Tagged: transport for london

Fix the 53: Petition demands bus runs to Whitehall once again

A 53 to Lambeth North
Back in January, this website noted the sudden cut to bus route 53 caused by roadworks by Westminster Bridge. The service stopped running the full length of its route to Whitehall, depriving many local workers, from cleaners to civil servants, of their usual route to central London.

The diggers have moved away from Bridge Street, but initial dates for the restoration of service in March and then April have been missed. Transport for London blames new works at the Elephant & Castle for continuing to stop the service at Lambeth North. However, no other bus through the Elephant is suffering such a severe cut in service.

Local politicians have been strangely silent on the matter – at least in public – although I do know Woolwich Common’s Labour councillor David Gardner has raised the issue with Transport for London, citing the number of low-paid workers who use the bus.

Now the Charlton Society (declaration of interest: I’m on its committee) has launched a petition to get the route back to is full strength once again. To sign it, visit Change.org.

Save the Woolwich Ferry: Thousands sign new petition

Over 3,800 people have signed a petition demanding Transport for London saves the Woolwich Ferry, which is threatened by its new river crossing proposals.

Greenwich Council supported closing the ferry in its submission on a planned new road bridge at Gallions Reach, and TfL has recently canvassed opinions on whether or not the 50-year-old vessels and pontoons should be replaced with new ships and structures.

Notably, in publicising the recent consultation into the Silvertown Tunnel, TfL claimed those who backed a revamped Woolwich Ferry were backing a new river crossing, exaggerating support for the transport authority’s new road plans.

Closing the crossing would remove the problems of lorries queuing at the ferry approaches in Woolwich and North Woolwich and open up more riverside land for development.

But regardless of the flaws or merits in TfL’s road crossing plans, closing the Woolwich Ferry would send more HGVs to the Blackwall Tunnel (and potentially a Silvertown Tunnel, which TfL admits would lead to a 20% increase in traffic on its approaches) – it would certainly be simpler for lorries to reach there than any new bridge at Gallions Reach – and would remove an alternative option for crossing the Thames.

Closing the ferry would also remove a part of the history of Woolwich – TfL and its predecessors have been legally obliged to provide a free ferry here since 1889, on the basis that Woolwich taxpayers (on both sides of the river) had paid for free crossings for west London.

Local politicians have generally kept their support for the ferry’s closure quiet – it would have shut two years ago if Ken Livingstone’s Thames Gateway Bridge had been built.

Any move to shut (or charge for) the ferry would need to be endorsed by parliament, so I wonder if any of Greenwich & Woolwich’s general election candidates will back the Save the Woolwich Ferry campaign?

Ikea Greenwich: Campaigners switch to damage limitation

Peartree Way, 3 November 2013
Campaigners against a planned Ikea in east Greenwich have stepped back from taking legal action over the proposed development after being advised they would be unlikely to win.

Five Greenwich councillors, including current leader Denise Hyland, defied local opposition to approve outline plans for the store just under a year ago, a choice which was later endorsed by London mayor Boris Johnson.

The decision was made just four months after plans for the store – to replace the current “eco-friendly” Sainsbury’s store, which is moving half-a-mile down Woolwich Road to Charlton – were first made public.

Greenwich Council talks up Ikea’s claims that the development will bring 400 jobs, but neighbours say the store will add to already-high levels of congestion and air pollution around the Blackwall Tunnel approach and Woolwich Road.

The No Ikea Greenwich campaign had hoped to force a judicial review of the approval, which had only been finalised by planning officers late last year after the Government temporarily halted the process. (Here’s the council’s decision notice.)

But now the campaign has received legal advice telling it that since Transport for London has agreed with Ikea’s claim that the development will not add any more traffic to the area, that any action is unlikely to succeed.

It says on its Facebook page:

“We’re really sorry it’s taken so long to post and doubly sorry, because our excellent barrister has advised us against a legal challenge. This is mainly because TfL has okayed Ikea’s transport assessment (that shows Ikea will have a neutral effect on the traffic). So even if we were to wheel out another transport expert that might disagree, it would come down to two disagreeing experts.”

TfL meekly going along with Ikea’s assessment is something that should alarm people across London, especially considering its role in promoting the Silvertown Tunnel, potentially funnelling more traffic from east and central London to east Greenwich. The wider implications of Greenwich’s decision was something Tower Hamlets Council woke up to last autumn, although by then it was too late.

The group isn’t completely ruling out legal action if the store gets built and fails to live up to promises, and is holding onto money it’s raised so far as a “future fighting fund”.

But for now, it looks like neighbours and others are left to pick up the pieces from one of the most notorious planning decisions in recent Greenwich history.

Ikea planning application

Ikea has recently been meeting community groups – including the new East Greenwich Residents’ Association, Charlton Society, Westcombe Society and Charlton Central Residents’ Association ahead of submitting a detailed planning application.

It also recently met Matt Pennycook, Labour’s general election candidate for Greenwich & Woolwich, along with current MP Nick Raynsford. Pennycook wrote a short piece for Greenwich.co.uk about his experiences.

“We made clear that Ikea Greenwich must not be a standard out-of-town blue shed but instead needs to be a sustainable, public-transport friendly building that is appropriate to its unique setting.

We made clear to Ikea that the local community will want to see a store design that:

– Is a worthy replacement, both aesthetically and in terms of sustainability, for Paul Hinkin’s Sainsbury’s eco store;

– Is designed in such a way and with the relevant accompanying features (for example cargo bikes and bike trailers for locals that purchase bulky goods) to actively promote the levels of public transport use that we will need to see if Ikea’s optimistic transport assessments are to be realised;

– Sets extremely high sustainability standards (ie, it cannot simply be an Ecobling powered box) and;

– Can be adapted to changing circumstances.

Something, in short, that is more akin to Ikea Hamburg Altona than Ikea Croydon.”

On your bike: Ikea advertises cargo cycle deliveries from its Altona store (photo: Chris Taylor)

On your bike: Ikea advertises cargo cycle deliveries from its Altona store (photo: Chris Taylor)

Hamburg Altona? Last summer, Ikea opened its first “inner-city” store in Germany, aimed at public transport users, walkers and cyclists – although it still has 730 car parking spaces. The Altona store is aiming to keep drivers down to 50% of its customers; the Greenwich store (with a 1,000-space car park shared with B&Q and the Odeon) is aiming for 65%.

If Greenwich policymakers want to hop over the North Sea to see what it’s all about, nobody in their right mind should begrudge them the trip. It’d be better value than some of the things the council spends its cash on.

Pennycook also did something very unusual for a Greenwich politician – he revealed the Section 106 agreement which outlines what Ikea will have to do for its planning permission.

– £750,000 to fund travel plan improvements that will be reviewed on an annual basis over five years by an independent assessor;

– £500,000 for improvements to public transport namely the provision of extra buses to serve the development, and the upgrade of two bus stops adjacent to it;

– £115,000 for enhancements to the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park including the improvement of the range of water bodies and linked habitats within the Park, enhancement of ponds and ditches and the provision of classroom facilities;

– £243,000 for measures associated with the Borough’s Air Quality Action Plan;

– £486,000 for the provision of local skills and training which will include contributions towards training as part of the Greenwich Local Labour and Construction (GLLaB) project;

– Local highway and junction improvements including new and improved signage;

– The promotion of travel by sustainable modes of travel for staff and customers of Ikea travelling to and from the development;

– £24,000 for the provision of public art on and around the development;

– The development of a car park management plan to tighten up what has been, until now, pretty much a free-for-all for commuters and visitors to the O2 arena.

While Ikea’s refusing to budge on the one thing that it could cut on car use – its delivery charges, which start at £35 for large items, Pennycook’s “cautiously optimistic” about coming out with a decent result for the area.

This is going to need Greenwich Council to start playing hardball with a company it bent over backwards for at the beginning of last year. That’s not impossible.

But what happens from here will need to be a great deal more transparent than the process followed a year ago, the pungent stink from which has yet to go away. Ikea’s not yet communicating directly with residents, but if you have strong views, get in touch (and get involved) with those community groups, and bend your local councillors’ ears.

(See past stories about Ikea Greenwich.)

Whitehall cut – TfL takes temporary axe to route 53

53 at New Cross Gate, 15 January 2015

The 53. Everybody loves the 53. It finds the parts of south-east London other links with the centre of town can’t reach – even if it isn’t allowed too near any fun spots any more (Routemasters ran to Camden until 1988, it last reached Oxford Circus in 2003).

The Plumstead to Whitehall service is also a vital connection for those who can’t or won’t pay expensive rail fares – from London’s army of service workers to those who simply appreciate a door-to-door connection with a view from the window.

It’s these people who’ve borne the brunt of fare rises under the current mayor – up from 90p in 2008 to £1.50 today. And for them, it’s about to get worse still. Travelling on the 53 yesterday, I noticed this message…

“From 17th Jan, route 53 will terminate at Lambeth North.”

Being cut to Lambeth North? From Saturday? No consultation, no notice, no explanation? I fired off a few tweets to see if anyone could work out what was going on.

It turns out things aren’t as bad as the scrolling message would indicate – the cut is a temporary one to facilitate roadworks at Parliament Square. I’m indebted to transport expert Paul Corfield, who passed on this from TfL this morning:

BRIDGE STREET/PARLIAMENT STREET, SW1 ROUTE 53: from 0415 Saturday 17th of January until Sunday 29th March, buses terminate and start at Lambeth Palace due to closure of Bridge Street SW1 for utilities work and carriageway resurfacing.

It’d nice if TfL had given us a bit more warning, of course, and maybe even talked it over with local representatives. At least it’s a temporary cut, but it’s going to be a painful one for many – especially with other connections with central London in turmoil.

But it’s worth watching this like a hawk. London Transport tried to cut the 53 back to the Elephant & Castle in the late 1990s, arguing that the new Jubilee Line extension meant it was no longer needed. I’m sure TfL would love to try that again if it knew it could get away with it. It helped that back then, local MP Nick Raynsford was a regular on the 53, as it provided a near-door to door link from his home to Parliament. In the end, express buses were axed – heaven knows they’d be useful now.

Indeed, the often-packed 53 really needs a modern-day champion. Frequencies were cut when the 453 was introduced in 2003 and haven’t been improved since, with successive mayors concentrating on the other service. The big groups of passengers changing from the 453 to the 53 at Deptford Bridge tell their own story.

So the news isn’t as bad as it first appears. But if you value a bus to central London, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

5.25pm update: Thanks to Neil for sharing the email he had from TfL in the comments below – the curtailment won’t apply overnight, so from midnight to 6am buses will still depart from Whitehall. The arrangements, worryingly, are “until further notice”.

Petition launched to move Woolwich Arsenal to Zone 3

A petition’s been launched to ask Transport for London to move Woolwich Arsenal station from zone 4 to zone 3. It’s currently approaching 250 signatures….

“As the opening of Crossrail gets closer and closer, and as the regeneration of Woolwich gains momentum, we think it’s important to help the area further benefit from all these positive changes. The number of commuters is growing and this trend is only going to continue.

“Moving Woolwich Arsenal station from 4 to zone 3 will help make Woolwich even more attractive and slightly less expensive for workers commuting west. There are talks of moving Stratford, a stone’s throws from Woolwich, into zone 2. Also Battersea is poised to be moved from zone 2 to zone 1. Gallions Reach, just north of the river and further east than Woolwich, is already in zone 3.”

I wrote about the absurdity of Woolwich being in zone 4 back in 2010, travelling out to leafy Chigwell, Essex, which is also in zone 4. Last week it was announced that Stratford station is being moved to the boundary of zones 2 and 3 to “boost regeneration” – a similar move would put Woolwich Arsenal on the boundary of zones 3 and 4, so passengers travelling from the east wouldn’t lose out.

Of course, there’s a cost to it and the popularity of the Docklands Light Railway from Woolwich would seem to indicate that the market can bear costly zone 4 fares – but a symbolic change could help attract travel *to* Woolwich, rather than from it.

(There’s a wider argument that London’s fare zones, which date back to 1983 and predate the development of Canary Wharf, need a complete overhaul as perceptions of “central London” have changed over the years – but that seems to be something nobody dare touch.)

It’s a simple change that could end up paying for itself over time if it boosts perceptions of Woolwich – but sadly, local politicians seem to have much more time obsessing over the Thames Clippers service to Berkeley Homes’ Royal Arsenal development instead.

Beyond the Silvertown Tunnel: TfL eyes Ringway road revival

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

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

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

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

London Plan alterations

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

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

RTF March 2014 report

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

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

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

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

Ringway 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michele Dix TfL presentation

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Ringways compared with orbital tunnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

108 bus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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