A retiring veteran councillor has spoken about his regret in the inability to move ahead with a third Thames bridge during his time at the council, and has blasted Oxfordshire councils for "refusing to engage".

Tony Page (Labour, Abbey) the outgoing mayor of Reading, has been a councillor for 51 years, and is now retired.

One of his main political responsibilities was as lead councillor for transport, which he held from 2008 to 2023.

For years, the Labour council has been pushing for a third bridge over the River Thames which would link Thames Valley Park in Earley with Henley Road and Caversham Park Road.

However, dreams of a third bridge to alleviate Reading’s traffic have been dead on arrival as any new road  would cross into area which falls under South Oxfordshire and  Oxfordshire County Council.

Both of those councils have opposed the prospect of a third bridge.

Oxford Mail: A design for a Third Thames Bridge which would link Thames Valley Park in Earley with Caversham. Credit: Reading Borough CouncilA design for a Third Thames Bridge which would link Thames Valley Park in Earley with Caversham. Credit: Reading Borough Council

Oxfordshire County Council is the highways authority for the whole county, with South Oxfordshire district being the planning authority.

In a farewell interview, Mr Page blasted the two neighbouring councils for failing to engage on the prospect of a third Thames bridge and improved bus services.

He said: “We have the problem of Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire. They are hopelessly parochial.

“Oxfordshire County Council still completely refused to recognise that the south of the county is effectively part of their area, and their refusal to engage with us properly around the growth of Reading north of the Thames, the refusal to engage properly about a Third Bridge, or more park and ride sites north of the river.

“South Oxfordshire is a pathetically insular authority, it isn’t really a proper council, it’s a series of parish councils that get brought together periodically.

“They all have their little parish council bases, but do they focus properly as a district council? No. And Oxfordshire is very similar.

READ MORE: Clash over prospect of third Thames Bridge to ease traffic through Reading

“They don’t have a real focus on the south. But if we resurrected a discussion about boundary expansion and we haven’t and we won’t be in the near future, they will say ‘oh no no, go away!’

“Yet the people in places like Sonning Common, Peppard and those areas north of Reading Borough look south and they want to see better communication links with Reading.

“They don’t look forward to having to drive across two bridges in order to get elsewhere beyond Reading, so there is that refusal on the part of South Oxfordshire to engage.

“I have desperately tried over many years to do that.”

He added Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East and Theresa May, the Conservative MP for Maidenhead have both helped lobby for better cross Thames travel links as well.

Mr Page continued: “I have tried to get that dialogue going but they won’t engage, its a sad reflection and it’s irresponsible because they are supposed to represent the people of South Oxfordshire and they palpably don’t.

“If you were to ask me what’s my single biggest failure, it’s to have got Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire to engage meaningfully about transport issues.

“It’s been very depressing to see, I think they have been irresponsible in their failure to serve the interests who live in the part of South Oxfordshire.”

He went on to suggest that a park-and-ride service could be set up between Oxfordshire and Reading.

The current Reading Buses 25 route runs between the town and Sonning Common, and Thames Travel buses X39 and X40 run to Woodcote, Wallingford and Oxford.

However, there have been no apparent moves by the Oxfordshire councils to establish park-and-ride services.

Oxford Mail: Councillor Tony Page, Mayor of Reading for 2023-24 with Cllr Glenn Dennis, Deputy Mayor. Credit: Reading Borough CouncilCouncillor Tony Page, Mayor of Reading for 2023-24 with Cllr Glenn Dennis, Deputy Mayor. Credit: Reading Borough Council

In further jabs, Mr Page said: “They [Oxfordshire councils] talk about wanting to promote public transport but where are the park and ride sites being offered in South Oxfordshire by either the county council or the district, that can come forward with a single site.

“We were told over the years ‘oh yes we want to support public transport’ but park and ride sites will be a pretty fundamental part of that.

“They’ve got them all round Oxford and they work perfectly well there, but they can’t be bothered to face up to their responsibilities around Reading, which is considerably than Oxford city and just as important in this part of the country.”

A third bridge forms part of Reading Borough Council’s transport strategy 2040.