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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Archive for the ‘transport’ Category

Silvertown Tunnel will cause ‘pressure’, Boris Johnson admits

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Charlton Road/A102 bridge, 2 April 2014
London mayor Boris Johnson has admitted his proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel will cause “much more pressure and much more traffic” on local roads – despite his allies at Greenwich Council claiming the opposite.

Johnson’s admission also gives campaigners against a new Ikea in Greenwich a new line of argument while the mayor considers whether or not to ratify Greenwich Council’s decision to back the new store.

All this comes in a week London’s been enveloped in a smog which is actually visible thanks to it including some Saharan dust particles – with the capital’s politicians paralysed by inaction.

Johnson’s comments about Silvertown were made in a phone-in on LBC with breakfast host Nick Ferrari on Tuesday morning. Thanks to Boriswatch’s Tom Barry for the heads-up and transcript of this conversation with a caller called Mark from Dagenham, 25 minutes into the programme:

“What we’ve got to do, Mark, actually, is build not just one bridge but a series of river crossings, we’re starting with the Blackwall 2 tunnel… that will be going by 2020, or 2020-2021 – not so far away! Erm, only six years or seven years to go, we’re going for the Blackwall 2 tunnel at Silvertown, but we will also need a series of crossings to the, to the east and actually there’s a there’s a there’s loads of sites that er, are we are looking at and, um, I think the important thing for people of um both on both sides is that you shouldn’t just do one, because if you do one then you’re going to get much more pressure, much more traffic on, on that area and if you if you you can dilute the traffic if you have if you have several crossings.”

Yet the current proposals from Transport for London, which Johnson chairs, are just for the one crossing – at Silvertown. And Johnson has been happy to push the merits of this one crossing in the past – calling it “a major new crossing east of Tower Bridge”.

(Update Friday 8.30am: A spokesperson for Johnson has also told the Mercury that Silvertown will DOUBLE capacity at Blackwall. Past TfL statements have put the planned increase in traffic at 20%.)

So not only has Boris Johnson torpedoed his own argument, his friendly fire has also shot down some of the nonsense spouted by his partners-in-roadbuilding at Greenwich Council, such as this classic from “Greener Greenwich” cabinet member Harry Singh.

Harry Singh's written response, Greenwich Council meeting January 2013

It’s increasingly looking like the mayor is starting to soften up for a U-turn on the Gallions Reach crossing – which would flood Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood with new traffic, as well as for more roadbuilding in general. But where else along SE London’s riverfront would Johnson swing his wrecking-ball to build yet more road crossings?

Meanwhile, while voicing doubts on putting too much pressure on the road network on the Greenwich Peninsula, the mayor is currently deciding whether or not to approve Greenwich Council’s decision to allow Ikea to build a new superstore there.

GLA letter on Ikea

Of course, an Ikea will bring the same problem – an increase in traffic, something that was ignored when it was bulldozed through planning last month.

So it’s possible to use Johnson’s words to argue the case against Greenwich’s decision, as well as the GLA’s 2004 objection to a store in Sidcup. If you want to write to City Hall to object, use reference number D&P/3283/PR and write to planning[at]london.gov.uk before 9 April.

Beyond the Silvertown Tunnel: TfL eyes Ringway road revival

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With smog levels high in London this week, you might think that anyone proposing major new road schemes for the capital would be laughed out of town.

But Transport for London is considering reviving long-dead proposals for new orbital roads around the capital – raising the spectre of decades-old plans which threatened Blackheath Village and other parts of SE London.

The transport authority is already planning a new road tunnel under the Thames to feed into the A102 at the Greenwich Peninsula. But the plans don’t stop with the Silvertown Tunnel or possible plans for a bridge at Gallions Reach, near Thamesmead.

City Hall is currently consulting on proposals to change the capital’s planning guidance, The London Plan. These include taking on board the recommendations of the Roads Task Force as planning policy.

London Plan alterations

The Roads Task Force was set up in 2012, after Boris Johnson’s second election win “to tackle the challenges facing London’s streets and roads”. Dubbed an independent body, it includes representatives of haulage, transport and motoring groups as well as the London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets. Its first report was published last summer, and recommended a “feasibility study of tunnelling to remove ‘strategic’ traffic from surface and free-up space for other uses”.

This month, a progress report has appeared, where this has become…

RTF March 2014 report

TfL’s enthusiasm for digging tunnels hasn’t just been sparked by Silvertown – Boris Johnson is backing proposals by Hammersmith & Fulham Council to build a Hammersmith Flyunder, which would replace the existing flyover.

While the plan’s being sold on revitalising Hammersmith town centre, options being pushed by the council involve effectively creating a buried urban motorway from Chiswick to Kensington.

So what’s meant by the “orbital tunnel”?

As both the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Reach/ Thames Gateway Bridge are, essentially, revived versions of long-dead transport plans, this could well mean the resurrection of Ringway 1.

Ringway 1

Here’s the leaflet which sold the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach to locals when construction started in 1967. (Thanks to The Greenwich Phantom for the scans.) The BTSA was originally planned to be part of Ringway 1, which would have featured an interchange at Kidbrooke, roughly where the current A2 junction is now.

A new road, the South Cross Route, would have continued at Kidbrooke, following the railway line and ploughing through the Blackheath Cator Estate and tunnelling under Blackheath Village, through Lewisham town centre and featuring an interchange roughly where St John’s station is for a slip road to New Cross. It would then have follow the railway line through Brockley, Nunhead and Peckham and on a flyover through Brixton, where the famous “Barrier Block” of flats was built in anticipation of a motorway which, thankfully, never came.

The Ringways project would have been Britain’s biggest ever construction project. They were proposed by Conservative politicians on the Greater London Council and tacitly backed by Labour opponents – sound familiar? The GLC also planned Ringway 2 – which threatened Oxleas Woods, and still does today in the form of the Gallions Reach Bridge proposal.

But the Ringways caused such public outrage that they never happened. It led to an upsurge in local activism, such as this community group in Grove Park, channelled through the Homes Before Roads group. The Tory GLC considered burying the roads to pacify locals. But when Labour won the 1973 GLC election, it scrapped the Ringways – public protest and oil price hikes were too much.

But now the plans are back. In January, Transport for London’s managing director of planning, Michele Dix, gave a presentation to the Institution of Engineering and Technology. She discussed TfL’s plans to extend tolling on London’s roads, and how this may be applied to the Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel (if built).

Whereas the proceeds from Ken Livingstone’s congestion charge went into public transport, these new TfL tolls would pay for… more roads. Which could include, she said, orbital tunnels.

Michele Dix TfL presentation

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Ringways compared with orbital tunnel

Essentially, TfL is looking at using the A102 through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath – and a Silvertown Tunnel – as part of a resurrected Ringway. And areas such as Blackheath, Lee, Lewisham, Brockley and Catford would be in the firing line for a tunnel.

Even if we bury the damn thing, the traffic has to come off the roads somewhere – and London simply can’t cope with the number of vehicles as it is. Any more would be a disaster. Why a road? Why not an orbital rail line?

New roads fill up as soon as they’re built. The last major road to be built in London, the A12 through Leytonstone, is the UK’s ninth most congested road, 15 years after it opened.

This is why opposing the Silvertown Tunnel is so important. It’s the thin end of a very dirty wedge. And it’s why Greenwich Council’s decision to endorse an Ikea next to the Blackwall Tunnel approach is so dangerous – because the last thing we need is extra traffic, even on grounds of congestion alone.

But it’s on health grounds where this also counts. Paris is also suffering from high pollution at the moment, so is making public transport free to all this weekend. London’s politicians, led by its mayor along with its footsoldiers like Greenwich’s councillors, just seem to want to encourage even more people to get in their cars. Choked, congested and polluted – is this really the sort of city we want to live in?

(I’m indebted to Steve Chambers, who’s researching Homes Before Roads and the Ringways plan, and Tom Barry, who’s been posting about the Hammersmith plans at Boriswatch.)

Written by Darryl

14 March, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Congested Greenwich: Too many cars, or Trafalgar Road’s fault?

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Lord Adonis's Twitter feed, 19 February 2014Labour peer and former transport secretary Lord Adonis is travelling around London by bus this week.

It’s widely thought he fancies a crack at the mayoralty in 2016, so hopping on the bus is smart politics when the current mayor has hiked up fares while declining to invest in new services.

He’s been tweeting his travels at @Andrew_Adonis all week, and it’s been quite a ride.

On Wednesday, he showed off pictures of him travelling around with Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford. They had a look at the Old Royal Naval College, looked at some bus timetables in Greenwich, took a 386 through Kidbrooke (they clearly weren’t in hurry), and pointed at Tesco in Woolwich.

To get to Greenwich, they took a 188 along Trafalgar Road. And Adonis made this very odd comment…

Lord Adonis's Twitter feed, 19 February 2014

“Nick Raynsford tells me typical narrow Victorian High St leads to congestion” – really? Nothing to do with too many vehicles trying to use it, then? Or even the Maze Hill traffic lights, for that matter? It’s not even that narrow, for heaven’s sake.

If this was Upper Street in Islington, I very much doubt the local MP would observe that a normal-sized main road “leads to congestion”. But as it’s Trafalgar Road in Greenwich, the shops are clearly getting in the way of increased traffic flows. What would they rather have, a dual carriageway?

Among the baffled responses was one from the Evening Standard’s property writer Mira Bar-Hillel:

Mira Bar-Hillel on Twitter

Adonis also backs the Silvertown Tunnel, so perhaps this sort of thing’s not such a surprise after all. But it’s depressing that both Conservative and Labour politicians seem to see Greenwich as a place to slap down tarmac and build the new roads they could never get away with anywhere else in inner London.

In just over 15 months, of course, Nick Raynsford will be an ex-MP. Here’s hoping his successor takes a more enlightened view and defends us against demands to accommodate more traffic – and from mayors who who want to further clog up our streets.

10.40am update: Lord Adonis responded on Twitter this morning.

Sadly, that’s exactly what the Silvertown Tunnel will do, particularly for Greenwich.

For comparison, here are some pictures of Trafalgar Road in May 1968.

10pm update: “Time for a bus bottleneck buster”Lord Adonis on his trip through Greenwich.

Written by Darryl

20 February, 2014 at 7:30 am

Greenwich Tories tell Labour to tell the Tories to fix the buses

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108 bus

It’s always good to see an issue raised on this website taken up by politicians – so here’s a warm 853 welcome for a petition calling for a boost to the 108 bus service between North Greenwich and Lewisham, which suffers from chronic overcrowding during rush hours.

The petition comes from Greenwich Conservatives – in particular, their energetic candidate for Blackheath Westcombe ward, Thomas Turrell. Blackheath Westcombe’s the borough’s most marginal ward, represented by two Tories and one Labour repesentative, so what goes on here is worth watching.

The Tories’ petition wants a rush-hour only bus, numbered 108A, to supplement the packed-out 108 south of the river, giving passengers a service that is less affected by Blackwall Tunnel delays. Ignoring the fact that Transport for London no longer runs rush-hour only buses (nor ones with letters as suffixes – although with next year’s train woes in mind, a revival of the original 108A to London Bridge could be useful), at least the issue of the 108′s woes is being taken seriously.

Greenwich Tories' petitionExcept… the Tories are addressing their petition to Greenwich Council. Not TfL, which runs the buses, but Greenwich Council. “We call on Royal Greenwich Borough Council [sic] to use the means at its disposal to work with Transport for London to introduce a new 108a bus route…”

So, effectively, Greenwich Tories are asking the Labour-run council to ask Tory-run TfL to fix our buses. Could they not, well, go straight to Boris Johnson instead? Perhaps not, with TfL bracing itself for deep cuts to bus services under its current administration. Awkward.

Anyone that’s ever been to a Greenwich Council meeting will know how it’ll treat the petition, anyway. Transport cabinet member Denise Hyland will act like the Tories have suggested selling a close family member, before Chris Roberts declares once again that the council should run bus services because Berkeley Homes the council knows better than anyone else on the entire planet. Nobody will go home happy, not least those going home by bus.

Which is a shame, because the state of the 108 is worth addressing, and it’s a pity that local politicians have ignored the issue for so long. Unlike the 132, overcrowding on which has been raised three times in 14 months at City Hall.

But then the 132′s fate proves a point. Run a bus to North Greenwich from just about anywhere, and it’ll fill up.

So maybe the Greenwich Tories’ 108 petition will light a flame. Perhaps some bright spark will team up with politicians across the boundary, and suggest an entirely new route to somewhere new like Brockley or Bromley, or maybe just the Kidbrooke Village development, to help ease the 108 through Blackheath. Maybe they’ll even set up a petition, and maybe they’ll get somewhere.

But hopefully, they’ll remember to address it to the right people first.

North Greenwich travel meltdown – but there’s a cunning plan…

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As you may have noticed, it was rather hard to get home to south-east London last night.

London Bridge station/ @mpatrick_uk

A fire in signalling equipment at London Bridge saw all trains through the station cancelled at the beginning of the evening rush hour. The delays lasted beyond the rush hour and right to the end of the day.

London Bridge/ @MarcLantrok

I came through Charing Cross at 11pm and just managed to get a train back to Charlton which ran via Lewisham. Judging by the announcements telling people to use local buses, it seemed Southeastern had simply given up running a service on the other metro lines.

North Greenwich / @BobbyConns

The disruption spread, and a perfect storm hit North Greenwich station – swamped by people bumped off Southeastern trains on the night of a gig at the O2, plus a Charlton Athletic home match. It’s chaotic enough on a normal night, but last night the police were called and the station was closed for a spell.

North Greenwich/ @cherryparker

Everyone had their own story to tell. While a total wipeout of trains from London Bridge is rare, from 2015 there’ll be severe restrictions on mainline trains stopping at London Bridge as the station’s rebuilt for the Thameslink programme. Will North Greenwich be able to cope with the extra load?

North Greenwich/ twitpic.com/groucholiz

Still, everyone caught in the disruption last night can be comforted by the fact that Greenwich Council, Boris Johnson and the owners of the O2 have the solution to everyone’s transport worries at North Greenwich. Yes, that’s right, they want to build a new road tunnel.

Oh, and don’t forget Boris Johnson’s other solution to our travel woes

Boris Johnson, October 2011

The future of our local transport is clearly in safe hands.

Silvertown Tunnel and pollution: Greenwich Council’s dirty secret

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Some of Greenwich’s most high-profile development sites suffer from air pollution far in excess of European limits, research carried out for No to Silvertown Tunnel has revealed.

Volunteers, including myself, used tubes to record the pollution in the air at over 50 locations close to the A102, A2 and A206 for four weeks during June, using similar methods used by Greenwich Council for its own pollution records. Over half the tubes came back with readings over 40 μg/m3, the EU limit.

The Woolwich Road/ Blackwall Lane junction in Greenwich, outside where new homes are now being built by developer Galliford Try, recorded 70 micrograms per cubic metre. The site is opposite the flagship Greenwich Square development, which will include homes, shops and and a leisure centre.

Meanwhile, readings of 50 μg/m3 were recorded at two locations at Greenwich Millennium Village – at the centre, by West Parkside; and at the junction of Bugsby’s Way and Southern Way.

The highest figure recorded, unsurprisingly, was 70.55 μg/m3 at the Woolwich Road flyover, with a reading of 69 μg/ at Farmdale Road, where houses face an A102 slip road.

A pollution tube outside Kidbrooke Park School

High readings were also recorded along the Woolwich Road (64 μg/m3 outside the Rose of Denmark pub in Charlton) and at Blackheath Royal Standard (52 μg/m3 at Westcombe Hill).

With Greenwich Council and London mayor Boris Johnson backing a Silvertown Tunnel, which will attract more traffic to the area, the figures can only get worse.

The figures will be discussed at a public meeting at the Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, SE10 9EQ on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7pm.

Further south, high readings were recorded in Eltham at Westhorne Avenue, Eltham station and Westmount Road, where the A2 forms a two-lane bottleneck. Local MP Clive Efford supports the Silvertown proposal, despite compelling evidence that it will make traffic in his constituency worse. So do local Conservatives – even though we recorded a big fat 50 μg/m3 outside their local HQ.

Sssh - it's one of Greenwich Council's pollution tubes

Sssh – it’s one of Greenwich Council’s pollution tubes. Readings haven’t been published since 2010.

What’s more, when we contacted Greenwich Council to tell it we intended to place pollution tubes on its lamp posts, we discovered it had been collecting its own statistics since 2005.

But mystifyingly, no figures were published since 2010 – until now. We obtained the results through a Freedom of Information Act request, and have published a full archive on the No to Silvertown Tunnel website.

These borough-wide stats bear out our own research, revealing that the borough’s worst location is outside Plumstead station – possibly due to the bus garage being nearby, but also a regular scene for heavy tailbacks.

Despite the council also pressing for a road bridge at Gallions Reach, it appears to have made little serious attempt to record pollution levels in the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood areas, which would be affected by such a scheme as well as emissions from London City Airport.

The whole borough has been an air quality management zone for 12 years, which makes Greenwich Council’s position on road-building even more mystifying. Its decision to stop publishing air quality reports smacks of carelessness at the very least. Pollution has become the council’s dirty secret.

If you drill down into the statistics, you’ll actually find air quality gradually improving in some areas. But in places where traffic remains heavy, it’s stubbornly awful.

Incidentally, the tubes are very easy to install and relatively cheap – if local groups find Greenwich Council’s response to pollution wanting, it’s simple for them to carry out their own studies, just as we did. Indeed, we were inspired by a study done by the Putney Society – so it should be easy for groups in Greenwich, Blackheath, Eltham and Charlton, or elsewhere, to follow suit.

x

Greenwich Council’s pollution readings from May 2013 – you won’t find this on the council’s own website, but you’ll find it all on the No to Silvertown Tunnel site.

Greenwich Council continues to back new road schemes on the grounds that they will take traffic off existing roads – despite a heap of evidence that proves the opposite. Indeed, studies show new roads simply increase traffic by making road travel more attractive.

It also claims economic benefits for new schemes – but it hasn’t been able to produce a shred of evidence that this is the case. And will it take the health costs from the extra pollution caused by yet more traffic on local roads into account?

Even more perplexing is that neighbouring boroughs don’t want Silvertown – leaving Greenwich’s Labour council in a position where it’s just a figleaf for a Conservative mayor’s scheme. If Greenwich opposed it, would Boris really go ahead?

So how can we persuade local decision-makers to wake up and realise they’re backing a scheme would could be disastrous? Well, we thought we’d invite them to our meeting, where they can hear from experts and see what results we got.

Here’s the response from Don Austen, Labour councillor for Glyndon ward.

Don Austen email

Incidentally, Don’s ward not only contains the borough’s filthiest air, his own home is very close to Charlton Village – where air quality also breaks EU rules. We had a few other responses that were nicer, but it’s hard to dispel the feeling that Greenwich’s councillors simply aren’t taking this seriously.

That said, some of the nominees to be Labour’s candidate for for Greenwich & Woolwich are alert to the dangers of blindly following a Conservative mayor’s policy. Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia (whose own council opposes Silvertown) voices his concern in his manifesto: “According to a recent GLA report, 150 deaths per year across the borough are caused by air pollution. We shouldn’t be encouraging more traffic in already concentrated areas.”

And yesterday, outsider Kathy Peach took aim not just at the proposal, but the way Greenwich Council has handled it:

I’m not convinced Boris Johnson’s Silvertown Tunnel is the answer. Nor do I believe there’s been an informed democratic debate about it.

I have heard from several quarters that Labour councillors who oppose the scheme have been banned from voicing their opposition in public… the fact that such stories gain traction points to something insular and complacent about our local political culture. We need a breath of fresh air. Let’s get rid of stale tactics and encourage a vigorous inclusive open debate. We need to bring the community along with us – otherwise other parties will jump into the gap.

Hopefully we’ll see Kathy, and Kevin, and others, and hopefully you, down at the Forum tomorrow night. If you’re sceptical, feel free to come along and lob some tough questions.

But if Greenwich councillors won’t listen, and Boris Johnson won’t listen, then we need to find our own way forward – because this is a battle that can be won.

And we might even have some fun on the way. If you want to help, come along tomorrow night.

No to Silvertown Tunnel public meeting: Wednesday 16 October, 7-9pm, Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9EQ. Speakers are transport consultant John Elliott, the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry, King’s College London air quality expert Dr Ian Mudway and Clean Air London’s Simon Birkett.

PS. If you have the time, it’s worth reading the 1994 Government report Trunk Roads and the Generation of Traffic. These studies are backed up by another report, published in 2006 for the Countryside Agency and Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Ride London Freecycle – Good, but not good enough

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Ride London Freecycle, 3 August 2013

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.

Ride London Freecycle, 3 August 2013

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.

Prudential Ride London website

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.

The strange tale of the last bus from Kidbrooke Village

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Ferrier Estate, 22 July 2013

Today’s your last chance to do something people have been able to do for 34 years. After 00.35 tonight, Kidbrooke’s Ferrier Estate will no longer have a bus service for the first time since 1979.

Kidbrooke Village

Mind you, there’s no longer a Ferrier Estate to serve. The last remnants of the estate came down in the past couple of weeks, and the smart new Kidbrooke Village development is taking shape. While the new homes have gone up, and new occupants have moved in, routes 178 and B16 have been among the few things to have stayed the same. Not any more.

You’d think the ability to take a bus to your door would be a huge selling point. But developer Berkeley Homes is changing the road network on the old estate – from Saturday, the link under Kidbrooke Park Road which links Tudway Road to Moorhead Way will be closed for good. Which means no more buses.

Ferrier Estate, 22 July 2013

All of which has been approved by Greenwich Council for a long time. Unfortunately, what nobody took into account was that it wasn’t just Kidbrooke Village that would lose its buses. Sandwiched awkwardly between the Ferrier and the private Blackheath Cator Estate is the Brooklands Park estate. It’s completely cut off from any public roads – there’s a short footpath to Moorhead Way to the west, and to the north, south and east it’s surrounded by the Cator Estate’s private roads, which shut their gates during rush hours. For many people on Brooklands Park, the 178 and B16 are lifelines.

Who did Greenwich Council blame for Greenwich Council’s decision to endorse shutting the roads, cutting off the Brooklands? Why, Transport for London! When Brooklands residents petitioned the council earlier this year, the response said while Berkeley Homes was willing to build a turning circle on Moorhead Way, it was putting pressure on TfL to pay for it. (See the second petition document here and the TfL consultation for more.)

Greenwich Council response to TfL consultation

Petition response from Greenwich Council, 6 March 2013

Indeed, council leader Chris Roberts used the issue to call for Greenwich Council to be given powers to run bus services, instead of TfL, even though it was a problem caused entirely by his own council and its chums at Berkeley Homes.

Greenwich Council meeting, 6 March 2013

Fast forward to July, and what’s in council propaganda weekly Greenwich Time?

Greenwich Time, 22 July 2013

That’s actually a lie. There are no new bus routes. Greenwich Time has long been used to mislead, but the porkies are starting to get bigger.

And whats this?

Greenwich Time, 22 July 2013

Yes! It’s a turning circle! From Saturday, while the 178 will run straight up Kidbrooke Park Road, the B16 will use this turning circle so Brooklands residents get some buses. The Brooklands residents will lose a bus to Lewisham and Woolwich, but keep one to Eltham. But how did that pressure on Transport for London to pay for it go?

“After further consultation and discussion, the council and Berkeley Homes agreed to fund a turning circle on Moorhead Way, close to Wingfield School.”

So, surreally, here’s two residents’ association types, cabinet member Denise “foot tunnels” Hyland and Berkeley chair John Anderson celebrating… bus service cuts not being as bad as they could be, and Greenwich Council and Berkeley Homes having to make good their own mistake. Well done everybody, well done.

This won’t be the last transport worry to affect Kidbrooke Village. Plans include a “new transport hub”, presumably replacing the horrible Henleys Cross bus stops, the very worst in crap 1990s transport design. Yet it’s not clear what transport will be serving what will soon be a ballooning population – and whether the rail service through Kidbrooke will be able to cope.

Emirates Air Line: Bringing jobs and growth to the crisis PR trade

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Thames Cable Car, 27 June 2013
The cable car was a year old last Friday, and almost as if to celebrate, I saw an unusually large number of people using it as I passed underneath it on my way to North Greenwich station at about 9.15am. Yes, a whole SIX passengers were using it – up on one passenger on the previous Tuesday, and nobody at all on the Monday.

To mark the anniversary, TfL issued a press release, entitled “One year after opening the Emirates Air Line is bringing jobs and growth to east London”. But the only growth industry sparked by the dangleway is that in increasingly desperate PR.

Well, I don’t know about east London, although the Siemens Crystal, which opened next door to the cable car’s northern terminal last autumn, was already going through the planning process at Newham Council when TfL announced its plans to build the cable car in July 2010.

As for south of the river, I’m pretty much certain that with the exception of the cable car’s own staff, contractors and associated workforce, and the tea van that pops up next to it, the Emirates Air Line has not created a single job in Greenwich. If you know of any, I’d love to hear about it.

The Emirates Air Line is successfully supporting regeneration and increasing footfall in Greenwich and Newham.

Today marks the first anniversary of passenger services on the UK’s first urban cable car, the Emirates Air Line, and the Mayor says it continues to play a key role in supporting growth and regeneration in east London.

Since opening, the Emirates Air Line, connecting Greenwich and the Royal Docks, has flown more than 2.4 million passengers across the Thames and customer satisfaction remains consistently high. Today, Transport for London (TfL) confirmed that it is working with AEG Europe, the owners of The O2, to make Emirates Air Line boarding passes available on The O2 website from August. That means passengers will be able to buy e-tickets for a flight on the Emirates Air Line at the same time as they book their visit to The O2, or their Thames Clipper travel.

The Emirates Air Line was built to support current and future regeneration in east London and the balance between leisure users and regular users will change as this takes place. The popularity among leisure users means the Emirates Air Line is covering its costs while encouraging people to visit Greenwich and the Royal Docks.

Those running costs, incidentally, are about £5.3 million a year – or £14,600/day – judging by the answer to a Freedom of Information request put in by Poplar-based campaigner Alan Haughton. At 2.4 million journeys since opening, it probably is covering its costs.

Remove last summer’s Olympic/Paralympic traffic (worth at least 200,000 journeys) and the novelty factor, though, and that business plan starts to get as wobbly as a gondola in the wind.

Of course, there’s still a £16m black hole where Emirates’ sponsorship (£36m) and European funding (£8m) haven’t covered the £60m cost of building the cable car.

“Regeneration of the area is already well under way as illustrated this month when the Mayor of London announced a £1.5bn deal with the Silvertown Partnership to transform Silvertown Quays in London’s Royal Docks into an innovative new quarter that will be able to accommodate more than 1,500 new homes, restaurants, cafes, galleries and leisure facilities both on and off the water, making it a thriving destination for Londoners and visitors to live, work and enjoy. Work on the first phase of the site is expected to begin in 2014/15.”

All very well, but development at Silvertown Quays – which will involve the demolition of the landmark Millennium Mills – hardly depends on a cable car from Greenwich. Instead, it’ll cling to Crossrail for life, and its central proposition – a park of “brand pavilions” – seems to be the sort of development that could be used to try to justify the Silvertown Tunnel.

Other exciting developments coming to the area include a new 452-room hotel next to The O2 with residential apartments in 2015. All of this development will directly benefit from the convenient and direct river crossing the Emirates Air Line provides.

That’ll be the hotel that’s been planned since at least 2009, then.

So, with the cable car having attracted precisely nothing to the peninsula, its sponsor is stepping in.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘The Emirates Air Line is doing exactly what it set out to do and supporting regeneration of an area with huge potential to provide new jobs and homes. The £1.5bn deal to transform the Silvertown Quays in London’s Royal Docks is a superb illustration of how providing new transport links like the cable car can be the perfect spur for economic growth.

‘As the customer satisfaction scores show, Londoners and visitors from around the world thoroughly enjoy using this innovative transport experience and the new and exciting Emirates Aviation Experience opening in July next to the Greenwich terminal will be yet another fantastic reason to visit this rapidly developing area of London.’

Cable car terminal, 1 July 2013Yep, the Emirates Aviation Experience, which has appeared in what were meant to be retail units inside the Greenwich cable car terminal, featuring two flight simulators in a “fun, yet educational, overview of just what it takes to successfully get a 560 tonne aircraft off the ground and 40,000 feet into the sky”. PR agency Pulse (“creating happy humans”) has been recruiting for it. So the first jobs to be created by the Emirates Air Line are being created by… Emirates itself.

I heard a whisper that Boris was due in Greenwich to open it today, incidentally, presumably to thank his sponsor for doing him a favour.

Of course, none of this desperate justification would be needed if the cable car had been built as proper public transport, integrated into the Travelcard scheme and charging normal zone 3 fares, instead of £3.20 each way. There’s no press releases claiming the London Overground covers its costs – it’s accepted that throwing a billion pounds at railways in north and east London is a price worth paying for a better quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people each day. Because the cable car has been built as a tourist attraction, it has to be seen as covering its costs.

A year on, the cable car just sits there for its 16 commuters, like a strange Christmas present bought by an in-law that you can’t decide what to do with. It sits there, heading off in the wrong direction, as a monument to the failure to plan Greenwich Peninsula’s growth properly. When North Greenwich station, already creaking at the seams, can’t cope with the peninsula’s growing population, the cable car will still be sat there, useless.

And it’ll be a headache for whoever’s (un)lucky enough to succeed Boris Johnson as mayor in 2016. What should he or she do? I’d be interested to hear what you think – please assume there’s no cash to do anything like building foot/cycle bridges or moving to to Canary Wharf.

Or, if you have an even better idea, share it below…

Surprise support for the 108 bus to the Olympic Park

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108 bus
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.

Written by Darryl

14 June, 2013 at 7:30 am

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