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

Posts Tagged ‘blackwall tunnel

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

A real river crossing campaign – run the 108 to the Olympic Park

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108 bus

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?

General bus map, 1930The 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.

Written by Darryl

12 February, 2013 at 7:30 am

Silvertown tunnel: Boris sacrifices Greenwich to win votes in Bexley

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Where the tunnel will emerge - next to Boris's cable car, under construction

Well, you know there’s an election coming when the incumbent gets ready to put his hand in his pocket. (Well, it’s our pockets, but you know what I’m saying.) Finally, Boris Johnson has shown his cards about a third Blackwall Tunnel – the “Silvertown link” between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. He says it’ll be built by 2022 at a cost of £700 million.

That’s £700 million more than has ever been given to south-east London’s public transport system over the past decade. Readers unlucky enough to have been here for a while will know my point of view on this – I wrote something in 2009 on why trying to squeeze more traffic up and down the A102 is crazy.

So, for a moment, all I need to do is repeat myself.

Worryingly, [a TfL report] backs more work on the Silvertown Link – a proposal for either a bridge or a tunnel which would run from Edmund Halley Way (between the Dome and the David Beckham Academy). Land is already safeguarded for such a scheme.

The Silvertown Link would be a disaster for Greenwich – merely giving people more reasons to drive up the A102, creating more congestion and pollution. How could you build a third crossing on the peninsula (after the two Blackwall Tunnels) without expanding the 40-year-old dual carriageway that struggles with the two that are there already? It’s insane, and threatens to blight the lives of hundreds of people in Greenwich and Blackheath. It’s bad enough they have motorways at the bottom of their gardens – the last thing they need is the threat of that motorway expanding.

Boris Johnson has long backed the Silvertown Link – and it’s the Labour party in Greenwich borough’s dirty little secret too; Eltham MP Clive Efford is keen on the idea of sending more traffic through neighbouring Greenwich. But nobody seems to have thought about asking the people of Greenwich and Blackheath whose homes and livelihoods would be threatened.

If you live in Greenwich, Charlton or Blackheath – you should be thinking of acting now to make sure the Silvertown Link, the laziest and most damaging idea of them all, never happens.

But there’s more. East Greenwich is already one of the most polluted areas of London – emissions at the Woolwich Road Flyover and Trafalgar Road already exceed safe limits. Things aren’t too bright over in Canning Town either. A new tunnel will only make things worse.

How on earth will the tip of the Greenwich Peninsula be regenerated if it’s cut off by a road tunnel? How is traffic meant to get into and out of the O2 if its access roads are given over to a hole in the ground? The strip of parkland that stretches up the centre of the peninsula – intended to be a “car-free zone” just 12 years ago – won’t be very pleasant if there’s traffic roaring out of the end of it.

New roads will mean more traffic. So how will the A2, which is only two lanes in each direction through Eltham, cope with the extra traffic when it struggles during the rush hour as it is? This just moves a bottleneck three miles further south. The A102 was at a standstill southbound at 8pm last night because of an accident at the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout. Can you imagine how big the queue would be if two tunnels fed into this road, instead of one?

Building a third crossing at the Blackwall Tunnel doesn’t provide anyone with an alternative route if you still have to go up the same road to get there.

There’s also going to be nothing in a tunnel for cyclists. Cycling mayor? Nah, I don’t think so.

So, I hear you cry – we need a new crossing because I can’t get my car across the Thames! Well, the more sensible place to build one – if you think we need a new river crossing at all – would be at Thamesmead. But the old Thames Gateway Bridge scheme was scrapped, partly because of political pressure in Bexley, partly because the road network leading up to Thamesmead isn’t up to much. The main route from Bexleyheath through to Abbey Wood, for example, isn’t much more than a side road.

That said, this hasn’t stopped Boris planning a ferry at the same site – possibly taking over from the Woolwich Ferry, which conveys hundreds of heavy lorries across the Thames each day.

Most of the pressure to build a new crossing comes from car drivers in areas like the borough of Bexley, and other suburbs. If Bexley wants a bridge, perhaps it should learn to live with the consequences and have it in its own back yard. A bridge at Thamesmead would at least provide the flexibility to include other modes of transport – extensions of east London’s mainlines, the Overground or even the Hammersmith & City Line from Barking to connect with Crossrail at Abbey Wood, for example. Granted, Greenwich Council harbours dreams of running the DLR through Boris’s tunnel towards Eltham – but where trains would run from hasn’t been made clear yet.

So, with Tory mayor Boris Johnson and Labour Greenwich Council backing a tunnel – along with Eltham Labour MP Clive Efford – who’s going to oppose it? Last year, Ken Livingstone – who’d planned a bridge at the site – said a tunnel would be “mad”. Will the real Labour line on this please step forward?

Long-time readers of this site will also be aware that I stood as a Green Party candidate in council elections in 2010. Frustratingly, I couldn’t persuade the local party to take the threat of a third Blackwall Tunnel up as an issue. But they were very proud of the fact that they played a part in the public inquiry which helped kill off the original Thames Gateway Bridge scheme. Several years on from that, and with Boris now threatening east Greenwich, I wonder if they shot themselves in the foot by opposing the lesser of the two evils?

Anyhow, I think this is Boris sacrificing Greenwich’s air quality and quality of life to win over votes in the suburbs, instead of investing in a proper transport network. In 2008 he ran on a policy of scrapping the Thames Gateway Bridge, targeted at residents in Bexley, and in 2012 he wants to give them that bridge, but in our back yard instead. It’s time we moved to stop him.

Whatever you think, I’d be interested in your views.

Written by Darryl

12 January, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Blackwall Tunnel approach’s Olympic lanes – details revealed

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Full details have been revealed about how next summer’s Olympics will affect roads around Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath – with a special lane for Games traffic being installed on the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach.

As mentioned here last summer, one lane of the A102 will be given over for athletes, officials and the “Games family” – a euphemism for sponsors.

One lane of the northbound A102 will be given over to Games traffic from just north of Old Dover Road to the point where Tunnel Avenue joins the approach road between 6am and midnight. The Blackwall Tunnel itself will remain two-way, and similar provisions are being made on the A12 in east London.

Traffic signals will be altered at the Woolwich Road and the Blackwall Lane junctions as part of the scheme.

Around Greenwich Park, Park Vista and parts of Park Row and Maze Hill will become “no stopping” roads with part of Charlton Way closed to all traffic – forcing a diversion to the 53 bus route.

Between Blackheath and the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout, Shooters Hill Road will lose a lane to Games traffic while a “no stopping” route will run from there and onto Charlton Park Lane for Olympic vehicles heading to the Royal Artillery Barracks.

Road humps along Charlton Park Lane will also be removed.

Transport for London has launched a consultation into the Olympic Route Network scheme, with drop-in sessions taking place later this month. Detailed maps of what is planned are available at the TfL website: www.tfl.gov.uk/orn.

Monday 20 June 10am-2pm Charlton House
Wednesday 22 June 10am-2pm Woolwich Town Hall
Wednesday 22 June 4pm-8pm Charlton House
Thursday 23 June 4pm-8pm The Forum, Greenwich
Friday 24 June 10am-2pm The Forum, Greenwich
Monday 27 June 4.30pm-7.30pm Woolwich Town Hall

Written by Darryl

10 June, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Easter closure for the southbound Blackwall Tunnel

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A quick advance warning – buried in a Transport for London release hailing “phenomenal progress” in refurbishing the southbound Blackwall Tunnel is news that it’ll be closed across the whole of Easter weekend, from the evening of 21 April to the morning of 25 April.

So if you’re expecting anyone heading south for Easter, be warned. It’ll definitely affect fans heading to Charlton v Rochdale on Easter Monday, although there are no big shows at the O2 over Easter. Other closures are planned for 10-13 June and 12-15 August, with the project set to be finished by December.

Written by Darryl

3 March, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Boris says sorry for Blackwall Tunnel balls-up

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London mayor Boris Johnson has apologised after early morning workers were left stranded by the closure of the Blackwall Tunnel last month.

Bus passengers were left stuck at Canning Town station early on the morning of 11 July after services on route 108, which normally runs via the Blackwall Tunnel, terminated there because of building work inside the crossing.

They were told to continue their journeys by Tube to North Greenwich – but while the bus dropped them off at Canning Town at 5.50am, the first train was not until well after 7am.

The mayor said the bus “should have continued its journey across the river and been escorted through the Blackwall Tunnel”.

“Unfortunately, human error meant that the scheduling of the 108 bus service did not take account of the later start of the Jubilee Line on Sunday morning, hence the termination of your bus at Canning Town”.

Transport for London would work to “maintain a public transport service aross the river at all times during forthcoming weekend closures,” he added.

The next closure will be from 8-11 October.

If you don’t complain, you don’t get a result. Boris’s full letter to me is here, should you want a peek. I heard nothing from Transport for London during the six-and-half-weeks since the incident, although London Assembly members Darren Johnson, Jenny Jones, Caroline Pidgeon and John Biggs were good enough to reply to me within a week or so.

Fair play to the mayor for personally apologising – yes, that’s a real signature at the foot of the letter. I hope the incident doesn’t get repeated – not necessarily for my sake (coming back from a mate’s party), but for those who actually need to cross the river.

Written by Darryl

26 August, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Blackwall Tunnel approach to get Olympic lanes

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Olympic athletes and officials are due to get their own lane on the Blackwall Tunnel approach during the summer of 2012, under plans revealed by organisers this morning.

Several roads in Greenwich, Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Charlton have been designated part of the Olympic Route network, designed to ferry competitors, staff, sponsors and media between the competition’s venues.

Lanes will be set aside on the A102 between Blackwall Lane and the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout for Olympic traffic, along with short sections of Shooters Hill Road in Blackheath. While lanes are also being set aside on the A12 north of the river, the Blackwall Tunnel itself will not have a dedicated lane.

However, police will employ “traffic management” techniques to speed traffic through the Blackwall Tunnel as well as on the rest of the network, which comprises the Blackwall Tunnel approach Charlton Park Lane, Shooters Hill Road between Charlton Way and Charlton Park Lane, Prince Charles Road (north of Shooters Hill Road), Maze Hill, Park Vista and Park Row.

Officials say the route via Charlton Park Lane, to the shooting events at Woolwich Barracks, will only be in operation for the nine days that events will take place there.

The bulk of Olympic traffic will be expected to get in and out of central London via the north side of the river. But other local roads, including Trafalgar Road, most of Woolwich Road, Blackwall Lane, Crooms Hill in Greenwich and Academy Road in Woolwich have been designated as “alternative roads”, for use in case of problems with the main network. Officials say “minimal” measures will be needed on these roads.

Other SE London roads in the “alternative” network include Blackheath Hill, Blackheath Road, Deptford Church Street, Evelyn Street, Deptford Broadway and New Cross Road, as well as the A2 stretching out towards Kent.

I get the feeling there will be howls of anger further down the A2 at this news, and the Blackwall Tunnel Facebook group will explode as soon as the news reaches the suburbs. While I don’t see anyone begrudging free movement of athletes and officials, I don’t think anyone – whether they’re behind the wheel of a van or stuck on a packed 108 – is going to be too happy to about pausing so the head of the IOC or the chief executive of McDonald’s gets a smooth ride through the tunnel.

Much depends on how often the lanes will be closed to non-2012 traffic, and how long in each day the restrictions will last for. With both sides of the Blackwall Tunnel approach overloaded during rush hour, and further restrictions further north close to the Olympic Village (Bow Road and Stratford High Street won’t be much fun to travel around by road), it looks as if a sticky few weeks for traffic is going to be one of the more bitter pills this part of London will have to swallow for its share of Olympic glory.

Unfortunately, many of those affected may just have to lump it, rearrange things for a month, or take some time off. This might sound insultingly glib, but it’d probably be easier to do that – and free up a bit of space for those who’ll need the room on the road – than be a martyr to grumbling for a summer. That’s not really a message anyone involved in promoting 2012 is going to want to send out to people in their determination to prove it’ll be (sort of) business as usual.

Another Olympics story
came out of last night’s council meeting, and it doesn’t bode well for the maturity of the debate surrounding the equestrian events in Greenwich Park. Conservative councillor Geoffrey Brighty, whose Blackheath Westcombe ward borders the park, submitted two questions to planning chair Ray Walker about LOCOG’s plans to reinstate the park after the games, and its plans to protect Roman remains. Cllr Walker declined to answer the questions, saying each was “a complex issue” and suggesting Cllr Brighty speak to planning officers.

When Cllr Brighty, who voted against planning permission for the equestrian events in March, pointed out that the planning officers could have supplied an answer for the public meeting, Cllr Walker accused him of “playing to the gallery”, insisting that planning conditions were being adhered to.

That little exchange doesn’t really give us much hope for real public scrutiny of LOCOG’s plans, especially as consultations are now limited to the usual suspects in the form of the local amenity societies.

Written by Darryl

29 July, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Dear Boris… why the Blackwall Tunnel balls-up?

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Dear Boris,

I hope you’ll forgive the colloquial tone of this e-mail. But I’m writing about something serious, which is why I’m copying this to Transport for London customer services, relevant London Assembly members and publishing it on http://853blog.wordpress.com, as well as addressing you personally. It’s about your handling of the Blackwall Tunnel closures – and how bus passengers are meant to get around them. I know you’re an intelligent man. So I hope you will be able to do something about a dumb state of affairs.

I hope you had a good weekend. I was lucky enough to spend late Saturday night at a friend’s in Walthamstow – sat in her courtyard and enjoying the Mediterranean temperatures until the early hours. When the time finally came to leave – in the early morning of Sunday 11 July – the night bus to Stratford didn’t let me down, a 69 coming bang on time.

But it was in Stratford that things went wrong. I know the southbound Blackwall Tunnel is closed some weekends to allow for urgent renovations, causing disruption to route 108. Passengers are expected to use the Tube between Canning Town and North Greenwich, and when the Tube is closed, the buses can be specially-escorted through the tunnel.

At 5.45am*, a 108 appeared bearing the destination Canning Town – even though the first southbound Tube from there is not until 7.11am. I asked the driver how passengers could cross south of the river. “I don’t know,” he answered. With no other option to get home, I jumped on board anyway.

At Canning Town, we were turfed off and given tickets for the Tube – tickets we couldn’t use for an hour and a quarter. There were no TfL staff to be seen. Instead, it was private bus staff looking after District Line replacement bus services who got an earful from angry 108 passengers. Many of these people were supposed to be going to work – one guy I spoke to was working as a casual stagehand at the O2, for example – yet were going to be stranded for well over an hour at Canning Town instead, losing them money and putting their jobs at risk. Do you think this is fair, Boris?

I’ve lived on or close to the 108 route all my life. When the Blackwall Tunnel has been closed in the past, and when there’s been no alternative way across the river, they’ve run via Tower Bridge. If it is too late to escort buses through the tunnel, why can’t they run that way before the Tube opens on Sundays, when the traffic is light? Yes, it would add half-an-hour to the journey – but it’d be quicker than the 75 minute wait at Canning Town my fellow passengers faced.

It was luck that saw me get home – soon after the doors of Canning Town station opened, an unadvertised, unannounced early DLR train to Woolwich Arsenal appeared, from where I jumped on a Southeastern train home. Without that, I would have been stuck in Canning Town for well over an hour.

I see that the Blackwall Tunnel is closed again this coming weekend – and presumably more people will get caught out like I, and the O2 stagehand did. You place great emphasis in your speeches on helping London’s economy. The people who were turned off my 108 this morning are those who keep it going. How about doing something to help them get to work, instead of leaving them stranded in a bus station?


Darryl Chamberlain

(* pedants’ note – according to my Oyster card record, I touched in at 5.36am, which means my timings in this letter are actually an under-estimate.)

Written by Darryl

11 July, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Tunnel Refineries to go out with a whimper, not a bang

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A bit of excitement a couple of weeks ago as news reached 853 Towers of a “controlled explosion in Tunnel Avenue”. Not that anyone locally had been told, but Canary Wharf workers had been informed in case they thought the worst. Two and two were put together, and it seemed as if the silos at Tunnel Refinieries – one of the Greenwich peninsula’s great pre-Dome landmarks – were finally coming down. I had a chat with Rob at greenwich.co.uk, and discussed vantage points, not quite knowing what to expect. The 2pm deadline passed as I walked up that choking upper stretch of Tunnel Avenue, where it joins the Blackwall Tunnel approach, with very little sign of anything going on.

I met Rob on the footbridge by the tunnel’s entrance. “It’s probably going to be the little blue-…”


And the three little blue silos, almost out of sight from our vantage point, toppled over. They’re the ones on the right in the picture above. Rob captured the scene here, while here was the view from the Isle of Dogs.

Unfortunately, it’s just been confirmed that the demolition of the main silos will not be using explosives after all. Thanks to my informant for telling me… “The silos will now be demolished without employing explosives using a long reach unit which literally nibbles the concrete structures from the top down. This will be a slow uneventful process so there will be no big bang.”

The other news is that the riverside walk along there will be closed for 12 weeks from Monday 15 March to enable the demolition to take place. So we’re denied the biggest bang Greenwich will have seen since the 2006 demolition of Greenwich District Hospital’s incinerator chimney – and the riverside path for three months. A bit of an anti-climatic ending for an institution that’s loomed over Greenwich and certainly made its mark on locals and visitors alike.

Tunnel Refineries – latterly known as Amylum, Tate and Lyle, and Syralclosed in September 2009 with the loss of 150 jobs. I walked through the site about a month ago, and its distinctive whiff could still be detected. When I was growing up, that sickly-sweet smell could drift for a good couple of miles, and was pretty much ever-present on the peninsula.

The closer you got, the fouler it was, but there was something comforting about coming home after a long journey, emerging from the Blackwall Tunnel, and getting a noseful of it. Historians will be noting another break from Greenwich’s industrial past, with what’s left of Alcatel/STC at Enderby Wharf awaiting redevelopment. The warehouses at Delta Wharf also came down recently, making the west side of the peninsula a strange, barren place to be.

Sunday will be your last chance to breathe in what’s left of the Tunnel Refineries whiff. Life’s going to be very different from now on.

Written by Darryl

10 March, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Bridge of sighs

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Dome by night
Everyone knows that the biggest problem which blights Greenwich, and its surrounding areas, is traffic. It has always been the case. Here’s some pictures from a bus enthusiasts’ site of some meaty jams in 1968, shortly before the opening of the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach. What used to be the A102(M) cut a deep swathe through east Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath, with whole communities – by the tunnel itself, and close to Westcombe Park station – finding homes and shops flattened, as documented in Christopher Fowler’s novel, Paperboy. Little signs of the destruction remain – the stub of the old Westcombe Hill, now Farmdale Road, in east Greenwich. A stray bit of pavement from what used to be the end of Siebert Road, Blackheath – and the long, lonely, overgrown end to Bramshot Avenue, Charlton, which formed another part of it.

The loss of these communities, though, was seen as a necessary evil at the time. Indeed, residents’ associations made a special presentation to the Greater London Council’s representative when the road opened in 1969. They were lucky – the A102M was meant to be part of a network of urban motorways. In the end, only the BTSA, the East Cross Route – its north-of-the-Thames sister road at Hackney Wick – the Westway and the West Cross Route were built before public opinion turned on road-building.

That’s not to say that no new roads were built – the Rochester Way Relief Road appeared in the 1980s, and north of the Thames, the A102(M) is now the A12, linking it neatly with the controversial extension of that road which connects it up to the M11. Anyone who can’t be bothered to pay the Dartford Crossing toll can simply go via the Blackwall Tunnel instead, it’s a dual carriageway all the way. We just have to deal with the pollution and jams – the area close to the Blackwall Tunnel is one of London’s most polluted spots. (Naturally, Greenwich Council wants to move a school there.)

Since then, though, the pressure has been on politicians to build yet more roads to acommodate the demand caused by the new roads they built in the 1980s and 1990s; that themselves helped satisfy expectations caused by roads built in the 1960s and 1970s. Nobody seems willing to break this dangerous cycle.

Margaret Thatcher’s government finally binned plans for the East London River Crossing, that would have torn up Oxleas Woods, in the late 1980s, but even Ken Livingstone partially resurrected the scheme as the Thames Gateway Bridge, crossing underneath the London City Airport flightpath to link blighted west Thamesmead with Beckton. It would have been easy to see it as a benign local bridge for local people, but we all know it wouldn’t have been that way – traffic would have suddenly flooded through Thamesmead, Abbey Wood, Belvedere and Bexleyheath to find a way to avoid both the Blackwall Tunnel and the Dartford Crossing, clogging up roads that are, in some cases, no more substantial than side streets.

Looking towards the TGB siteBoris canned the Thames Gateway Bridge last year – but London’s politicians still feel the need to stick another river crossing somewhere between Blackwall and Dartford. So, at the end of last week, Transport for London issued a report into what it thought was worth pursuing. (Download the full thing here – 6.6MB PDF) It discounts an eye-catching but probably impractical plan for a cable car between the Dome and Canary Wharf – but suggests a passenger ferry may be a good idea. It also discounts a potty idea for a road tunnel close to the Thames Barrier, between Charlton and Silvertown.

But worryingly, it backs more work on the Silvertown Link – a proposal for either a bridge or a tunnel which would run from Edmund Halley Way (between the Dome and the David Beckham Academy) across to roughly where the Azko Nobel plant is on the north bank of the Thames. Land is already safeguarded for such a scheme.

The Silvertown Link would be a disaster for Greenwich – merely giving people more reasons to drive up the A102, creating more congestion and pollution. How could you build a third crossing on the peninsula (after the two Blackwall Tunnels) without expanding the 40-year-old dual carriageway that struggles with the two that are there already? It’s insane, and threatens to blight the lives of hundreds of people in Greenwich and Blackheath. It’s bad enough they have motorways at the bottom of their gardens – the last thing they need is the threat of that motorway expanding.

Another recommendation – revamping the Woolwich Ferry and introducing tolls – would also only send more traffic through the Blackwall Tunnel.

Building a new road crossing is justified, according to TfL, because of a lack of “redundancy” in the current network – if the tunnel is blocked, then all traffic is halted because there is no alternative place for it to go. But the same logic does not apply to public transport – we’re not building a second Jubilee Line because there’s nowhere else to go if that line is blocked, for example. When cars are involved, though, we’re expected to roll over and let it happen. We cannot go on building more and more roads.

Boris Johnson has long backed the Silvertown Link – and it’s the Labour party in Greenwich borough’s dirty little secret too; Eltham MP Clive Efford is keen on the idea of sending more traffic through neighbouring Greenwich. But nobody seems to have thought about asking the people of Greenwich and Blackheath whose homes and livelihoods would be threatened.

People aren’t stupid. They drive because it’s a pain in the arse to cross the river any other way, unless you live near the DLR, the Jubilee Line or the 108 bus route. They drive because they feel they have no other choice. Yet there’s nothing in this report which suggests giving people the choice – why no suggestions for rail links between east and south-east London? I’ve long suggested that Thamesmead would benefit from being plugged into the rail lines from Fenchurch Street, linking it to both the City and east London. It’d be of greater value than a new, pollution-generating road bridge.

Other proposals include a ferry or smaller bridge where the Thames Gateway Bridge would have been – the latter idea would surely be overwhelmed with traffic the moment something gets stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel. (The Thamesmead area did have a little-known ferry until 2004 – a link between Belvedere and Dagenham to serve the Ford plant. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of local MP John Austin, its 300 daily passengers were forced onto the roads.)

But this report largely just deals with cars. Yes, a lot of road transport is urgent and vital to keep the capital and the country going. But more work needs to be done to give people the option of not jumping in their cars. Until policy-makers face up to this, this report will just be the product of lazy thinking.

And if you live in Greenwich, Charlton or Blackheath – you should be thinking of acting now to make sure the Silvertown Link, the laziest and most damaging idea of them all, never happens.

(More coverage: greenwich.co.uk, London Reconnections, Boris Watch. Unsurprisingly, the News Shopper and Mercury websites have missed this, I wonder if Greenwich Time will too?)


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