreed that further work is paused, including the procurement of the road and associated design and investigatory works.
‘If a revised GDA cannot be agreed soon, the council may need to seek to agree an exit from the existing GDA as it will not be possible to deliver the project within the HIF funding period without exposing the council to financial risk.
‘Cabinet also noted the outcome of the recent judicial review and confirmed that subject to agreeing a revised GDA, the Future Chippenham team can submit further representations to the Local Plan review.‘
The council has spent almost £12m on developing the road, £9m of it on the services of its consutants Atkins. Around half the money came from advances from the HIF grant which may have to be repaid if Homes England does not agree to pay out £75m for a road that has shrunk from over 7 miles to around 4 miles and lost the Junction 17 improvement that was supposed to be part of the funding bid.
Homes England has told the A350 Alliance (North) that it expects to decide by the end of September whether or not to pay the grant to WC.
Wiltshire Council has produced a promotional video making its case for the transformative power of the road. A visualisation flies you over the three potential routes; a dulcet voiced air hostess points out supposed advantages such as connecting to footpaths and cycleways while convincing anyone but the most petrol-headed viewer that any of these routes would be a hideous violation of innocent farmland, rivers and canals.
Note that the video shows only the full project that WC first dreamed up – not the cut-down southern scheme that emerged in 2019. The history of Wiltshire road-building should be a warning that it will be back - unless the council’s tarmac habit drives it to bankruptcy.
Rail: Chippenham station connects to the Wessex Main Line from London to Bristol. The Wessex Main Linediverges from the GWML to the southwest of Chippenham and runs to Trowbridge via Melksham. TransWilts line trains to Swindon, Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury operate every two hours along the TransWilts Line.
WC has for many years been pursuing an upgrade of Chippenham station and its surroundings. The SWLEP has identified it as a major project but redevelopment awaits the council finding a property developer to do business with.
Given Wiltshire Council’s obsession with increasing road capacity along the A350 it was inevitable that its vast urban extension east of Chippenham would be designed around a massive new road rather than the light rail/tram line that could so easily have served what will inevitably be a linear commuter settlement.
Photos: Anti-road leaflet inc council ‘aerial view’?
A350 Melksham eastern bypass
Selected as a priority by the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) in 2017, its estimated cost was then £30m. By 2020 consultants estimated its cost at between £50.2 and £135.8m, depending on the route selected.
Public consultations in 2020 and 2021 indicated that a majority of local people did not want the proposed bypass. In January 2021 the council obtained £1.3m from DfT towards the estimated £1.8m cost of an outline business case (OBC) for the road, with the remaining £530,000 to come from council funds.
The council has produced a video showing how ‘Route Option 10c’ would fit into the landscape – or would wreck it in the eyes of local campaigners who point out that 10c is an old route they first saw 30 years ago. It would impact at least eight farms, severing Little Bowerhill Farm and cutting Bowerhill off from the canal. Little Bowerhill Farm will resist compulsory purchase, leading to an inquiry the council will have to pay for. Campaigners believe the road could harm as many as 12 farms; they have asked the council for the total number of farms it expects to be affected.
Wiltshire Council says 10c ‘has been identified as the most viable route, although there are alternative alignments at the north.’
WC has also produced a consultation pack: https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/media/4981/Melksham-Bypass-Consultation-Information-Pack/pdf/Melksham_Bypass_Consultation_Information_Pack.pdf?m=637401104746070000
Rail: Melksham is on the TransWilts line.
Illustrations: protest photos
A350 Yarnbrook-West Ashton relief road: This project is in limbo after belated revisions by Wiltshire Council - needed to overcome a potential threat of extinction of rare bat species - raised its estimated cost to £25m and caused expiry of a Local Growth Fund grant of £5.5m. The Swindon and Wiltshire LEP took the LGF money back and the Y-WARR is no longer on its list of projects. Any replacement funding will have to come direct from DfT.
We do not know if an HIF grant of £8.7m provided in 2018 for raising the road to allow installation of bat underpasses is still available. We have asked Homes England and await a reply. The 2,500-home Ashton Park urban extension is also in limbo. Without the housing, the road would represent ‘poor value for money’; without the road, traffic from the car-dependent estate would cause peak-time congestion on local roads.
Concerns that the urban extension and the road would cause the extinction of rare bat colonies in ancient woodlands to the east of Trowbridge delayed this project from the first planning application in 2015 until 2018 when a revised application was approved by Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee.
Further delays and haggling between council and developer Persimmon over the S.106 agreement caused the expiry of the original Local Growth Fund (LGF) grant.
Yet another planning application was approved by Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee on 15 June 2022.
[Insert Links to WHA statement to 2018 SPC and Bats: Altringham reports]
Rail: Trowbridge is on the Cardiff-Portsmouth line and within the Bath Travel-to-work area. The transport plan has for many years included a bus-train interchange at Trowbridge Station. We proposed that this could include new homes and a bus station on the now-derelict Bowyers site but the council has not supported this idea, preferring to seek a developer interested in developing standard commercial property.
An Ashton Park railway station was proposed in SWLEP’s Rail Investment Strategy in 2019. See - swlep-rail-strategy-final-09-05-2019.pdf
A350 Westbury eastern bypass: This £40m scheme was axed by government in 2009 after a damning inspector’s report said its weak transport case could not justify the environmental impact of the road. You can read the inquiry report and government decision letter via this link: https://www.corridor-alliance.co.uk/news-july-2009 WC has said it wants to build a Westbury bypass as soon as funds become available and is hoping to start the process in 2025.
Westbury is still the main obstacle on the route of its fast road to the south coast ports.
Scheme preparation for the 2007 application cost the county council about £5m. We do not know how much it spent on a longer and more expensive variant withdrawn in 2005. That earlier scheme would have extended northwards to include what has since become the Yarnbrook-West Ashton relief road – see above.
Delays to through traffic at Westbury have persuaded drivers to divert onto the A363\361 route from Yarnbrook to the A36 near Rode, causing unacceptable impacts to villages along this completely unsuitable road. HGV traffic on the A361 now exceeds that through Westbury itself. The council’s transport plan for Trowbridge proposed a new section of road along the route to cater for increasing traffic from new housing allocations to the south of Trowbridge.
Rail: Westbury is a major junction on the main line from London to Penzance, the Cardiff-Portsmouth line and the Heart of Wessex line from Bristol to Weymouth. It is also a centre for freight operations, especially handling stone and ballast for the railway.
Safeguarding of the site for an intermodal freight terminal was removed from the Local Plan in 2013. Proposals for building a fifth platform have been on hold for years. The station is a 20minute walk from the town centre. There is no shuttle bus. Buses approaching from the north cannot turn into the station access road. The roundabout provided to serve a new housing estate is too small to allow full-size buses to make the turn.
A350 from Warminster through Dorset to Poole
The following schemes have been considered and rejected over the years. Several reports by Dorset CC (now Dorset Council) consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff (now known as WSP) and Buro Happold have assessed these schemes and concluded that they would be poor value for money because there is not enough traffic to justify the high construction costs. Funding might be available if new sections of road opened up land for large new developments. Unlike the A350 through Wiltshire the route through Dorset does not carry the traffic volume to qualify for the ‘Major Route Network’ (MRN).
The M4-DC study team seems to agree. In answer to a question from campaigners at a zoom meeting on 23 August they said: ‘It is worth noting that the cost of dualling and /or grade separating the entire length of a corridor from the M4 to the Dorset Coast is likely to be prohibitive.’
However things have moved beyond that position in Dorset. In what appears to be a political bypass of the M4-DC study, the Department for Transport, in consultation with Dorset Council and The Western Gateway Sub-National Transport Body, have ruled that ‘The A350/C13 will no longer be included in plans for a major strategic road development running from Poole to the M4 corridor.’ We await confirmation that this is now the official government position and that it applies to the whole length of the A350 from Warminster to Poole.
Photo: chalk hills with flowers, from Lynne
A350 Shaftesbury eastern bypass: Part of the route would be in Wiltshire, part in Dorset.
The Wiltshire section is safeguarded as a saved policy in the current local plan. WC will reconsider the safeguarding as part of the Local Plan review. Dorset’s position is similar - land for the Shaftesbury bypass is safeguarded in the current Dorset Local Plan, pending the outcome of the M4 to Dorset Coast Connectivity Study. The safeguarding will then be reconsidered as part of the Local Plan Review. More info: Dorset Council Local Plan January 2021 consultation - Dorset Council and Northern Dorset document (page 260 confirms safeguarding)
C13 Melbury Abbas bypass
Many environmental constraints: Fontmell and Melbury Downs, owned by the National Trust, have SSSI and SAC designations as calcareous grassland. Nitrogen deposition from traffic fumes has already caused harmful enrichment of the grassland. Would have a serious impact on the Cranborne Chase and West Wilts Downs AONB. The total unsuitability of the route for massive expansion lay behind a long and apparently successful campaign by local councillors: ‘The technical challenges would have added £200m to the project cost and the damage to the valued landscape and village communities would have been unacceptable.’
A350 Spetisbury/Charlton Marshall bypass: Any serious plan for a fast route to Poole would have had to revive this ancient scheme. It would have to be a single project as there are only a couple of hundred metres between the two villages. Difficult to find a route avoiding buildings and river (and disused railway line – now there’s an idea!).
The port of Poole is not the ‘major port’ it’s claimed to be by members of parliament and other fans of BCP’s plans for massive economic and population growth. According to the DfT’s ‘Port Freight Statistics’, Poole is not even on the map of major UK Ports. https://maps.dft.gov.uk/maritime-statistics/index.html It is not growing – indeed it has seen a decline in freight tonnage over the last 15 years. Access by road is restricted by traffic congestion in the town and by the lift bridge.
The docks have limited capacity for handling freight and ferry services. The Poole Harbour Commissioners, while supporting ‘improvements’ to the A350 corridor, do not anticipate expansion of freight traffic; they favour development of holiday and tourism businesses based on the growing importance of the holiday/leisure economy round the harbour and its connections to Swanage and the Jurassic Coast. The proposed Jurassic Coast National Park pledges sustainable transport access.
Expansion of the port could damage the vulnerable ecology of the shallow lagoon through dredging or spillage of fuel oil or toxic cargoes. The Harbour is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its diverse populations of migratory sea birds. The National Trust opposes increased capacity along the A350 because of the increased risk of port expansion and damage to its Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, an important destination for tourists. Poole Harbour SSSI includes Seagrass protection, now regarded as very important to meeting carbon capture objectives The sea around Swanage is now protected by a Marine Conservation Zone and an SSSI designation. Ospreys have been succesfully reintroduced to Poole Harbour.
BCP council spent £50,000 on a bid for government approval of its plan for a freeport. The council had proposed a scheme for Bournemouth Airport and the Port of Poole to become the ‘London South Logistics and Cargo Hub’. A customs-exempt ‘freight corridor’ was planned between the port and airport, with a lower-tax ‘outer boundary’ including both airport and port. The council said this would be ‘more efficient and lower cost’ than airports and ports in the South East. The government rejected the proposal. Bournemouth Echo, 3 March 2021 BCP's 'London South' free port 'would be worth £1.7billion'
Rail: Poole is on the line from London Waterloo to Weymouth. There is no bus service linking the station to the ferry terminal serving the Channel Islands and France. The single-track rail line from the London-Weymouth mainline at Wareham to the docks is still operational but is not used.