Transport for London could axe bus route 180 between Lewisham and Charlton, according to a document released by Greenwich Council earlier this month.
The service – which currently runs between Lewisham and Belvedere via Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood, could be diverted to run to and from North Greenwich station instead.
The proposal – first reported by From The Murky Depths – is contained in a transport report (see page 26) produced as part of the council’s plans to redevelop the Charlton riverside.
TfL is also looking at reducing the frequency of route 472, which runs between North Greenwich and Thamesmead.
The report, produced by consultants Urban Movement, says the proposals were mooted in a meeting with TfL last month.
It says: “At a meeting with Aidan Daly of TfL Buses on 19.01.17 he suggested that the frequency of Route 472 is proposed to reduce to 7.5 buses per hour in the peaks from its current frequencies of 12 and 10.
“This route would also be extended to Abbey Wood (due to the arrival of Crossrail). Route 180 is proposed to be diverted at Peartree Way to North Greenwich at its existing frequency of 6 buses per hour, no longer serving the section between Woolwich Road and Lewisham. Route 380 would retain the link between Charlton and Lewisham.
“Overall, it is proposed that bus frequency along the Woolwich Road is set to reduce by approximately 4 buses per hour, while the main flow of buses into North Greenwich reduces by 1 bus per hour overall as a result of the 180 being diverted.”
Most users of bus services in the area will find the idea of cutting the 180 to be palpably barmy – particularly with big population increases right along its route. It would reduce services between Greenwich and Woolwich and break a connection between Lewisham and east Greenwich which has existed since the days of trams. Passengers would presumably be expected to take a 177 and change in central Greenwich for a 199, a service which is often heavily delayed by traffic in Rotherhithe and Deptford.
The reference to the 380 being a replacement for the 180 is an odd one, since the 380 runs through Blackheath rather than Greenwich, and follows a different and more circuitous route through Charlton. But then there is also an odd reference in the report to the bus terminal at Charlton station being redundant when it is used daily by short runs on the 472, early-terminating 486s and rail replacement buses.
The bus network around Woolwich and Abbey Wood will face big changes to coincide with the planned start of Crossrail services in December 2018. But this comes as TfL finds its income squeezed on two fronts: the Conservative government in Westminster withdrawing its grant funding from 2018, and Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to freeze all single TfL fares until 2020. So service expansions may end up being balanced by cuts elsewhere.
Observers have long feared that big cuts to bus services will be on the way; it may be that Charlton, Greenwich and Lewisham will find this out the hard way. TfL is already planning on big changes to 23 routes through the West End, partly as a response to increased congestion.
One Lewisham route has already been subjected to a stealth cut; in November the area’s only direct link to the West End, the 436 to Paddington, was diverted at Vauxhall to terminate at Battersea Park instead.
If this proposal worries you, then you may want to write to your local representatives – particularly those on the London Assembly – to ask them what they are doing about this.
You might have noticed TfL started a new consultation into its planned road river crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere a few days ago. You didn’t? Well, what you may have seen is a story about TfL planning 13 new crossings across the Thames. The trouble is – it’s nonsense.
Most of the crossings have very little to do with TfL, only a couple have planning permission and few have any funding. Only one is guaranteed to happen, because it already exists – the Crossrail tunnel at Woolwich, which opens three years from now. The ones TfL are involved with are the most controversial – including the Garden Bridge and the Silvertown Tunnel. It has very little to do with the less contentious ones, such as a cycling/walking bridge at Nine Elms. One at Charlton appears to have been plucked out of thin air, while a deeply controversial scheme – putting the Inner Ring Road in a tunnel – doesn’t appear.
At best it’s a list of options for a new mayor to ponder. At worst, it’s a smokescreen (look! a cycle bridge!) to avoid having an awkward debate on new roads (boo! jams! pollution! tolls!) that would have been sparked by talking about the two Thamesmead crossings.
A similar thing happened in summer 2014, when the London Chamber of Commerce plugged a “cycle friendly” bridge at Thamesmead that was actually the same old bridge that’s been proposed there for years.
Even more bizarrely, the 13 picked for this document includes two TfL doesn’t want to do – including one from Canary Wharf to North Greenwich, which appears to be just an opportunity to expand Thames Clippers services rather than an actual fixed crossing.
The rights and wrongs of each proposal aside, presenting this random collection of optimism over funding struck me as an interesting PR strategy – when the Garden Bridge was starting to hog headlines a year ago, I remember talking a year ago to a figure in London broadcasting about the Silvertown Tunnel, who bemoaned “bridge fatigue” because so many stories were about crossing plans which were annoying people.
What about the Gallions Reach and Belvedere crossings? Well, what makes this consultation interesting is that TfL has lobbed some public transport ideas in them – I’ll look at those in a post soon.
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”.
It’s long overdue, but the horrible Woolwich Road roundabout – where the A102 Blackwall Tunnel approach meets the A206 between Greenwich and Charlton – is finally due for a revamp under TfL’s Better Junctions programme “to make them safer and less threatening for cyclists and pedestrians”.
But what we’re short on is detail – and with the flyover 33rd on a list of 33 junctions, we might have a long time to wait for that.
“These road junctions are relics of the Sixties which blight and menace whole neighbourhoods,” roared Boris Johnson in his press release, presumably unaware that his Silvertown Tunnel proposal, which will add more traffic to the flyover will simply reinforce that blight and menace in this part of town. Ho-hum.
But how to fix the junction? Should the roundabout be ripped out? It opened in 1969 as a more traditional traffic junction before the gyratory was installed in about 1980, with traffic lights being put in during the late 1990s.
Or should we be looking longer-term and doing something even more radical? After all, in 2011 the flyover was reported as being in a “poor” condition. Should we go for it and take the thing down, slowing down the A102 traffic in the process?
No other junctions in this part of south-east London are affected by the scheme – indeed, beyond two grim junctions in Rotherhither, TfL’s map doesn’t suggest we were high in its pritorities…
But there are two other road schemes in the pipeline. There’s a small plan to tweak the Shooters Hill Road/ Stratheden Road junction on Blackheath, while something bigger emerged at the weekend – Lewisham bus station closed, heralding the first steps in the Lewisham Gateway scheme, which will revamp the north end of Lewisham High Street, ripping out its dreadful roundabout in the process.
Greenwich Council tried to hijack the consultation into building a third Blackwall Tunnel yesterday – but ended up having to start again after its Twitter feed started spouting spoof messages.
The council has launched a “bridge the gap” campaign to encourage residents to sign TfL’s consultations into building river crossings on the Greenwich Peninsula and at Gallions Reach in Thamesmead.
Conservative mayor Boris Johnson wants to build a tunnel close to the existing two Blackwall Tunnels, and open a ferry at Gallions Reach, which would replace the Woolwich Ferry.
Greenwich’s ruling Labour councillors voted to support the Silvertown policy at a behind-closed-doors meeting last week.
But some were surprised to see Chris Roberts launch a full-blooded campaign yesterday, with a front page story on the front of its weekly newspaper Greenwich Time, demanding a tunnel to Silvertown and a bridge at Gallions Reach.
On Monday afternoon, a page on the Greenwich Council website was launched to promote the campaign. Residents were asked to fill in their name, an email address, and to tick a box to send a message to Twitter. Upon clicking the “submit” button, you would be redirected to the TfL survey page, where you’d presumably follow the instructions on the previous page and say you strongly supported options you were were told to support.
The idea was that the council’s Twitter feed would then carry your name, a hashtag (#bridgethegap) and a link to the survey page. Essentially, the council was trying to use Twitter to hijack a public consultation.
Classy. Except there were several flaws. The feed wasn’t moderated. No genuine name ever appeared on the feed – because the hijack was, well, hijacked, by person(s) unknown.
One taxpayer wasn’t amused…
Whoops. But the Dear Leader’s pet pussy wasn’t long for this world, as council press office staff scrambled to delete the auto-tweets before they could spew out any more nonsense. Instead, it just started spouting “new pledge of support made for…” every time a “resident” signed the petition.
But worse, there were still no checks on email addresses or where people were signing from. I managed to sign under spoof names at least twice from the same computer, opening up the opportunity for someone to either sabotage or hugely inflate the numbers of “residents” signing the petition. There was also a promise that names wouldn’t be published – but names on petitions to public bodies have to be public.
Eventually, the council saw sense and gave up trying to hijack Twitter before its account got suspended. And last night, a proper sign-up page appeared with following message:
Thanks to everyone who has already pledged their support on the Royal Borough’s website for the campaign for extra river crossings. We have decided to ask people for additional details when they sign up to the ‘bridge the gap’ campaign in order to confirm their identity.
Whether “residents” George Hamilton III, Mickey Mouse and Pope Pius XXIX will have to do it all over again, remains to be seen. There is now an assurance that names won’t be published online – well, perhaps not on the council’s website, but it’s a public document and should be easy to obtain.
But the page still carries signatories straight into TfL’s survey. Nothing about reading the info provided, just instructions to say you strongly support the council’s favoured options. Try it yourself – the petition still allows you to sign multiple times.
The council’s own press release is as much as a fact-free zone as the petition page – apparently there are “campaigners” demanding a third Blackwall Tunnel, which is news to anyone who lives locally. “For far too long we have put up with congestion, pollution and this barrier to growth,” rants Roberts, oblivious to the fact that a third tunnel on the Greenwich peninsula will merely attract more traffic to the A102, which it emerges, has flyovers that aren’t in the best of health. It’s also emerged that car ownership in London is falling, not rising.
No studies have been carried out into the impact a Silvertown tunnel would have on traffic, while it’s certain to increase pollution in some of London’s most polluted areas.
“We need Transport for London to see that local people are really behind the idea,” Roberts continues. Sorry, Chris, 88% of respondents to a poll on this website at the beginning of this year weren’t behind the idea. And my poll’s no more scientific than yours.
The Dear Leader is usually good at picking campaigns he thinks he can win – and the Tory mayor’s likely to press ahead with the scheme anyway – but with a few marginal seats along the affected route, he and his Labour colleagues may well pay a heavy price for backing Boris.
This video, from Lewisham Cyclists, was doing the rounds a couple of weeks back, but perhaps it needs a bit of post-Olympics attention. Would you want to ride a bike along here? Turn the sound up for the commentary.
This is the junction of Greenwich High Road, Deptford Bridge, Deals Gateway and Blackheath Road, right on the border between Deptford and Greenwich. This is what cyclists who leave the housing at Deals Gateway are expected to deal with – being left stuck in a box junction in the middle of the A2.
It’s the ideal spot for politicians to sit on their backsides and do nothing – it sits just off the border of Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs, and the A2 that cuts across this junction is the responsibility of Transport for London. But London Assembly members Darren Johnson (who’s also a local councillor) and Len Duvall have both put this to Boris Johnson – and so far, have had no joy.
I’ve done a piece for Snipe about whether the mayor can keep his promises on making the capital safer for cyclists. If an obviously dangerous junction like this can’t get sorted out – and it’s not on TfL’s list – then you do have to wonder if the mayor’s simply taking trusting campaigners for a ride.
So, there I was walking through Greenwich at dusk on Monday, admiring the view (above). It was a gorgeous, warm evening, so I resolved to repair to a beer garden to pretend I was in Barcelona until last orders. As I strolled past the Cutty Sark hoardings, I heard some familiar bells.
Yes – Boris bikes. I’d heard tales of them being ridden down here, but this was the first time I’d seen them, as a couple headed rode around the half-rebuilt ship. I grabbed a photo, and strolled on. Then I heard those bells again…
More Boris bikes! Three tourists were using them to navigate the tiny riverside path by the naval college (even at the height of summer, the Old Royal Naval College shuts its gates to cyclists at 6pm). As the final one tried to navigate the cobbles and bollards, I said hello and added I hoped they weren’t hoping to return them to a dock anywhere nearby.
“Oh, we’re going to find somewhere across the river,” she said.
But they wouldn’t be able to cross anywhere beyond Greenwich – the Woolwich Ferry had stopped, while the Woolwich Foot Tunnel remains closed. Worse still, only a fool would try to lug a heavy hire bike down the narrow Greenwich Foot Tunnel stairs. They would have to return their bikes to the nearest docking station, just over four miles back the way they’d came (via the Thames Path) at Shad Thames, near Tower Bridge.
I felt a spoilsport as her mates returned, and they thanked me for my help as they turned back and headed back into down again. I’m not sure how far they’d have made without turning back anyway – it’s not much fun riding past the Blackwall Tunnel entrance by day, let alone at night; while the gravelly, unfenced bit south of Delta Wharf after dark would probably have convinced them they’d reached the edge of the civilised world.
But hopefully I saved them a shedload of hassle and a few quid in inflated bills – while tourists are able to use the hire bikes, the charging scale is ostensibly set to encourage them to use private operators.
From next year, though, we might be seeing a lot more lost souls on Boris bikes (or by then, maybe Kenny farthings) in Greenwich. I discussed earlier this year how the eastwards extension of the cycle hire scheme is solely restricted to the borough of Tower Hamlets – there’s no extension south of the river, even though cycling along the Thames is now being encouraged with the “new” Jubilee Greenway (in reality just a series of paving slabs on existing routes).
A cluster of bike hire stations is planned for the area around the northern entrance to Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Ferry Street, to the west of Island Gardens, will see a 20-cycle station put in, while two docks on Saunders Ness Road will be able to take 106 bikes between them. By the time they’re up and running, the foot tunnel will be up and running again (hopefully) with a lift working all day and all night, so the blue bikes will be a common sight in Greenwich – even though there’ll be nowhere to dock them south of the river.
This could be bad news for organisations like Greenwich Cycle Hire, which charges a flat £4 per hour and is much better value for tourists seeking an afternoon’s bimbling around. In Barcelona, where the ubiquitous Bicing scheme is only available to Catalonia residents with a two-hour limit on hire times, the hire stations carry advertising for private companies to encourage tourists to use them. In London, it’s tempting to conclude that TfL is hoping tourists paying a fortune to hire bikes for hours will unwittingly offset the scheme’s huge losses.
It also makes not extending the scheme south of the river look that little bit more silly – if people are riding four or more miles out of the cycle hire zone to visit Greenwich, they’ll definitely make the short river crossing. Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones has made a big thing out of giving London a cycle hire scheme the size of Paris’s – but that’s a hopelessly modest ambition if people are taking them to the Cutty Sark, since that would only see the scheme run as far as the Rotherhithe Tunnel.
(A quick aside – I used the Paris Velib’ scheme earlier this month and found the same problems as in London, if not worse. I got charged four euros extra because my bike did not dock properly, the docking station systems were unreliable, and when I fancied a drink down near the Bastille, all the stations were full up and I had to turn back. If anything, it’s Paris’s infrastructure we should be taking a lead from, not the Velib’.)
Granted, I’ve the cycle hire scheme to thank for persuading me to cycle around London. But it’s clear that its implementation wasn’t thought through properly. When lost tourists are cycling around Greenwich or Deptford next year trying to find a place to dock their bikes before the hire fee rockets past £15, it’s just going to prompt more puzzlement. A lack of docking stations won’t be a brilliant advert for Greenwich, either – if I was a tourist, I’d be baffled why I couldn’t use the scheme south of the Thames.
It was a beautiful view across the Thames that night – but the river still remains a formidable barrier.