The road lobby’s getting itchy. Monday saw the London Chamber of Commerce publish a new design for the road bridge it’s desperate to see built between Thamesmead and Beckton. The Evening Standard obligingly spun it as a “bicycle-friendly” bridge, because it has a pedestrian and cycle lane beneath the dual carriageway taking it across the windy Thames. Even the BBC fell for it, The Guardian’s architecture writer piled in with another sycophantic piece, proving that if you come up with a pretty picture of something and call it “bike-friendly”, you can flog any old crap in London.
Nobody bothered to ask any questions like how this bridge would fit into the road network, how it’d be paid for, what effect it’d have on the area, or whether there were any better ideas than digging up a road scheme that’s been around since the 1940s.
All the talk is of supposed benefits to “east London” – so let’s see the effect on south-east London…
This map shows the projected traffic impacts of a Gallions Reach bridge, based on a study commissioned for Newham Council last year. The thicker the yellow line, the more traffic. The numbers represent levels of nitrogen dioxide captured in January’s No To Silvertown Tunnel air pollution study. So, going anti-clockwise, there’s a fair chunk of traffic using the only existing infrastructure, the Thamesmead spine road. Then the horrors start – another chunk of traffic using Brampton Road, Bexleyheath, then crossing the A206 to enter a side street – Knee Hill in Abbey Wood, on the Greenwich/Bexley borough border. Here’s how it looks on Google Streetview.
It simply won’t cope. It gets worse, though, with another load of traffic using Wickham Lane in Welling, emerging into Plumstead Common – which is buried under a yellow line – and using the side streets there, principally Griffin Road, the last leg of the 53 bus route, to reach the one-way system at Plumstead station before heading towards Thamesmead.
Quite frankly, the road network simply won’t be able to cope. And that’s before you get to the known phenomena of “induced traffic”, where new roads encourage new journeys by car or existing journeys to be switched to cars, which is the main problem for the Silvertown Tunnel.
So, if the infrastructure doesn’t exist, does it have to be built instead? Much of Plumstead was blighted for years by the threat of the East London River Crossing, linking the North Circular Road with the A2, which would also have carved up Oxleas Woods and Woodlands Farm on its way to Falconwood.
Either way, Plumstead is squarely in the firing line. Greenwich Council claims to have moved its position slightly to acknowledge fears of congestion and pollution, both from here and the Silvertown Tunnel proposals. Here’s the Greenwich Labour group’s manifesto:
Indeed, the Labour campaign in Shooters Hill was very proud of this, judging by this exchange with Stewart Christie, the Liberal Democrat candidate who created the map above.
Nobody seems to have told their colleagues at City Hall, though.
Some reward for the Labour voters of Plumstead, eh?
Then, one by one, Labour’s mayoral wannabes started coming out in favour. Sadiq Khan called it “exciting” and said it was “desperately needed”. David Lammy called it “interesting” and “new”. “22 road crossings to west of Tower Bridge and two to the east,” parroted Margaret Hodge, ignoring the Dartford crossing and five railway tunnels, two foot tunnels and a cable car. “Looks brilliant”, she added, although for who, she didn’t say.
I wonder what questions they asked about the scheme and their effects? But let’s face it, as for many of London’s politicians of all colours, Plumstead may as well be on Mars. Even assembly member Val Shawcross managed to undermine her pro-cycling credentials by backing a scheme that’s going to flood the streets with more motorised traffic.
So how did the London Labour Party end up falling for this, ending up taking a more extreme view than its Greenwich outpost? To be fair, a bridge at Thamesmead has been Labour policy for some years, but there’ll be many Labour members locally who’ll be furious to see the London Chamber of Commerce scheme – which contains less for public transport than Ken Livingstone’s Thames Gateway Bridge – backed by Labour at City Hall.
Nobody’s suggesting a “do nothing” option. There are many other ways to get Thamesmead properly connected to the rest of London. A DLR extension from Beckton. A rail link from Barking. Yet this isn’t about Thamesmead, this is about a belief that regenerating the Royal Docks requires a new road connection.
Should Plumstead be sacrificed for some imagined benefits north of the river? A fancy design may be enough to impress ambitious politicians, but it won’t disguise the congestion and blight that will be visited on the area. The 2016 mayoral election should have been an easy win for Labour in this part of SE London. Now they’re looking like they’re making things needlessly hard for themselves.
9.20am update: Today marks 138 years since the Plumstead Common riot to protect common land.
This Mirror story made me smile…
A LABOUR MP has called on David Cameron and his millionaire ministers to do their Christmas shopping in Tottenham – to help boost trade after the riots.
David Lammy, MP for the North London borough since 2000, made his appeal in a speech to the Tottenham Traders Partnership.
Of the 29 ministers entitled to attend Cabinet meetings, 23 are believed to be worth more than £1million. Mr Lammy said: “This is a serious moment for Tottenham and it requires serious effort to get us out of here.”
Despite the hypocrisy of the local football club, which is still coveting the Olympic Stadium, there’s some impressive work going on in N17 to bring people’s confidence back to Tottenham. The I Love Tottenham campaign is an inspired way to help bring custom back to the area – getting local people involved, giving out bags and badges as well as putting up banners and flower baskets to deliver the message that this is a vibrant area that could have a bright future if everyone pulls together.
Yes, it helps to have the one of the country’s biggest football clubs on your doorstep, who can supply a much-loved name in Gary Mabbutt to lend a hand. But there’s clearly the will there to pull together and get the wider public involved, even if only by carrying an “I love Tottenham” bag.
I know a couple of people thought my comments on the Woolwich Back To Business week were a bit over the top – but nobody ever revived a district by barking orders at people, or trying to get them to believe in things that haven’t happened.
Tottenham’s been a battered-looking place for as long as I can remember, but Haringey Council’s campaign isn’t pretending things are brilliant – instead, it’s celebrating the people and putting its trust in them to sort things out.
This isn’t about the council getting the place “back to business”, it’s recognising that change can only come from the people. Because if they don’t buy into what you’re doing, you might as well give up.
Tottenham MP David Lammy, who joined Mr Mabbutt on a walk down the High Road to meet traders, said: “I love Tottenham’s vibrancy, its diversity and its sense of fun. We will rise again and I am proud to call Tottenham home.” (more)
In David Lammy, they are lucky enough to have a young (ish), articulate (very) champion for the area. You may not agree with his politics, and he does face some opposition locally, but there’s no doubting that he’s a brilliant advocate for an area he’s obviously passionate about.
If only local politicians in this area had his clout or passion. There’s so much in Woolwich to celebrate – and I suspect many of its residents know little about its history. Greenwich Council needs to let go and trust people, instead of trying to claim credit for everything. Woolwich desperately needs a David Lammy to beat the drum for it – someone who remembers that leading a community isn’t the same as telling it what to believe.
I know you don’t come here to read searing political analysis, but today, you’re going to get it. I saw a reference on Friday to David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, suggesting that the Labour Party might like to hold an open primary to decide its candidate for the next mayoral elections, meaning oiks like me who loathe the Labour party can also chip in with a vote. Having written Lammy off as the kind of spineless yes-man that makes voters drift… sorry, where was I? Anyway, I didn’t think much more about it until the Guardian’s Dave Hill put two and two together, and shouted out FOUR!
Will Lammy be a contender for the Labour nomination? I’d say he’s been giving it a lot of thought, wouldn’t you?
Kind of shows how much of a pickle they’re in, really. Boris Johnson is an intelligent man hobbled by the sad fact that he knows and cares little about how London actually works, but is able to get decent press coverage because he can come up with a witty line or two and generally steers away from controversy. And Labour can’t deal with that. Because while Ken Livingstone could also charm the birds out of the trees, he relishes a row. Even people who don’t like him appreciate his frank speaking. My own feeling is that Ken blew the last mayoral election through a mixture of complacency and an inability to deal with the vicious press campaign against him, and that’ll still haunt him in 2012. I could be wrong, but even it’d be insane of them not to think about the future.
Ken’s other problem was the Labour party. I voted for Ken (second choice) because he’s about as Labour as I am Natural Law Party. To me, the Labour party is a bunch of warmongering, climate-killing cowards, terrified of banks and big business, unwilling to invest in public transport in case it upsets motoring and airline lobbies, and with a pathological aversion to straight talking and honesty. Whereas Livingstone was anti-Iraq war, took action on the environment, wasn’t afraid of attacking big buisness when needed, ploughed money into bus services and is probably the country’s best plain-speaking politician.
And now, because of it, Boris is able to take some of the credit. Seen the new trains on the North London Line? Now it’s called London Overground and has a little TfL roundel, its new trains are interesting to people in a way that normal trains aren’t. I even had a picture message from an old colleague a couple of weeks ago telling me she was on one. And on Twitter….
Yes, well done Bo-… ah, yes. If Boris was in charge last time around, there would be no new trains on the North London Line. If Boris was in charge last time around, it would still be crappy old Silverlink. Ken Livingstone launched London Overground and ordered the new trains – but Boris got to take the credit. Ken can’t go around telling people this because the drones who support Boris would tell him that he lost the last election and so should shut up.
But where’s the Labour party in telling people this? Nowhere. Why? Because if a man like David Lammy was in charge last time around, there would still be no new trains, and it would still be crappy old Silverlink. If the Labour party cared about London, we wouldn’t still be waiting to use Oyster cards on trains south of the river – a failure shared between the government and Boris, both scared of the private monopolies behind mainline trains in a way that Ken wasn’t. Indeed, Livingstone wanted TfL to take over all mainline trains in London – heresy for a Labour government still handcuffed to the privatised network the Tories set up.
But because Ken aside, Labour is clueless when it comes to London, and particularly on the capital’s touchstone issue of transport, something the Tories have never been any good at. It’s been funny watching the Tories’ prejudice about bendy buses – “not designed for London streets” – utter cobblers considering the last time they ran London Transport, they withdrew a shedload of Routemasters and replaced new-ish London buses with cheap, green, stinking old buses from outside the capital – route 188 passengers, remember these heaps spluttering across Waterloo Bridge?
I may be a member of another party, but even I recognise that the Tory/Labour show is the only game in town for the mayoralty for the moment. Until Labour find someone who’s going to pick up some of Livingstone’s radical ideas and reinvent them for a different era, and actually turn the heat up on Boris, they’re going to be stuffed. And sadly, so will London.