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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

Posts Tagged ‘north greenwich

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.

Social cleansing: End of the Greenwich Peninsula dream?

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Quintain plan for Greenwich Peninsula

Imagine if your local council had begun the process of allowing a massive new development of luxury housing, exclusively for the affluent, towering over the skyline. Imagine if that development included its own private school, and a luxury hotel.

And imagine if it’d decided to renege on its past plans to create mixed communities, where people who wanted homes for social rent or affordable housing would have a fair shot at living in new developments.

What’s more, imagine if it’d approved plans to shunt the non-affluent into a plot half a mile away, creating a little ghetto as far away from the luxury homes as possible? And what if it never asked you about it?

This is social cleansing – and it’s beginning to happen on the Greenwich Peninsula as Greenwich Council yields to the demands of private developers.

Controversial plans for the peninsula were backed at a planning meeting held in public at the end of February, but it went completely unrecorded at the time, save for a few lines posted in comments on this website.

Now residents on the peninsula are threatening legal action against the council for ignoring its own policies on redevelopment.

Quintain plans for Peninsula Quays site

February’s meeting saw councillors agree to reduce to 0% the proportion of affordable housing to be offered at Peninsula Quays – the development planned for land just to the south-west of the Dome, surrounding the northern end of Tunnel Avenue.

Quintain plans for Greenwich PeninsulaIn the past couple of years, land here has been cleared and decontaminated and roads rebuilt. No planning application’s gone in yet – a small exhibition was held a month ago, showing tower blocks and plans for up to 1,638 homes (see a business plan) – but this is an adjustment to the masterplan which covers the whole peninsula.

The plans include a private school, “high-end private residential” units at Drawdock Road, and a four/five star hotel at Ordnance Crescent.

Effectively, the council’s planning board approved the idea that a development which will sit opposite Canary Wharf should be built in Canary Wharf’s own image – exclusively for the affluent. It’s envisaged this will be up and running by December 2019.

To make up the difference, new developments to the far south of the Dome – around where the City Peninsula tower now sits – will see levels of affordable housing shoot up to between 54% and 58%, mostly for social rent rather than shared ownership. These developments were also given permission that night, and will be completed by December 2017.

Greenwich Council says that overall, the 11 plots considered together will be 25% affordable – but all those properties will now be pushed to the south, towards City Peninsula and Greenwich Millennium Village.

There was no consultation on this change – pushed through so developers can grab £50m in grants. Residents at City Peninsula and GMV are furious, as they expected levels of affordable accommodation to be even across the peninsula. They’re now threatening to force a judicial review of the councillors’ decision, accusing them of railroading the change through.

Ordnance Crescent

“Peninsula Quays” as it is now

A letter to Greenwich Council seen by this website brands the councillors’ decision as “unfair”, adding that the new plans don’t offer enough family accommodation and contradict both local and London-wide planning guidelines.

So far, they’ve had no response from the council – but the residents are sure of their case.

This aggressive development follows Hong Kong billionaire Henry Cheng investing £500m into the project last year through his company Knight Dragon, teaming up with existing developer Quintain.

At present, if the Knight Dragon/Quintain proposals go through, they’ll destroy the dream of the peninsula as a stable, sustainable community, as promised when Greenwich Millennium Village was conceived in the late 1990s.

Indeed – and the planning documents hint at this – it may all be one long hangover from the construction of the Millennium Dome itself, with central government keen to recover the costs it spent on infrastructure back then.

While by most accounts GMV (which remains separately developed) is a fine place to live – and the river-facing homes at City Peninsula look like fantastic places – it still suffers from being physically isolated from the rest of the area by dual carriageways. But it’s developed into a mixed community, and people seem to rub along fine.

Greenwich Council’s frustration with the pace of development on the peninsula is well-known. In 2004, it expected 500 homes a year to be built over the next 20 years. In fact, only 229 homes have been built since then.

But in the long term, is it really worth junking the benefits of building a mixed number of homes just to get developments back on the move again? Greenwich Council’s and developers’ desperation to get things moving again could have long-term, disastrous consequences for the regeneration of the area. This is a complicated tale, but one to watch closely over the next few years.

Update, 13 April 2013: The minutes from the planning board meeting are now available, which show the proposals criticised by local residents, local councillors Dick Quibell and Mary Mills, and planning board member Hayley Fletcher (who isn’t named).

The great bus queue of North Greenwich

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North Greenwich, 9 December 2012
Sunday night at North Greenwich, and a familiar problem after an event at the Dome – a traffic jam of buses which can’t leave the bus station because the traffic lights are set to favour cars (which themselves then queue up through Greenwich Millennium Village). It was taking about 10 minutes for buses to negotiate their way out of the station, with the queue snaking around both corners on the left and right of the screen at one point.

This should be a simple, and cheap, problem to fix, but instead, TfL spent £26m on a cable car.

Written by Darryl

10 December, 2012 at 7:30 am

Boxing Day strike closure for North Greenwich Tube

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There’s unlikely to be any Jubilee Line service through North Greenwich on Boxing Day following Thursday’s High Court ruling that a strike by rail union Aslef can go ahead as planned.

London Underground says the line will only run to a reduced frequency between Wembley Park and Green Park, leaving no service at all through east and south-east London.

The dispute – which does not involve the RMT or TSSA unions involved in other recent strikes – centres on pay for working this Boxing Day.

Southeastern has withdrawn its limited Boxing Day service this year, although buses and the Docklands Light Railway will run as planned.

London Underground managing director Mike Brown said of the union: “By holding Londoners to ransom in this way they are showing complete disdain for all who want to visit family and friends or hunt a good bargain during what is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.”

Without getting into the whys and wherefores of the dispute, I wonder if he’d accuse Southeastern and other mainline train companies (including TfL’s own London Overground) of “holding Londoners to ransom” by also refusing to work on Boxing Day?

Written by Darryl

24 December, 2010 at 12:17 am

Greenwich’s red light zone could get relief

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Greenwich’s most pointless set of traffic lights could be finally coming down, 10 years after they started to disrupt journeys to and from North Greenwich. The maddening set of lights outside the Pilot Inn, which stop buses on the peninsula’s dedicated busway, was raised in Wednesday night’s meeting of Greenwich Council.

Kidbrooke with Hornfair councillor Graeme Coombes asked if the lights “serve any useful purpose”. “Bearing in mind the minimal amount of traffic turning into the Pilot Inn, especially during the morning rush hour, would it not be better to find an alternative traffic measure at this junction, so that buses travelling to North Greenwich aren’t left sitting at a red light, when there is, more often than not, no traffic turning into or out of the Pilot Inn,” the Conservative member added.

Replying for the council, deputy leader Peter Brooks said officials from the council and those from TfL were “reviewing the junctions within Greenwich Millennium Village as part of a safety investigation”. “This will include the Pilot Inn junction,” he continued in a written reply.

In later exchanges, Cllr Coombes called the lights “the worst example of some dodgy and ill-thought out street furniture” in the area. “I think we’re at harmony on these lights,” Labour’s Cllr Brooks said.

The lights are a legacy of the cock-up which is what used to be called the Millennium Busway and is now called the Pilot Busway – it was built for guided buses to serve the Millennium Dome (the single-deckers that used to work the 486 and its much-missed M1 predecessor). Unfortunately, the guided buses kept crashing, so the delicately-paved busway was tarmaced over and regular buses sent up and down it instead. What’s really needed is a full review of how buses go into and out of North Greenwich – they’re badly disrupted by gig traffic at the Dome, and a year doesn’t seem to go by without a temporary closure of the bus station.

But with a chance of a change outside the Pilot, who knows what might happen? Tell ‘em what you think, and hopefully we’ll all get quicker journeys to and from North Greenwich sooner or later.

(Thanks to Rob at greenwich.co.uk for letting me use his photo above.)

Written by Darryl

26 February, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Oyster PAYG on National Rail – some details

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Thanks to the London Reconnections blog (and to Boris Watch for pointing it out), here’s some details on what to expect when Oyster pay-as-you-go comes to south-east London’s mainline railways. It’s scheduled to begin from 2 January, to coincide with the 2010 fare changes, although this has still to be confirmed. Here is a document from the Greater London Authority asking the mayor to approve those fare changes, which includes some of the details of how it will work, and the proposed fares.

Basically, there’ll be four sets of fares. At the moment, there’s two sets of fares in operation – one for the Tube and DLR, and one for TFL Rail (London Overground). From January, there’ll be two more – Train Company fares, and Train/TfL fares.

The Train Company fares will affect most SE London travellers – so here’s what you can expect to pay:

oysterpayg

Zones 7, 8, 9, W and G don’t apply to us here in south-east London for these journeys – it’s just the 1-6 we need to worry about here.

So if you’re travelling from Charlton, Blackheath, Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, or any other zone 3 station to central London, that’s £2.60 to you in the rush hour, and £2 at other times. That compares with £2.70 or £2.40 for the same three-zone journey by London Underground. It also means that travelling by train will be cheaper than taking the bus to North Greenwich and taking the Tube (which will cost £3.50 or £3 for a single bus ride and a two-zone Tube ride).

From Greenwich or Lewisham, in zone 2, taking the train will also be cheaper than getting the DLR (£2.10 vs £2.30 in the rush hour, £1.70 vs £1.80 off-peak).

From Woolwich Arsenal, stuck in zone 4, the rush-hour train fare will be the same as that on the DLR – £3.10. At all other times, it’ll be slightly cheaper – £2.30 against £2.40 for the DLR equivalent.

If you’re going to use the Tube/DLR on your travels – say, my old commute from Charlton to White City, then this table will apply to you – the train/TfL fares.

oysterpayg2

If you travel through Zone 1, you’ll be charged an extra £1.10 on your fare. But if you don’t, then your fare will stay the same. So Charlton to West India Quay DLR, via Greenwich, will cost the same as Charlton to Deptford by train. (It’s unclear whether these fares will apply for journeys which use the new East London Line, due to open in May and which will have a Zone 1 stop at Shoreditch High Street – I would assume they will, though, since despite being part of the National Rail network, it’ll be a TfL Rail line. Worth watching if you plan to travel up to Hoxton or Highbury.)

Oyster cards currently have a daily cap on them – set at 50p below the day travelcard rate. From January, this cap will be the same as the day travelcard. Here’s next year’s day travelcard prices – the steep jump between zone 2 and zone 3 stays in place, sadly.

oysterpayg3

So travellers from Lewisham, Deptford, Greenwich and North Greenwich travelling into central London will pay a maximum of £7.20/day (£5.60 off peak), while us zone 3 passengers will pay £8.60 at most (£6.30 off peak from both zones 3 and 4). Using the overloaded bus service to North Greenwich Tube to get a cheaper fare isn’t going to go out of fashion just yet, especially for rush hour passengers from Woolwich Arsenal and beyond who’ll want to avoid a hefty £10 daily charge from zone 4.

There’s more details in the GLA document, which includes child fares and Travelcard prices, and the TfL Rail fares that’ll apply on the new East London line from Brockley and New Cross Gate. Some health warnings apply here – these haven’t been officially confirmed yet, and there could be errors in the information, so these figures are subject to change. There’s also been talk of a daft-looking idea of Travelcard users having to load an “Oyster extension permit” onto their cards before using mainline services outside their zones, but that’s not been confirmed either. But hopefully this gives you an early idea of how the scheme will work.

One final point of interest is in those extra zones. 7, 8 and 9 go out into Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire; while Zone W is Watford Junction, where Oyster cards can also be used at a different rate.

But Zone G is the area around Grays, Essex – where c2c trains will be accepting Oyster cards to Chafford Hundred, the nearest station to Lakeside Shopping Centre. A smart idea to tempt Londoners onto trains and out of their cars.

But south of the river, though, there’s no sign of any such concession from Southeastern, which is grudgingly accepting Oyster as it is, on its trains to Greenhithe, the nearest stop to Bluewater. A terrible shame, and an indication of where Southeastern’s priorities really lie.

(LATER: Boris Watch has some comment and some graphs to show how, if you live in outer London and have no Tube, this may not be a good thing.)

(MUCH LATER: London Reconnections explains the nonsense of Oyster Extension Permits.)

It was 10 years ago today…

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May 14, 1999. Mean anything to you? Next time you travel in and out of North Greenwich station, take a peek at the plaque on the wall. The Jubilee Line extension is 10 years old today. Now overcrowded and struggling to cope with the huge expansion at Canary Wharf in that time, it feels as if it’s been with us forever, like an unsightly mole. But the recent series of closures (to upgrade the signalling) have showed just how vital the line has become to this part of south-east London – for having to rely on mainline trains, and their absurdly early close-down times, feels like being grounded by an angry parent for something you haven’t done.

To make matters worse, the mainline trains were being run by Connex at the time and were woefully unreliable – a matter only fixed when the government belatedly took its franchise away four years later and it was run by state-backed troubleshooters for a time. I lived in Greenwich at the time, and immediately switched to the Jubilee Line, for even though going via Stratford (the link via central London hadn’t been opened yet) would add a few minutes to my journey, it was pretty much reliable in those very early days. In fact, I often used to travel to work via the East End anyway – 108 bus through the tunnel, Tube from Bromley-by-Bow.

North GreenwichBut then one day the 108 was diverted to run via the building site which was the Millennium Dome and North Greenwich station, and for months passengers wasted time on a pointless diversion past a stop they weren’t allowed to get off at. It was a frustrating time – with the trains often packed up, the alternative route was now being toyed with just to suit a big government building site. Finally, things changed and we were allowed to see just what was inside this mysterious glass building next to the Dome.

Do I remember my first time? Of course I do. The line opened with little fanfare on a Friday afternoon – so I travelled home from work via Stratford. There were only a few genuine commuters on that first run – plenty were just transport enthusiasts and curious locals, riding up and down the line. I still remember my first impression of North Greenwich station – like an aquarium. Not just because most people were looking around, open-mouthed, at this huge cavernous space that’d been built under our noses, but its deep blue tiles made me think it was just like a giant fish tank. The futuristic design blended with optimism about the impending millennium – and the changes the Dome was supposed to bring to the area – to create a feeling that finally, we’d been put on the map, and moaning about transport was going to be a thing of the past.

The novelty of getting from Stratford to Greenwich in just a few minutes didn’t seem to wear off for months. The line was open for the weekend to allow people to take a look, then it resumed a daytime-only, weekday-only, North Greenwich to Stratford shuttle for a couple of months. It seemed a bit odd rushing back to Stratford for a last train which departed around 8pm.

Gradually, during 1999, the line was extended. First to Bermondsey, allowing us to see the extension’s other mega-station at Canary Wharf. Buses started to be extended to serve the new Tube. And the question kept being asked. Will it be open in time for the millennium? It finally was – a few weeks before Christmas, the two ends of the Jubilee were joined up, the old Charing Cross terminal was closed and once Westminster station belatedly opened, the line as we know it was with us.

That first year of the full extension provided the easiest commuting experiences of my life – with frequent, fast buses laid on from Charlton station to the Dome, it was easy to tumble out of bed, get on a bus, and five minutes later be sat in a seat on the Tube. The line wasn’t always reliable – I clocked up about £60 in refunds and had to learn the manual way to open the platform doors. But it was still better than being mucked around by Connex, and at least the Underground said sorry. The queues for the M1 bus, with their “welcome to the Millennium Transit service, route M1 – the next stop is at the Dome” announcements, snaked past Charlton station – the buses were a flop in terms of getting visitors to the Dome, but a success in aiding commuters.

But then, after that, it all went downhill. Under pressure from the press, who mocked it as a “ghost bus”, the M1 was withdrawn, despite the thousands of passengers who politely lined up to get on the buses. The replacement, route 486, was inadequate even for the numbers who used it from Charlton, never mind those getting on nearer Shooters Hill and Welling. Even now, there isn’t enough capacity on buses from Charlton to North Greenwich. Using the Jubilee Line extension to get to work became a stressful experience. Getting home was even worse. After about a year, I gave up and returned to using the trains. I wasn’t the only one.

Outside the rush hours, though, the Jubilee Line has given this part of south-east London greater freedom, transforming the quality of many people’s lives. Suddenly a part of London has been invented in many people’s minds called “North Greenwich” (strictly speaking, that’s an archaic name of the tip of the Isle of Dogs – the peninsula was home to East Greenwich Gas Works). No more milling around Charing Cross station, or trying to predict how long a train will be on the windswept platforms of London Bridge, or racing up escalators and vaulting ticket gates to make a “late” train at 11.40pm. And it continues to get busier. In 2003, 7.3 million journeys started or ended at North Greenwich. Last year, that figure was 17.7 million. And that figure can still only grow. Keeping up with that demand – even with new signals which should allow for more frequent trains – is going to be a challenge. It could be a bumpier ride yet.

Want to see what’s inside the old Charing Cross station? Here’s a series of Flickr photos taken last month

Written by Darryl

14 May, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Docklands Light Railway to Woolwich opens next month

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Woolwich Arsenal DLR Coming SoonYou wait ages for a spoddy transport post and three come at once… the long-awaited extension of the Docklands Light Railway to Woolwich Arsenal will open on 10 January, according to TfL papers seen by transport blog London Reconnections.

Shame people who use it will be stung by it being in Zone 4, even though the equivalent stations north of the river are in Zone 3. I imagine Southeastern didn’t want to give up all that lovely money from fares they sometimes make an effort to collect at Woolwich Arsenal. I wonder if this will take some of the insane pressure off North Greenwich Jubilee line – and the 161 and 472 buses that run to it – station in the mornings? Or will people simply opt for the cheaper choice (using North Greenwich only requires a zone 2 ticket) of travelling as they do now?

“The authorities are trying to turn Woolwich into the new Greenwich. That’s not going to happen overnight but it could well happen. There is already a more cosmopolitan feel…” Already estate agents are licking their lips.

(Woolwich Arsenal Coming Soon from Bloo Phoenix’s Flickr photos.)

Written by Darryl

15 December, 2008 at 5:55 pm

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