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.
Amid the row over Greenwich Council’s dumb Bridge The Gap campaign, a little opportunity to improve cross-river links is looking set to be squandered. Ever one to leap on board a passing bandwagon, this website is today launching an “all-out” campaign to extend the 108 bus to the Olympic Park.
You what? I’ll explain. Transport for London’s launched a consultation on which buses should run into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park when people start moving in later this year. It suggests seven services, including a night bus, should run into the park.
All well and good. But one’s missing. Why can’t we have a bus from south of the river to the Olympic Stadium?
The 108 is one of London’s oldest bus routes – it’ll celebrate its centenary in March next year. In 1930, it schlepped all the way from Clapton to Crystal Palace, charging a shilling if you were mad enough to want to ride all the way, but there was never long to wait – double-decker buses ran every three and a half minutes through the Blackwall Tunnel back in those days.
The route’s shrunk, grown, shrunk again, gone 24-hours (a lifesaver) and been tweaked since – the double deckers vanished in the late 1960s, but the Stratford to Lewisham service has been the sole bus service through the tunnel for decades. For many years, it was the only public transport link across the Thames east of Rotherhithe. Back then, it actually wasn’t a bad service, if the tunnel was behaving itself – in the mid-90s, when I lived in Greenwich and went to college in Clerkenwell, it only took 20 minutes or so to get me to Bromley-by-Bow station so I could get a Tube to Farringdon; making it pretty much the equal of taking the train.
But while other transport links have got better, the poor old 108’s been left in the shadows – an enforced diversion around the Millennium Dome building site months before North Greenwich station opened ruined it as a commuting route to anywhere but North Greenwich, but despite the idiotic transport arrangements around the Dome, it still carries healthy numbers through the tunnel each day. Remember, it’s a damn sight cheaper than the Tube.
I’ve heard loads of horror stories of endless waits for people in Blackheath who depend on it for travel to North Greenwich – they desperately need extra buses, but instead those get thrown into the schedule late at night for chucking out time at the O2. It’s time for someone with felt pens and a bus map to get to work and rearrange matters – but so far, there’s no sign of progress.
But there’s one change to the 108 that could gives us a real – yes – Olympic legacy, and might also improve the service. Tweaking the end point so it ran into the Olympic Park, rather than Stratford bus station, would still enable it to serve Westfield and the massive transport interchange there; but would also get it away from the awful traffic in Stratford, bring a 24-hour bus service from south of the river to the Olympic Park, and help us get to and from events there.
It’s a change that’d cost very little, but would make the regenerated Olympic Park feel a bit closer to us in an area that’s not been left with many physical reminders of the Olympics (especially once the mud goes).
Obviously, I’ll now be arranging a photoshoot with various pub landlords, kebab house magnates and the Stratford Westfield Massage Angels as part of my “all out” campaign to bridge this gap, but in the meantime, if you want to suggest it to TfL, head to its consultation page – it closes on 22 February.
I was lucky enough to get to see a rehearsal for Friday’s Olympics opening ceremony last night. All I can say is… it’s going to be a show this city and this country can be proud of. Danny Boyle and his army of volunteers have done a fine job.
The Olympic Stadium’s incredible and the park is spectacular, although the Orbit sculpture doesn’t look any better close up. Watch out for exorbitant food and drink prices and long queues, but the motif of London 2012 may just be the good-humoured members of the military – far better ambassadors for our country than any outsourced security jokers could ever hope to be.
Also at the ceremony rehearsal were a number of Greenwich councillors – the same ones who are cutting their meeting short tonight and avoiding questions because “of the Olympics”. They were offered tickets as a “reward”, I’m told.
Heading home was a bit of a trauma, though – the Central Line being down provided an early test for London’s capability to deal with big crowds and transport troubles. Crowds were diverted towards West Ham station to pick up the District line or rail services to Fenchurch Street, but that didn’t stop a big bottleneck building up inside Westfield, on the way to Stratford station.
But I turned round, walked back through the shopping centre, and got a seat straight away on the Docklands Light Railway from Stratford International instead. (Things weren’t much fun for those waiting for the high-speed trains to St Pancras and Kent, mind.)
It dawned on me that the cable car could be a useful way to avoid he Jubilee Line crowds… except that it shut two hours earlier at 9pm (11pm during the Olympics). In the end, the Jubilee Line from Canning Town wasn’t too bad.
So, that’s your first Olympic travel pro-tip – if you’re travelling from the Olympic Park, use the DLR from Stratford International.
Which got me thinking – have you got any similar pro-tips for getting around during the Games? Obviously we face massive disruption by road and rail, but do you have any ideas for ways around it? It’s worth sharing them, particularly as the Get Ahead of the Games campaign has been lamentable, to say the least.
One thing that’s worth noting is that North Greenwich Tube isn’t due to be too busy during morning rush hours, although progress may be slow later in the day. Buses up there can be awful, though – walking will at least guarantee a stress-free trip there, if you live close enough. It’s a useful place to cycle to, as well.
It goes against TfL advice, but with patience, it may well be your best bet. And it’s not as if we’ve been left with any other option, except for ones which charge extra like the river boats or cable car.
Avoiding London Bridge station (particularly next Monday) is also a good idea, although to be honest it’s one to avoid at the best of times anyway… as for other train disruption, local buses are taking Southeastern train tickets to compensate for the loss of services around Deptford, Greenwich and Woolwich.
New Cross-bound trains on London Overground tend to be quieter than those heading to New Cross Gate, providing a decent alternative route to west Greenwich and Deptford, or to 53 and 177 buses, while it’s surprisingly quick to get a 380 bus between Lewisham station and Blackheath or Charlton – and the walk’s not bad, either.
Plus there’s trains from Victoria to Lewisham, Blackheath and Kidbrooke if you find traditional routes too much of a squeeze.
Those are all the ones I can think of. If you have a useful tip to share, feel free…
(There’s a similar thread over on Brockley Central, too.)
The doors fling open today on Stratford City’s newest attraction, a huge casino within the shiny shopping centre next to the Olympic Park. Aspers Stratford City will be the UK’s biggest, with 40 gaming tables, a 150-seat poker room, 150 slot machines and 92 electronic gaming terminals. Here’s a surprise – the Evening Standard fawning over the rich man who owns it.
If Greenwich Council and one of the world’s richest businessmen had their way, though, all this – and more – would already be up and running inside the Dome. A casino was a central part of the business plan for what became the O2 – and the failure of that plan is still being felt nearly five years on.
Here’s the entrance to the O2 arena, seen last week during the ATP tennis finals. The big “Sky Backstage” hoarding marks the space where the casino would have been. The plan was to build a “regional casino” (or “super casino”) here, which could play host to up to 1,250 slot machines. The casino plans were part of the Tony Blair government’s liberalisation of gambling laws. Originally, eight were to have been built nationwide, but this was whittled down to just the one.
Local councils were invited to bid to play host to super casinos, and Greenwich was among eight shortlisted. The only other London bidder, Brent Council, had Wembley Stadium in mind, but pulled out at the final stage. But Newham Council was bidding for something smaller – a “large casino”, of up to 150 slot machines.
Greenwich’s bid was controversial and deeply divisive – a foretaste of the rows to come over the Olympics in Greenwich Park. A campaign group, South East London Against The Casino, was formed, claiming three-quarters of locals were against and it would bring crime and local youngsters into gambling. A report commissioned by PriceWaterhouse Coopers for the council – which it initially refused to make public – said “close proximity to casinos increases the prevalence of problem gambling”.
It wasn’t just Greenwich Council that wanted the super-casino, though. Then-mayor Ken Livingstone, the Greenwich Society and the local chamber of commerce, were all for it, claiming it would help regenerate the area. It had that look of a “done deal” that local cynics have grown used to – not least when it emerged deputy prime minister John Prescott had stayed at the Colorado ranch of Philip Anschutz, the billionaire behind Dome owners AEG. Another scandal erupted when AEG were caught out claiming local religious groups were behind the casino – they most certainly weren’t.
With claims that the council and AEG – never mind senior national politicians – had far too close a relationship, the whole thing was causing an unholy stink. The much-missed Greenwich Watch’s archive of stories – including its exclusive on the “faked” support from local churches – on it is well worth reading.
But the bid continued, and by January 2007, it was widely believed the casino would go to either Greenwich or Blackpool. Neither got it – the bid was won by Manchester, which planned to build it at Eastlands, home of Manchester City’s stadium. It was never built, though – Gordon Brown cancelled the scheme after becoming prime minister.
Over the water, things were more successful. Newham won its bid for a “large casino”, and that’s the same one that opens today at Stratford City, a short hop on the Tube from North Greenwich.
So, five years on, what are we left with? That big gap inside the O2 and a gaming college at The Valley are the legacy of Greenwich’s little flutter on having a casino. There was a section buried deep in the council’s website devoted to Freedom of Information requests about the scheme and the associated PwC report, although that vanished in the recent revamp of the site.
The failure still echoes around the O2, though. Before 2007, AEG planned two hotels for the Dome site, with dreams of turning the tip of the Peninsula into what seemed like a mini-Las Vegas. At the end of 2011, work has yet to begin on the one hotel given planning permission earlier this year.
While the O2 arena itself has been an undoubted success, the “entertainment avenue” next to it hasn’t been such a hot destination. Film premieres on the windy peninsula have been few and far between. Years of Jubilee Line disruptions have dented its appeal to the rest of London. Despite being on a clutch of bus routes, this collection of suburban chain bars and eateries under a mucky roof remains difficult to reach from the suburbs without a car. It’s recently gained a private members’ club but apart from after-show parties, why on earth would anyone want to join an exclusive venue there?
To be fair, it is busy at weekends, but has the unwanted prize of the highest concentration of alcohol-related crime in Greenwich borough.
It all feels a bit like a highly-fortified Bluewater but without the shops. But AEG is now planning to fix that – by turning the casino space into a shopping centre. Early papers submitted to Greenwich planners propose a “retail outlet village” inside the O2, stretching around the southern side of the Dome. Could it work as a shopping centre? Well, the Westfield Stratford City horse has bolted, and Canary Wharf’s malls have steadily built up over the years. But some shops would provide a reason to linger in the Dome, and maybe get a bite to eat too. Full details will no doubt hit the Greenwich planning desk soon.
But until the rest of the peninsula is built up – and that’s more than a decade off yet – it’s unlikely a shopping centre will bring the windfall for AEG – and possibly further investment in the area – that a casino could have done. Then again, considering the amount of alcohol-related crime there, perhaps we dodged a bullet by not having a mini-Vegas by the Blackwall Tunnel. Whatever your view, the O2 casino is one of the great local “what ifs” of our time.
Lots of people out and about yesterday indulging their inner geek on the Docklands Light Railway’s long-awaited new extension. Tourists hunting for Shakespeare at Stratford can now be joined by those searching for the Beatles at Abbey Road in getting completely lost in the back streets of West Ham.
I’d love Newham Council to put a zebra crossing outside Abbey Road station.
Most of it isn’t strictly a new line – it’s the old North London Line from Canning Town to Stratford with a couple of new stations added and an old one brought back to life. The new bit is the real reason why it’s here, though. Turn left out of the station and the Olympic athletes’ village is under construction. Turn right, and there’s Westfield Stratford City, which opens on 13 September.
So, with a direct line from Woolwich Arsenal to the new shopping centre, how is Transport for London aiming to take pressure off the Blackwall Tunnel and encouraging shoppers to take the DLR across the Thames to Stratford City?
By restricting the direct Woolwich-Stratford service to rush hour, unfortunately. Weekends and during the rest of the day, the service runs to and from Beckton, serving the University of East London and ExCel, which is where DLR thinks the trains are needed.
I can’t help thinking the lack of an all-day service on both branches, particularly from Woolwich, is going to be proved a mistake – there’s going to be a lot of demand for Westfield Stratford City, and a lot of people who won’t fancy dragging bags up and down the grim interchange at Canning Town. Plus experience in Shepherds Bush shows that a Westfield means traffic gridlock – so why not get people to take the train from day one?
Nobody’s reading the internet today because it’s so nice outside, but in case you’re stuck inside, I did a thing for Londonist about being a new cyclist, and how it doesn’t have to be about dicing with death on A-roads. It can be if you want it to be, but I like a quiet life.
Above is my “new” bike – I actually bought it in January, and it’s served me very well so far. I rode it home from Tottenham the other day, down through Walthamstow and Hackney Marshes and through the Olympic Park. With the Greenwich Foot Tunnel refurbishment dragging on, the new lifts can’t come soon enough, it’s a tight squeeze on the stairs now the tourist season has arrived…
A date’s finally been set for the long-awaited boost in the Docklands Light Railway service from Woolwich Arsenal – with the opening of the network’s new branch to Stratford International now due on 24 February.
London City Airport chief executive Richard Gooding let slip the date in an interview with the Travelmole website. The move should see the already-packed two-year-old service from Woolwich Arsenal to Bank joined by trains to Canning Town, Star Lane, West Ham, Abbey Road, Stratford High Street, Stratford and Stratford International, using the old North London Line route.
This won’t mean more direct trains to the City, but it’ll mean more opportunities to change to Jubilee Line, Central Line and mainline trains to central London and beyond, as well as the high-speed services to Kent from Stratford International and other rail routes to Essex and Hertfordshire.
(Thanks to @markvauxhall for the tip-off.)