THE group trying to save Swindon’s historic Mechanics’ Institute says the alteration of a town centre bus route could damage the dilapidated building.
The routes through the town centre are set to be altered, meaning they will run past the Mechanics’.
The Mechanics’ Institute Trust has said the move will damage the empty building and shows a lack of respect for Swindon’s heritage.
However, Thamesdown Transport has said the change is important to improve punctuality of the routes and consideration for the history of the Railway Village has been taken into account.
A number of years ago it was discovered the Institute building was unsafe and so work was carried out to stabilise it.
To prevent damage from bus vibrations, westbound routes along Bristol Street were diverted along Faringdon Road and then through Park Lane, although eastbound services continued along the same route.
The new changes will see westbound buses come through Emlyn Square, thereby running along the south and west side of the Institute building.
As well as losing several residents’ car parking spaces, the Trust believes it could lead to further damage for the iconic building.
Chairman Daniel Rose said: “The railway village is a vital part of Swindon’s history. We thought a lot of progress was being made but then we heard about this. Scaffolding is still up around the building and we know it is not properly stable.
“It was a council officer who originally said this and they advised moving the buses away in the first place.
“This now means that bus will be running right past and risk severely damaging the building.
“There is also the effect it has on the Railway Village.
“The heritage plan says we should be trying to get all buses out of the area but this instead turns the Mechanics’ building into a glorified roundabout.”
Coun Bob Wright (Lab, Central) also disagrees with the route change.
He said: “This really raises the question over how decisions are made. On the one hand we say we want to save the Mecahnics’ Institute and then a decision is made which could have a structural and environmental impact.”
The bus company says it has considered the Institute building but the Bristol Street route will improve punctuality and ease congestion on Faringdon Road.
Paul Jenkins, managing director of Thamesdown Transport, said: “The operation of buses along Bristol Street has been a crucial part of Swindon’s public transport network for many years, as it enables buses to avoid the traffic delays along Faringdon Road.
“Since 2010, buses have been temporarily diverted via Faringdon Road due to emergency building repairs on the Mechanics’ Institute, which have now been completed. “Whilst eastbound buses have returned to the original route past the building, westbound services are still being delayed due to following the diversion.
“We appreciate the historic significance of the Railway Village and value the cultural and industrial heritage of the Mechanics’ Institute. “The Church Place bus gate helps to ensure that the majority of general traffic only travels along one side of the Mechanics, however, the strategic nature of this route for public transport mean that reinstating two-way operation of buses through the bus gate is essential if we are to provide a punctual and reliable bus service to the people of Swindon.”