Archive for the ‘london’ Category
In case you hadn’t seen this already, this image issued by the Environment Agency shows what could have happened to our part of London if the Thames Barrier hadn’t been raised on Thursday to deal with the biggest tide in 60 years. That’s my old house in Greenwich, right at the edge of that wave of water. And The Valley would be a bit more like this.
If, like me, you grew up in London in the early 1980s, then last week’s storm was exactly what this terrifying ad (and this 1978 one) was about. Thank heavens for the Thames Barrier, the best £534 million we’ve ever spent.
Like most of the good things Boris Johnson promotes, this is another one that actually started under the previous mayor. Yesterday’s Ride London Freecycle – once the London Freewheel – was great fun as ever.
But getting to the start at Tower Hill and back showed how far London has to go in really becoming a cycling city, and how little progress has been made since then. A weekend of two-wheeled fun is one thing, but the real hard work is in making sure the whole capital is a city fit for cycling.
On the way up there via Blackheath, I saw a cyclist wearing a Ride London bib pull out of Westbrook Road into Kidbrooke Park Road, a road which makes for hairy riding at the best of times. But he didn’t pull out onto the carriageway, he did a left onto the pavement and cycled up that instead. I couldn’t help wondering if he’d actually just taken a train to Blackheath rather than cycled all the way back.
I took a friend who was riding in London for the first time, and while cycling along the Thames Path isn’t the quickest way to get to central London, it’s certainly the most scenic and pleasant. And riding over Tower Bridge is usually great fun. It wasn’t yesterday, though – a bottleneck of traffic and a badly-parked ice cream van meant it was slow and unpleasant going – and this was the main route into the Freecycle for many from south of the river. On the other side, there were people wheeling their cycles back on the pavement, rather than taking on the traffic. I even saw a bike being carried on top of a car, but that could have been unrelated. Closing this iconic old bridge to motor traffic was clearly a step too far for a “cycling city”.
The Freecycle itself was great – it’s been made bigger, thankfully, cutting the bottlenecks of the past. Being surrounded by children having a whale of a time was something special. But while making loads of noise in the Blackfriars Underpass was fun, I saw a couple of nasty crashes – when it’s sunny outside the underpass, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the lack of light inside.
On the way back, we took one of the few genuine innovations that has done some good – Cycle Superhighway 3, through Wapping and Poplar, before swooping down through Cubitt Town to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. It’s a step above the other cycle superhighways, but while linking the route up has been a good thing, CS3′s separated cycle lanes – and traffic signals – were there long before blue paint was slapped down.
How easy did Transport for London make it to get back from Ride London? By not bothering to adjust the traffic signals, long queues of cyclists built up at the end of Royal Mint Street, where they were only given eight seconds to cross Leman Street. Clearly TfL’s “smoothing traffic flow” only applies to those on four wheels.
For all the great fun of Ride London, including this weekend’s amazing sight of amateur and pro cyclists charging down the A12 and through the Docklands for the London Surrey Classic (next time, how about through the Blackwall Tunnel and out to the North Downs?) it’s not going to do a single thing to make the streets safer for cyclists.
At the moment I’m watching the BBC’s Ride London coverage, where an elected politician is being treated once again as a national treasure. “It’s a magnificient symbol of what we’re doing for cycling in this city,” Boris Johnson told an interviewer, unchallenged, less than a month after two cyclists were killed in a week in central London. If Michael Gove held a national spelling competition, he wouldn’t be allowed to get away with saying it was a symbol of what he was doing for education. So why does the mayor of London get away with it?
It’s easy to shut roads for a weekend’s pedalling party, but the real hard work is in making it easy for people to cycle to work, to school, to the shops. Maybe with the appointment of Andrew Gilligan as cycling commissioner, we will finally to get somewhere with this (except in the rotten borough of Greenwich). But until we see concrete evidence (or rather tarmac evidence), while Freewheel/Skyride/Freecycle will continue to be a success in its own right, it’ll also be a symbol of a wider failure.
Update 00.15 Monday: The Ride London website quotes Boris Johnson talking about 50,000 “amateur cyclists” on Saturday’s Freecycle – does that mean people who drive cars are “amateur motorists”? It’s very unlikely Johnson came up with those words himself, but this City Hall clanger won’t do any good in persuading people that cycling is a thing that normal people do to go to the shops or wherever.
Here’s a turn-up for the books – a TfL consultation has found support for rerouting the 108 bus route so it runs into the Olympic Park, rather than Stratford Bus Station.
Alright, it’s not massive, but 32 separate responses were received by TfL suggesting either diverting the 108 into the Park, or introducing another route from south-east London. In addition, a further two responses suggested extending the 129 (Greenwich town centre-North Greenwich) to the area.
All this means TfL has actually had to give a response. And here it is…
Can route 108 be extended to East Village to serve the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park?
There are no plans at present to change the routeing of the 108. Diverting it into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park would break around 600 trips per day. It currently serves High Street, Stratford which was an access point for the Olympic Park during the Games. It also serves Stratford Bus Station from which Stratford City and the East Village can be accessed.
As the south of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park becomes more developed in Legacy and new development comes forward south of High Street, Stratford more changes to the bus network may be required. The routeing of the 108 will therefore be kept under review.
Well, it’s not a complete “go away and leave us alone”… here’s the results of the consultation and responses to issues raised. Neither Greenwich nor Lewisham councils responded to the consultation, which was aimed at boroughs north of the Thames and focused on routes there.
The idea got an airing on this website in February, so if it prompted you to drop TfL a line – thank you.
Is extending the 108 into the park a good idea? Sorting out its dreadful rush-hour overcrowding’s a bigger priority, but the park should have links to the south and I’m delighted the idea’s been taken up by a decent number of people.
For all the dismal rubbish about how we apparently need a new road crossing on the Greenwich Peninsula – and I had the unfortunate experience of seeing Boris Johnson say it in the flesh the other night – it shows there’s still a demand for better cross-river public transport crossings. Hopefully it’s been noticed.
Woolwich is a step closer to getting on the Crossrail map, as Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes have now pencilled in a deal on how its station will be paid for.
Transport for London’s board will consider the deal at a meeting this Thursday. Crossrail, due to begin service in 2018, will link Maidenhead and Heathrow Airport in the west with Paddington, the West End, the City, Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood.
Berkeley Homes has already paid £25m for the station box – essentially, the hole in the ground – to be built.
But even though the box was completed in February, a deal between Greenwich, Berkeley Homes, TfL and the Government to find the £100m needed to fit out the the station hadn’t been. Neither TfL nor the Government were willing to add to the costs of Crossrail, while Berkeley had been reluctant to pay any more towards the station, despite the huge profits it is likely to make out of its Royal Arsenal development.
Now TfL board papers reveal:
“Following extensive negotiations a package for the overall capital cost of the works has now been agreed in principle.
“This sees significant contributions from the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Berkeley Homes, supplementing existing TfL and CRL budgets, to meet the overall capital cost of the works.
“The detailed terms of funding agreements with these parties are currently being finalised and are expected to be concluded by the end of June 2013.”
The outline deal follows Greenwich Council granting Berkeley planning permission for 21-storey tower blocks in the Royal Arsenal last month, while its chairman Tony Pidgeley recently joined Boris Johnson on a trip to the Middle East.
The details are currently confidential, and it remains to be seen how Greenwich will raise the funds to pay for its contribution.
With the four-year-old DLR extension to Woolwich nearly overwhelmed by demand, the council will rightly see the deal as a triumph – originally the Crossrail link was to pass under Woolwich without stopping, until lobbying from leader Chris Roberts and MP Nick Raynsford forced a rethink.
But as always, the devil’s in the detail. While Greenwich is sitting on large cash reserves, it is believed the council is unwilling to use those to pay for the station, which could lead to other parts of the borough losing out so Woolwich can gain. Watch this space…
(Thanks to the anonymous tipster who alerted me to this story.)
If you’re at a loose end in the West End between now and October, the Poster Art 150 exhibition at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is worth a look. It’s a diverting display of how the Tube has sold itself to Londoners since the first line opened 150 years ago.
Among the most fascinating advertisements is one featuring newspaper clippings from parts of London not served by the Tube. Here, we see civic worthies from the old south-east London metropolitan boroughs making the case for lines to run out to Lewisham and Woolwich.
It wasn’t just the good councillors of Greenwich, Woolwich, Lewisham, Deptford, Camberwell, Southwark and Bermondsey who wanted to get on the Tube map – the poster also features pleas from Finsbury Park and Wood Green, describing mayhem and road deaths at the former location.
All these pleas were put to use to promote the new Northern Line link to Morden, which opened in 1926 – and a reminder that some things simply don’t change.
Six years later, the Piccadilly Line powered north from Finsbury Park to Wood Green and beyond; while 42 years later, the Victoria Line opened for business.
87 years later, SE London is stil waiting, three Jubilee Line stations not withstanding. The successors of those councillors in Greenwich and Woolwich don’t seem interested any more – preferring new roads and the DLR on stilts, deciding that in the future we’ll be as likely to want to go to the Royal Docks rather than central London.
But their neighbours in Camberwell, Southwark, Bermondsey, Lewisham and Deptford are still campaigning – with Southwark Council leader Peter John scenting victory on getting the Bakerloo Line sorted.
“We’ve got it at last right at the top of the Mayor of London’s agenda.
“That’s very exciting for the residents of Southwark and very exciting for the residents of Lewisham.
“It would be very exciting for the residents of Bromley but their Conservative leader is utterly opposed to extension of the tube to Bromley.
“He doesn’t want to see jobs and growth in his borough. Well shame on him!”
Pesky conservatives, not interested in new Tube lines, eh?
Want to know just how popular a new(ish) line can be? Take a look at this hypnotic video from Oliver O’Brien, showing Oyster card usage across London, across the day.
Right the way across London you can see the Tube lines stand out, particularly that southern bit of the Northern Line. What’s striking in the Tube-light south-east is just how busy both North Greenwich and Woolwich Arsenal are right through the day, the latter almost overshadowing Lewisham. (Indeed, Canary Wharf aside, the rest of the DLR doesn’t really seem to figure much.) Six years from now, if the station at Woolwich actually opens, the impact of Crossrail will be one to watch.
Then the next thing that stands out is the London Overground, with New Cross Gate and (to a lesser extent) Brockley pulsing through the day. Build the new lines, and they’ll come.
Southeastern’s services barely seem to register at all – admittedly, that’ll partly be down to fewer passengers using Oyster, but the video shows that nearly nine decades on, the potential for a Tube to SE London is still huge.
Last week, five lads who’d taken part in a television talent show managed to demonstrate something a generation of politicians, planners and developers are refusing to acknowledge.
One Direction performed a series of gigs at the O2 arena during the Easter school holiday, bringing hordes of young fans and their families to the Greenwich peninsula. Last Tuesday, they performed two shows – one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. You can’t say they aren’t working for their riches.
But chucking-out time at the matinee show coincided with the evening rush hour. North Greenwich bus station couldn’t cope, the signals favoured gig traffic over commuters, and getting home was a miserable experience for thousands of commuters.
With thousands of new homes planned for the peninsula over the next seven years, there are going to be many more miserable nights at North Greenwich – already the 10th busiest Tube station outside Zone 1 – to come.
Only 14 years after the Tube station opened, the infrastructure around the station just isn’t working. The only addition since 1999 has been the mayor’s gimmicky cable car, functioning solely as a tourist attraction. The only serious proposal to address this is the Silvertown Tunnel, which will simply make matters worse by piling more road traffic through the area.
Other plans – such as the now-axed Greenwich Waterfront Transit and Greenwich Council’s “DLR on stilts” proposal for Eltham, would put more pressure on North Greenwich.
Huge blunders have also been made. In time, it’ll be seen as criminal that the area was missed off the Crossrail project, which loops slightly north of the peninsula, passing under the fantastically-named Limmo Peninsula in Canning Town. The guided busway-which-never was, built on the wrong side of the road to ensure a pointless set of traffic lights outside the Pilot pub. And while the dual carriageways which carve the area up predate the redevelopment (the A102 opened in 1969, Bugsbys Way in 1984), there was no excuse for the mistake to be made again with Millennium Way and John Harrison Way.
For the peninsula to work, some of this infrastructure will need to be ripped up and started again. People will need a variety of ways to get to and from the area, and traffic which doesn’t need to be in the area needs to be kept out of it.
I like to use this website to tell you things you don’t already know. But here, I’m going to go through a load of points you probably know already. But what do we do about them? Hopefully, a conversation can start here.
1. A crossing to Canary Wharf. Despite being one of Europe’s major employment centres, there remains only one direct way to get between the peninsula and Canary Wharf – the Jubilee Line. There’s also the river bus service – but that costs a fortune and goes to the west side of the Isle of Dogs. Yet the peninsula’s proximity to Canary Wharf should be its selling point. Office space on the peninsula isn’t exactly in demand – the only major tenants in the offices there are arms of government; Transport for London and Greenwich Council. 6 Mitre Passage is half-empty.
Creating a pedestrian and cycle bridge or tunnel – possibly including a bus lane – would transform the way the peninsula is seen, and properly connect it to the towers of Mammon over the water. The big problem will be where it would land on the other side, with development on the Isle of Dogs being 20 years ahead of the peninsula. Residents there objected to an early cable car scheme – and may not be impressed with a bridge. TfL’s cable car business case quoted an estimated cost of up to £90m for a bridge (compared with £59m for the cable car), and said “a better link between North Greenwich and Canary Wharf [is] likely to encourage investment”.
2. What shall we do with the dangleway? Sooner or later, some tough questions will have to be faced about the Emirates Air Line, successfully carrying fresh air between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks seven days a week. Sold as a public transport connection but marketed as a tourist attraction, the long winter has stripped the cable car of its Olympics sheen – despite the spin about meeting absurdly low passenger targets. Could TfL get away with selling it? Or should it simply integrate it into the Travelcard scheme? Or just knock it down and replace it with a bridge similar to the one I’ve suggested for Canary Wharf? Me, I’d sell it, and use the funds to build a bridge.
If the cable car is to stay, then I’d argue that more should be done to market the North Greenwich area to tourists – and that means creating visitor attractions between the Dome and the cable car terminal, and getting rid of the grim car park which separates the two.
3. Rework North Greenwich bus station. It’s architecturally very nice, but North Greenwich bus station already isn’t coping very well, and the peninsula’s less than half-built.
Seven bus routes terminate there, one passes through, but getting any more in there looks a tough ask – despite the fact there’s huge demand for services to the station (witness the success of the 132 extension from Eltham, the severe overcrowding on the 108 from Lewisham, and demands to extend the B16 from Kidbrooke). Buses also struggle when events are on at the O2, and even block each other from leaving the station. The bus station, and access to it, need rethinking.
I’ve mentioned this before, but North Greenwich station could also be a good hub for cyclists – if access to the peninsula can be improved…
4. Look again at how people walk or cycle to and on the peninsula. The peninsula developments are effectively cut off by dual carriageways which prioritise cars and lorries above all else. Walking from Blackwall Lane to North Greenwich station demands a pointlessly lengthy route unless you put your life in your hands and leg it across Millennium Way and the A102 slip road.
I cycle to North Greenwich most mornings. It’s more reliable than taking the bus, and cheaper than taking the train from Charlton. But there’s no proper route onto the peninsula – I’m not counting the rubbish on-pavement Peartree Way cycle lane, which makes you stop in pedestrian refuges, which aren’t great to use on foot, either. It took months for me to build up the courage to tackle the Peartree Way/Bugsby’s Way roundabout, covered in stones from aggregates lorries from Angerstein Wharf. It’s not a pleasant experience.
Even dumber is the cycle lane on West Parkside, heading to North Greenwich – which get used by pedestrians because the actual “footpath”, to the right, is so poor, and stops dead at each end with no thought as to where cyclists go next. It’s amazing to think someone thought this a good idea. The whole peninsula road network needs rethinking to encourage walking and cycling.
5. Cut traffic on the A102. The biggest ask of the lot, and one that needs a decisive shift in policy across London, plus a block on any new peninsula development that will require a significant number of parking spaces.
Building a six-lane motorway to two two-lane tunnels seemed a good idea in the late 1960s, when it was envisaged to be part of a network of urban motorways. We’re paying the price now in pollution and congestion, and in the deep scar the A102 cuts through Greenwich, Blackheath and Charlton. As one American traffic engineer observed, “widening roads to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity”.
As we know, both City Hall and Greenwich Council favour compounding this error by building a Silvertown Tunnel. Yet measures should be taken to reduce demand on the A102 – some will favour building a new crossing further down the Thames, yet discouraging traffic which isn’t going to London from entering London seems to me a wiser idea; perhaps by dropping Dartford crossing tolls, perhaps by London-wide congestion charging. What isn’t wise is tolling the Blackwall Tunnel, which will just send the problem through Greenwich and Deptford to the Rotherhithe Tunnel and Tower Bridge.
The problem of a six-lane motorway can then become an opportunity to rebuild and do something different. Take it down to four lanes – which it is through the tunnel and on the A2 which feeds into it. TfL wants to take one lane off the A102′s sister route, the Westway, for a cycle route. Whether that could work on the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach is debatable, but it could certainly work as a bus lane, or even a route for a tram. Hey, there’s the DLR on stilts…
Think this is all a bit out there? Last year, BBC London revealed the Woolwich Road flyover was in a “poor” condition, while the Blackwall Lane flyover had at least 34 different defects. After 2011′s closure of the Hammersmith Flyover, a sudden and nasty surprise can’t be ruled out.
Public bodies such as the GLA and Greenwich Council have great sway in what’ll happen on the peninsula, but it feels like residents have no more say than they did when the land was largely owned by Victorian industrialists.
The GLA now owns much of the land there, but it still sticks to a blueprint decided years ago, while the rushed consultation over new masterplans and the lack of any consultation over blocking affordable housing at the tip of the peninsula do nothing to dispel the impression that the council’s just a cypher for property developers.
Yet with work now starting on a new phase of Greenwich Millennium Village, and with more construction taking place elsewhere on the peninsula, we’re approaching the point where it may soon be too late to reverse the mistakes that have been made on the peninsula’s infrastructure. If City Hall and Greenwich Council want to achieve anything more from the “regeneration” than fat profits for developers, like creating a sustainable community, then it’s time to pause and think carefully about changing their plans.
Amid the row over Greenwich Council’s dumb Bridge The Gap campaign, a little opportunity to improve cross-river links is looking set to be squandered. Ever one to leap on board a passing bandwagon, this website is today launching an “all-out” campaign to extend the 108 bus to the Olympic Park.
You what? I’ll explain. Transport for London’s launched a consultation on which buses should run into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park when people start moving in later this year. It suggests seven services, including a night bus, should run into the park.
All well and good. But one’s missing. Why can’t we have a bus from south of the river to the Olympic Stadium?
The 108 is one of London’s oldest bus routes – it’ll celebrate its centenary in March next year. In 1930, it schlepped all the way from Clapton to Crystal Palace, charging a shilling if you were mad enough to want to ride all the way, but there was never long to wait – double-decker buses ran every three and a half minutes through the Blackwall Tunnel back in those days.
The route’s shrunk, grown, shrunk again, gone 24-hours (a lifesaver) and been tweaked since – the double deckers vanished in the late 1960s, but the Stratford to Lewisham service has been the sole bus service through the tunnel for decades. For many years, it was the only public transport link across the Thames east of Rotherhithe. Back then, it actually wasn’t a bad service, if the tunnel was behaving itself – in the mid-90s, when I lived in Greenwich and went to college in Clerkenwell, it only took 20 minutes or so to get me to Bromley-by-Bow station so I could get a Tube to Farringdon; making it pretty much the equal of taking the train.
But while other transport links have got better, the poor old 108′s been left in the shadows – an enforced diversion around the Millennium Dome building site months before North Greenwich station opened ruined it as a commuting route to anywhere but North Greenwich, but despite the idiotic transport arrangements around the Dome, it still carries healthy numbers through the tunnel each day. Remember, it’s a damn sight cheaper than the Tube.
I’ve heard loads of horror stories of endless waits for people in Blackheath who depend on it for travel to North Greenwich – they desperately need extra buses, but instead those get thrown into the schedule late at night for chucking out time at the O2. It’s time for someone with felt pens and a bus map to get to work and rearrange matters – but so far, there’s no sign of progress.
But there’s one change to the 108 that could gives us a real – yes – Olympic legacy, and might also improve the service. Tweaking the end point so it ran into the Olympic Park, rather than Stratford bus station, would still enable it to serve Westfield and the massive transport interchange there; but would also get it away from the awful traffic in Stratford, bring a 24-hour bus service from south of the river to the Olympic Park, and help us get to and from events there.
It’s a change that’d cost very little, but would make the regenerated Olympic Park feel a bit closer to us in an area that’s not been left with many physical reminders of the Olympics (especially once the mud goes).
Obviously, I’ll now be arranging a photoshoot with various pub landlords, kebab house magnates and the Stratford Westfield Massage Angels as part of my “all out” campaign to bridge this gap, but in the meantime, if you want to suggest it to TfL, head to its consultation page – it closes on 22 February.
A quick heads up – if you want to quiz Boris Johnson on why he wants to pollute half of Greenwich and beyond with his new Silvertown Tunnel, or why he’s refusing to support the campaign to save Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency service, then he’s doing a public Q&A at the Broadway Theatre in Catford (or “Catford, Lewisham” as City Hall calls it) a month today, on Thursday 7 March. Apply for a seat via the City Hall website.
This has been going on for a while, but if you ever wanted an unusual souvenir of this year’s Olympics, then today (Sunday) is a prime chance to get hold of one of the street banners that decorated the capital this summer. Search for “banners”, and you’ll find a load from across London, including those that hung from lamp posts across Greenwich and Woolwich.
Delivery’s a steep £15, but it’s a once in a lifetime chance… (even if nobody’s made bags out of them.)
It’s a bit lonely up there in the mornings. More over at Snipe.