Tagged: lewisham

Lewisham bags a Bakerloo boost – but beware a backlash

It’s a relief to be able to write about some unalloyed good news – Transport for London is consulting on extending the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham, Catford and Hayes.

Bakerloo Line proposals/ TfLSure, the extension might be at least a decade and a half away, and plans for a Tube to Lewisham have been kicking around since the 1940s, but it’s welcome to see proposals being dusted down – hopefully it’s for real this time.

Two routes from the Elephant to Lewisham are on offer – one via the Old Kent Road, with heaps of sites awaiting redevelopment (and designated a mayoral “opportunity area“); and another via Camberwell and Peckham Rye, where existing services are heaving.

Whichever route is chosen, the line will then pass through New Cross Gate and down to Lewisham before taking over the existing National Rail service from Ladywell to Hayes. That’s an indication of just how old this scheme is – many of the big Tube expansions of the 1930s and 1940s came about by taking over mainline services. But it would free up some space at the awkward rail junction at Lewisham, as well as creating more room for services on the main line to Kent.

There’s also an option for the line to run to Beckenham Junction and possibly through new tunnels to Bromley.

Lewisham Council has been quietly pushing the case for a Bakerloo Line extension for some time – a 2010 report for the council even mulled over an extension through Blackheath to Bexleyheath and Dartford. Think of the benefits that could bring to Kidbrooke Village…

But what’s on the table now could transform much of the borough of Lewisham. That said, here are two blots on the beautiful Bakerloo landscape that supporters will need to watch out for.

Firstly, Labour MPs. Seriously. Despite the fact that the extension’s being heavily promoted by Lewisham Labour Party, up popped Streatham MP Chuka Umanna and Dulwich MP Tessa Jowell a couple of weeks ago, briefing the Evening Standard that “a growing population of younger people would be served if the line goes further west instead — to Camberwell, Herne Hill and Streatham”. In other words, “screw you, Lewisham”. Rather unfortunate, but Umanna has form – he came out with the same cobblers five years ago. You’d think London mayoral wannabe Tessa Jowell would know better, mind.

Secondly, Bromley Council. This website understands the Tory authority’s been reluctant to take part in talks to push the extension. It’s possible Bromley’s worried about losing the National Rail link from Hayes – many weekday trains run fast from Ladywell to London Bridge, providing a relatively speedy link into town. Bromley’s support would be vital for the line progressing beyond Lewisham – will the chance of a further extension sway them?

So there’s plenty to play for. I suspect the Old Kent Road option will come out on top – which will be harsh on Camberwell, first promised a Bakerloo extension in 1931. But it’s all about the “opportunity areas”, which is why a link to Bromley is mooted rather than, say, extending the line a couple of miles slightly further to isolated New Addington.

Consultation papers also indicate that an extension of London Overground services from New Cross is also being considered, although papers presented to Lewisham on Monday indicate that this could be a link to Bromley rather than to Kidbrooke. If Greenwich councillors want to see Kidbrooke and Eltham better connected, they should speak up now. And if you want to see south-east London better connected, then you should speak up now too.

Death on Lewisham’s scrapped cycle superhighway

Loampit Vale, 24 June 2014

The worst of news to start the week with, as a cyclist died after a collision in Lewisham town centre during Monday morning’s rush hour.

The car involved did not stop at the scene of the incident in Loampit Vale, but a man has since has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

This is the stretch of A20 which was originally going to be included as part of a cycle superhighway from Victoria, until route CS5 was cut short to New Cross Gate last November.

Loampit Vale, 25 June 2013At the time, Transport for London said “opportunities to introduce Cycle Superhighway-type infrastructure are limited” – essentially, it didn’t want to tackle the New Cross one-way system and the A20 into Lewisham.

Earlier this month, TfL announced that initial work between the Oval and New Cross Gate will be finished this autumn, with the lanes to be “semi-segregated” during 2014, but also that “various options” were being considered to restore the Lewisham leg of the route as well as links to other areas east of New Cross Gate.

At the time, that looked like a bit of a fobbing-off, but Monday’s tragedy is a reminder of just how important that original idea was.

Hopefully it will also concentrate the minds of local politicians, with the Lewisham Cyclists group complaining that Lewisham Council has been ignoring its attempts to start a dialogue about much-needed improvements. (In Greenwich, such a dialogue does exist, but the council’s leadership isn’t interested.)

The site of the Loampit Vale collision – between the junctions with Thurston Road and Elmira Street – is also on one of south London’s best-known leisure cycling routes – the Waterlink Way, which runs from Deptford to South Norwood.

Incidentally, there’s still no news on what’s happening with CS4, the planned cycle superhighway from London Bridge to Deptford, Greenwich and Woolwich, although Greenwich Council has undertaken some works on the A206 through Greenwich and Woolwich to make cycle paths more prominent.

However, buried in a TfL press release last Friday was news that Greenwich Council had been given £200,000 for “pedestrian and public realm improvements” in Greenwich town centre, billed as a “package of measures to improve air quality including widening and improving the quality of footway linkages in Greenwich Town Centre and smoothing the flow of buses and taxis”. This doesn’t seem like a revival of the shelved pedestrianisation scheme, but what it means for cyclists, walkers and drivers remains to be seen.

Thanks to Clare Griffiths for the picture of the scene from Tuesday afternoon.

Surprise support for the 108 bus to the Olympic Park

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.

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

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.

Greenwich Council to oppose Lewisham A&E closure

It’s not the full-throated campaign that some would like to see, but Greenwich Council has finally come out against the proposed closure of Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency department.

The council’s response was quietly published on its website yesterday. It says “existing levels of demand” as well as past and projected population growth means it “cannot support the closure”.

Greenwich Council's response to the TSA

It adds that “greater clarity is needed in particular about the types of injury and treatment that can be catered for at an Urgent Care Centre,” which is planned to open in Lewisham, “as opposed to a traditional A&E department”, and expresses scepticism about the travel times for ambulances.

While not explicitly calling for Lewisham to keep its maternity ward, the response also calls for extra capacity for a growing population. It’s worth a read if you’ve been following the campaign – I’d be interested in your views.

Friday 00.05 update: Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts has told Greenwich.co.uk:

“The first question, frankly, we had to ask is ‘If we say we don’t support the closure of Lewisham, does that mean you come back and close Queen Elizabeth Hospital?’

“We produced a long list of questions that were added to by our Health Scrutiny Panel that we gave to the Trust Administrator and said ‘Before we say where we’re coming down on this, we want to know the answers to some of these.’” Read more.

For more on the consultation, which ends on 13 December, see the TSA website. For more on the campaign to protect Lewisham’s hospital services, see Save Lewisham Hospital. Shannon Hawthorne has a great summary that’s worth reading, too.

Save Lewisham A&E: Carol’s story

Guest post: Carol Brown explains how Lewisham Hospital’s accident and emergency ward, under threat of closure, saved her life earlier this year.

It is a miracle I am here at all.

In January this year, unbeknown to myself and my partner, I was very sick indeed, in fact dangerously so – only hours away from death.

I had a perforated duodenal ulcer, diagnosed by Lewisham A&E. This was swiftly followed by an emergency operation performed by Mr Steger and his team.

My partner, Barry, spent hours in a side room at Lewisham hospital thinking about his eulogy for my funeral. I was to be buried in a woodland grave in Shropshire and Bridge Over Troubled Water would be played. Mr Steger told Barry later that day I was “knocking at death’s door”. Statistically, my chances were not good. But I’m alive!

Carol and BarryI cannot put into words just how very grateful I am. Thanks to the excellent surgery and about 6 weeks of brilliant critical care nursing, where everything was done for me, including for quite some time even breathing. Thanks also to the daily visits to my bedside and amendments to my treatment by the surgical team, and also to the interventions of the dialysis doctors – I am not six feet under, pushing up the wildflowers in a Shropshire meadow. I am here!

The ICU (intensive care unit) nurses are brilliant at their jobs. They would patiently and calmly explain what they were doing, and answer any questions posed by my anxious visitors, at a time when I was completely unaware and later conscious but unable to speak.

I would also like to thank the ICU physiotherapists who offered to brush my hair from early on – I shook my head at first until I felt certain that I would survive. Later, they helped me to leave my bed.

And thank you also to the therapists who monitored my initial drinking, and then eating very carefully, when I stopped being “nil by mouth”. I am utterly certain that without the experience, skills, patience, ability, time and dedication of the whole emergency team at Lewisham, I would not be here.

I would not have seen the sea, a full moon or a rainbow. I would not have happily woken up to a cat sharing my pillow – I understand that hospital staff would frown on such things!

My daughter would not have a mother. I have since discovered that the mortality rate of the critical care unit is low – I directly benefitted from that.

And seeing as, thank God I am here; I’m able to tell you exactly what I think of The TSA’s plans. The critical care unit, which comprises the ICU and the High Dependency Unit (HDU), is filled to capacity (95% use).

The Kershaw plan is not only for closure and relocation to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich, but for the number of critical care beds to be cut from 21 to 7. This is a devastating cut and inevitably will result in more people dying.

My impression, from a recent consultation and also to the reaction to the ICU consultants’ letter, is that TSA doesn’t want to be known and remembered as the person who closed (and failed to replace) critical care beds, though this is the reality.

There is no way this can be dressed up as anything but a loss.

I am extremely determined. One ICU nurse told me she had never seen anyone fight for their life as hard as I did. I wish to use my campaigning skills and that determination to keep Lewisham Hospital, its A&E department, its critical care unit and its maternity ward fully open, and its paediatric services as they are now.

I am still on the road to recovery. My memory is variable and I have some physical scars. Frankly, it is a very small price to pay for being alive. It is a privilege to try to save Lewisham as they saved me.

I understand I’m an atypical former patient of the critical care unit, in that I will go to great lengths to publicise my experience and the work of this wonderful unit. The majority are silent, but I am not!

As a celebration of my survival Barry and I recently got married, after 26 years together and the birth of our daughter, who is now 22 and who made a wonderful bridesmaid. Our wedding was blessed at the chaplaincy in Lewisham Hospital. And at our wedding reception, what did we play? Bridge over Troubled Water.

For more on the consultation, which ends on 13 December, see the TSA website. For more on the campaign to protect Lewisham’s hospital services, see Save Lewisham Hospital. Shannon Hawthorne has a great summary that’s worth reading, too.

Save Lewisham’s maternity ward: A mother’s story

Guest post: As well as the accident and emergency unit, Lewisham hospital’s maternity unit is also under threat from the Kershaw report into south-east London’s health services, which suggests that maternity services be carried out at Queen Elizabeth, Princess Royal, King’s College and St Thomas’s Hospitals, with Lewisham listed as only having a “potential” unit.

Erith & Thamesmead’s Labour MP Teresa Pearce criticised the plan last week at a meeting in Eltham. “Believe me, you don’t know how complex a birth can be until you’re in labour,” she said. Cuts at Lewisham would “have knock-on effects for all of us,” she added.

Clare Griffiths‘ son James, now five, was born at Lewisham. She takes up the story of how his life was saved by the staff there – and how being close to a maternity unit made caring for him much easier.

Lewisham hospital’s maternity unit handles around 4,400 deliveries a year, most of which (to use Matthew Kershaw’s language) are unremarkable. But what happens when things don’t go according to plan?

That’s what happened to me when I had my first child, James, at Lewisham hospital back in 2007.
I was 33 weeks pregnant when a bout of food poisoning brought on premature labour and I ended up on the maternity ward being given drugs to try and stop it.

They didn’t work, and James was scanned and found to be breech (feet down instead of head down), so I had to have an emergency caesarian section.

I also had an injection to try and mature James’s lungs a bit more, as at 33 weeks they aren’t necessarily mature enough to allow baby to breathe independently. These need 12 hours to work.

James Griffiths, 2007The team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit came to see me before I had the c-section to explain what was likely to happen – I would have my baby, then he would be taken away from me to be resuscitated if necessary and put in an incubator in the NICU. This was not to be a normal “unremarkable” experience.

James was born at 6:25am, only about 6 hours after having the injection – they’d had to move to do the c-section quicker than they’d hope because the drugs to slow down labour hadn’t worked and I was in danger of getting to second stage labour.

He actually cried straight away – the relief I felt at that point is hard to describe – which meant I got to hold him for a very short time before he was taken to NICU and put in an incubator.

I was taken to recovery and didn’t see him again until the following day. At this point he was out of the incubator and into the low dependency nursery A of the special care baby unit (SCBU).

I had to express breast milk for him, as he was being tube fed. Expressing works best if you can do it near to your baby, as it helps the milk to flow. Regular visits down to SCBU were therefore essential, and despite finding movement difficult because of the section, by the following afternoon I was able to walk (slowly) down there myself.

The day after that I was discharged to make room for other mothers and James stayed in SCBU. Fortunately Lewisham hospital is a short drive from our house, so although I wasn’t able to drive myself, I could be driven there with relative ease. There’s also two buses that go there from near to our house so getting there quickly on public transport is straightforward.

This was really important, as I needed to get there to express milk for him, not having an expensive breast pump of my own, and obviously I wanted to spend as much time with him as I possibly could, so was travelling there twice a day or more. I spent a lot of time crying as well – to say this was not what I’d imagined is a huge understatement.

Six days later we were able to bring James home. Suffice to say that they were six of the longest days of my life. I cannot imagine what any of that would have been like if Lewisham hospital hadn’t had a maternity unit.

I would have given birth at King’s, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Royal or perhaps even St Thomas’. When I had been discharged, my baby would have been miles away in an inaccessible hospital.

There is simply no way I would have been able to visit him as often as I did at Lewisham. This would have made a difficult time into an impossible one. It was heartbreaking enough to have to leave him knowing he was fairly nearby and I could visit often.

It would have been cruel to think that I would only have been able to get there perhaps once a day, bearing in mind that I’d also had major abdominal surgery to get James out, so moving around was painful and difficult. On top of that, expressing milk would also have been more difficult – I wouldn’t have been able to use the hospital’s industrial-grade pump, I’d have had to buy my own and if I couldn’t afford that then that would have been the end of breastfeeding full stop.

Breast milk is really important for premature babies, even more so than full-term ones, so that would have been worse for James’s health and development.

In the end, my story is a happy one, and I fully believe that having given birth at Lewisham was absolutely essential to that outcome.

We cannot stand by and let Jeremy Hunt and his cronies take our maternity unit away from us. We owe it to all those mothers who have yet to give birth there, and especially to those whose stories will turn out to be a little out of the ordinary.

Paediatric consultants have also responded to the report – see here to read their criticisms.

For more on the consultation, which ends on 13 December, see the TSA website. For more on the campaign to protect Lewisham’s hospital services, see Save Lewisham Hospital. There’s a consultation meeting at The Valley in Charlton on Monday at 7pm.