Blackwall Tunnel Fire

A car has caught fire in the Blackwall Tunnel northbound this morning. Both tunnels are now closed and gridlock is spreading over South-East London as a result.

This shows how important it is to build the Silvertown Tunnel as there are few alternative routes to cope with current volumes of traffic. The older tunnels such as the northbound Blackwall Tunnel and the Rotherhithe Tunnel are known to be very dangerous and vulnerable to fires as they have no escape routes and limited fire prevention/control measures.

It’s symptomatic of the ageing and archaic Thames River crossings in London that these tunnels are still in use. Hammersmith Bridge is also closed and needs repair. Under investment in London road infrastructure by recent Mayors is the cause. They have preferred to spend money on grandiose rail/underground projects.

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More Changes at Bank

The City of London Corporation have been working assiduously to remove all traffic from London’s streets in the last couple of years regardless of the impact on residents, businesses and visitors. Bank Junction has already been subjected to severe restrictions on all vehicles except buses and cycles, thus effectively closing this key junction in the centre of the City. Even taxis have been excluded much to the annoyance of taxi drivers. The Corporation are now proposing to go a step further and close more of the roads, even to buses.

The latest changes include the following:

  • The closure of Threadneedle Street to motor vehicles that runs along the south of the Bank of England.
  • The closure of Queen Victoria Street between Bucklersbury and Bank Junction for motor vehicles, except those vehicles exiting Walbrook in a westbound direction.
  • Closing Princes Street except for buses and cycles northbound; and except as a route for servicing to Cornhill in a southbound direction.

It includes proposals for widening pavements around the junction which the road closures will enable (artist’s impression above). Bus routes will also have to be changed.

For more details and to respond to a public consultation go here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/streets/all-change-at-bank-project

Comment: It was certainly the case that Bank Junction was a problem on two grounds: 1) the volume of pedestrians using the junction with the station being enlarged when pavements are very narrow (at least until the recent epidemic); and 2) as regards road safety with frequent casualties including fatalities. The complex nature of the junction with many buses passing through it and high pedestrian traffic were partly to blame.

It therefore was not unreasonable to look at simplifying the junction to enable more pedestrian space and improve the environment. However, the removal of all traffic was very damaging to the road network in the City of London, and has caused traffic to simply move to other roads with additional congestion.  

The latest changes do not improve matters but will make things worse. For example if Threadneedle Street is to be closed it should also be closed to cyclists to avoid conflicts with pedestrians.

Please respond to the public consultation if you have an interest in these roads.

Roger Lawson

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Albemarle Road, Bromley – Another Unnecessary Covid Scheme

Albemarle Road in Bromley is one of those roads where an experimental traffic scheme has been introduced using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse and on which funding has been provided accordingly. In reality it is a scheme that favours cyclists when very few of them use this road, while disadvantaging vehicle users.

The former two-way road, which is a key route between Beckenham junction and Bromley town centre, has now been reduced to a one-way street westbound so as to make way for a cycle lane (see latest photo above). Vehicles wanting to go east from Beckenham now have to use Bromley Road. Residents of Albemarle Road and adjacent roads now have tortuous and longer routes to many destinations, or to get to their properties.

This was a road that worked well before the changes and there is no justification for the proposals which are in essence a waste of money. However the introduction of traffic lights on the Westgate Road Bridge and removal of the bus lane before Shortlands may make sense.  

The London Borough of Bromley is now running a public consultation on the scheme even though traffic volumes have not returned to normal. Responses need to be submitted before the 3rd of March. There is an easy on-line form where you can submit your comments here: https://tinyurl.com/23k67p3j  

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Albemarle Road, Beckenham Public Consultation

One of the few road traffic schemes in the London Borough of Bromley prompted by the Covid-19 epidemic and financed by funding like other schemes to encourage cycling was that in Albemarle Road, Beckenham. This road is a major route between Beckenham Junction and Bromley Town Centre via Shortlands.  It worked perfectly well but the introduction of a one-way system, with a cycle lane and other changes has created more traffic congestion. For our previous comments on this scheme, see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/11/23/covid-19-induced-madness-comes-to-bromley-in-albemarle-road/

A petition against the “temporary” scheme has collected almost 2,500 signatures on change.org and many residents of Albemarle Road and surrounding roads have objected.

Now Bromley Council have launched a public consultation on the scheme. They give a couple of options, one of which is to remove the scheme completely. But it might make sense to retain traffic lights on Westgate Road bridge to avoid vehicle conflicts.

But please give your own views by responding to the consultation here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/info/545/traffic_management/1510/traffic_management_on_albemarle_road_and_westgate_road_bridge_-_consultation

They want answers by the 3rd of March which may be rather soon. Traffic has not returned to normal levels because of the lock-downs and recent poor weather. But it certainly does not appear to have encouraged more cycling on this route.   

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The Season of Goodwill – But Not Everywhere

As this is likely to be my last blog post before the New Year, I would like to wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. It cannot be a worse one than this year surely!

In this traditional season of goodwill, it seems rather thin on the ground of late. The French have blocked lorries from crossing the Channel ports because they apparently fear the spread of the new Covid-19 strain. The result is that at least 150 trucks are queued up on the M20 in Kent with more spread around the country. On a normal day as many as 9,000 lorries cross the Channel and there is a fear we might run out of lettuce and strawberries over the holidays.

In reality the French are mainly blocking their own countrymen and other European truck drivers from returning home for Christmas. They will be stuck on the motorway with no toilets or other services. How uncharitable is that! And it’s all pointless as the new virus strain is undoubtedly already widespread on the Continent.

Meanwhile the Brexit free trade negotiations are still stuck on arguing about fish. Let us be generous in this season of goodwill and let the French have some cod, haddock and mackerel which can swim over the border anyway. They have for hundreds of years traditionally fished in English waters so to abruptly kick them out along with the Spanish and other European fishing fleets just seems spiteful when we otherwise might get what we want from a trade agreement. It’s not being fair to put much of the French fishing industry out of work on New Year’s Day for the sake of a principle.

We need a new Entente Cordiale and to stop this petty bickering.

Likewise we need fewer arguments over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and other attacks on the role of vehicles on our roads, driven by dogma on all sides. More compromise and consultation are required. It’s surely not impossible!

Have a good Xmas.

Roger Lawson

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Cycle Lane on Kensington High Street Removed

A “temporary” cycle lane on Kensington High Street is being removed – note the reference to “temporary”, it was never intended that it would necessarily be made permanent. It was installed as part of the temporary Covid-19 emergency measures and financed accordingly. But cyclists are angered by its removal.

Johnny Thalassites, lead member for transport in the borough has said: ‘The cycle lane was a trial scheme to help those hopping on bikes during lockdowns and encourage shoppers to the High Street. Businesses and residents have told us loud and clear that they believe the experiment has not worked. We are listening”. The council claims to have received hundreds of emails asking for it to be removed and large numbers of signatures to a petition.

The whole scheme was planned to cost over £700,000 and the council has received £313,000 in funding via TfL’s Streetspace fund for the cycle lanes. But Cycling Commissioner Will Norman is suggesting TfL should ask for the cash back.

This is what the petitioners said on Change.org about the scheme: “The Council of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has, without much consultation, created bike lanes along Kensington High Street, from Hyde Park all the way to Hammersmith, on both sides of the road, restricting the traffic to one lane for all vehicles (cars, vans, motorbikes, buses, etc.).

Kensington High Street was already a busy road, but as a consequence of this scheme, it has become unmanageable. The traffic East to West is now backing up all the way to the Albert Hall and on some days almost to Knightsbridge, and it is taking an unacceptable amount of time for commuters, workers, families dropping off and picking up from schools, taxi drivers and vans delivering goods to residents and businesses, to cross this crucial bottleneck.

This scheme has introduced chaos to an entire area of West London”. See photo above showing the congestion it caused, from the petition site.

Comment: Reducing road space to include cycle lanes so that a whole traffic lane is removed is never a good idea on busy roads. In addition putting cycle lanes on roads where heavy traffic is present and hence some air pollution is also not a good idea. Best to put them on quieter back streets. But the major objection to this scheme was the lack of public consultation before it was installed. It’s now being removed without public consultation.

The lack of public consultation has meant an enormous waste of money and it could never have been justified by the Covid-19 epidemic.

It is also proposed to remove the cycle lane installed on the Euston Road, and there are many objections to the one on Park Lane where there is a good alternative “off-road” route for cyclists.

The ABD suggests that cycle lanes should be off the road, or cyclists should share road space with other road users as they are perfectly capable of doing. The removal of traffic lanes just causes big problems to other road users and there is never any cost/benefit justification provided. With the number of cyclists using the new “pop-up” cycle lanes being small, most of them could never be justified.  

At least it is good to see that the Council in this case has actually listened to local residents and businesses who mainly opposed the scheme.

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Locals Revolting Against LTNs and Acoustic Cameras Installed

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are proving to be one of the most divisive political policies in recent years. Brought in without any public consultation, they are creating massive opposition as the road network grinds to a halt. This is happening all over the country as local residents form grass-roots organisations to oppose them, but particularly so in London where there are more such schemes than elsewhere.

With public demonstrations now restricted by the epidemic, and Councillors not listening, people are resorting to other ways to show their anger. That includes death threats to councillors, and vandalism of modal filters and camera systems (for example in Hackney and Lewisham). Modal filters (planters) have been moved aside and “road closed” signs sprayed over.

All this vandalism is to be deplored but when democratic ways of stopping the road closures is thwarted (in London local borough elections are not until 2022) and there are not even any public consultations or other ways of persuading councillors to change their minds, then people resort to other means. This has happened all the way through history. Grievances that are ignored lead to violent revolutions, and that is the way it is headed in London unless policies are reconsidered.

When life become intolerable because people cannot move around, cannot do their jobs, their income is threatened, they cannot visit their relatives or care for the elderly and their health is threatened by more air pollution, then anger rises to boiling point. Councillors and those who are encouraging these defective policies such as the Mayor of London, TfL and central Government need to reconsider before the divisive atmosphere gets worse.

Peaceful Ways of Opposing

There are of course peaceful ways of opposing the road closures and other damaging road redesign schemes. We have listed a number of petitions against them on this web page: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/07/12/opposition-to-road-closures-in-london-grows-sign-the-petitions/ and we will update that page as we learn about more. Please sign them if you have not already done so.

Hammersmith & Fulham

Local M.P. Greg Hands in Hammersmith & Fulham has created a petition calling on LBHF to cancel its SW6 traffic scheme and it has received 4,000 signatures to date. But he could do with more – go here to sign it:  https://www.greghands.com/campaigns/SW6petition  

Photo above shows one result of the current scheme in Fulham Palace Road.

Acoustic Camera Pilot to Curb Noisy Supercars

One move to curb anti-social behaviour in Hammersmith and Fulham is the use of new acoustic cameras. Supercar drivers using iconic Sloane Street and the surrounding area as a racetrack could face new punishments, after the Council takes action to curb noisy engine revving in the area.

Chelsea street is a magnet for Lamborghinis and Ferraris, with drivers showing off their cars by cruising the local area, often in convoy. Now Kensington and Chelsea is becoming the first Council to pilot its own noise camera technology to catch drivers who are revving too loudly and disturbing residents and businesses. Persistent offenders will be fined and in extreme cases, on conviction the Council can apply to the Magistrates Court to seize the vehicle.

Lead Member for Transport Cllr Johnny Thalassites said:

“Residents have had enough of drivers using our streets as a racetrack. We have had fines in place for a while now, but this new noise camera technology will make sure we are catching more of the worst offenders. Supercars look good and most drivers are considerate but when they they’re not, it is disruptive and irritating for people living and working in the area”. It has become the first authority to set up noise cameras and run them directly.

Comment: This is surely a sensible initiative to halt this anti-social behaviour that has kept residents awake at night.

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Bromley Council Experimental Traffic Orders – Objections Submitted

Albemarle Road, Beckenham and School Road/Church Row in Chislehurst

The London Borough of Bromley have published two sets of Experimental Traffic Orders to put in one-way systems, cycle lanes, parking restrictions and road closures in Beckenham and Chislehurst. These are being justified using the Covid-19 epidemic as a feeble excuse to assist walking, cycling and social distancing. The changes are being financed by TfL – the cost is not disclosed but must be very considerable as it even includes a new pedestrian crossing.

The first such scheme covers Albemarle Road and Bromley Road which are the main roads between Bromley and Beckenham. This is what the ABD has submitted in response to these proposals:

Our objections to these proposals are as follows:

1.       The changes are unnecessary and not justified in the given “Statement of Reasons”. These changes will not “facilitate walking, cycling and social distancing” as specified. There will certainly be no additional advantages to walking as the pavement on the affected roads such as Albemarle Road are wide, and there is no problem with “social distancing” at present. Neither is there any apparent benefit for cyclists who have no difficulty in cycling on these roads at present.

2.       The introduction of a one-way system on the stretch of Albemarle Road between Downs Bridge Road and Bromley Road will mean vehicles that wish to travel west will have to turn right at the junction with Bromley Road, which is currently banned for obvious safety reasons. There is undoubtedly a considerable volume of vehicles wanting to do that as there are numerous visitors to the Sloane Hospital.

3.       The introduction of a pedestrian crossing on Bromley Road, just east of the junction with Albemarle Road, is surely dangerous. This is a relatively sharp bend on a busy road. We recognise the need for a pedestrian crossing on this stretch of Bromley Road, but it should be moved further east or west (preferably west to avoid interaction with the Shortlands junction traffic lights).

4.       The introduction of parking restrictions along the whole of Albemarle Road will inconvenience local residents, and visitors to the Sloane Hospital, very considerably.

5.       These proposals will clearly be very costly and there is no justification for such expenditure on a cost/benefit basis.

More details of this scheme can be obtained from traffic@bromley.gov.uk by referencing:

The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 1) (One Way) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 2) (Cycle Lanes) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 3) (Road Closure) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Waiting and Loading Restriction) Order 2003 (Amendment No. 207) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Controlled Parking) (On Street Places) Order 2004 (Amendment No. 128) Experimental Order 2020; (Bromley Road and Albemarle Road, Beckenham; Crystal Palace Park Road, Penge).

The second scheme includes the closure of School Road (see photo above) and the introduction of a one-way system in Chislehurst plus some School Streets. The ABD has put in the following objections:

1.       The closure of School Road at its junction with Royal Parade will cause more traffic to use Church Lane to reach the St.Pauls Cray Road or Centre Common Road. This is already heavily congested at busy times of day.

2.       The introduction of a one-system covering School Road and Church Row makes sense but it should be in the reverse direction to that proposed with the exit onto Royal Parade maintained. This would maximise traffic flows and avoid long circuitous routes for residents of Church Row and other roads.

Note that as a matter of principle we object to the closure of roads unless there are very good reasons to do so. The justifications provided are inadequate. These changes are not justified in the given “Statement of Reasons”. These changes will not “facilitate walking, cycling and social distancing” as specified.

Note that there will be signs on Royal Parade diverting traffic via Bromley Road and Watts Lane. But not only does Watts Lane have a width restriction on it but there is an awkward left turn from Bromley Lane at the Hangman’s Corner roundabout. Larger vehicles going to the Crown Inn are surely going to have difficulties also because of the sharp bend introduced on the one-way system.

For more information contact traffic@bromley.gov.uk by referencing:

The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 4) (School Streets) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Waiting and Loading Restriction) Order 2003 (Amendment No. 208) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 5) (One Way) Experimental Order 2020; The Bromley (Prescribed Route) (No. 6) (Road Closure) Experimental Order 2020 (Various Locations). Or contact the ABD for more information.

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Wandsworth Suspends Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Wandsworth Council is suspending its Low Traffic Neighbourhood which has affected areas such as Tooting and West Putney following an urgent review subsequent to residents’ complaints. Wandsworth Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and transportation, Cllr John Locker said:

“We have monitored the traffic flows and listened to feedback from residents and businesses. We have also spoken to our partners including local hospitals and key services to hear the impact on them.

It is clear that the LTNs are not delivering the benefits we want to see. In fact it looks like the combination of changes in areas like Tooting, where TfL are making changes to the main high road, are unfortunately having the opposite effect. That is why we have taken the difficult decision to pause and re-think about how we can achieve our objective of delivering healthier, safer streets”

He added: “We all want to do what is right environmentally, whilst maintaining people’s ability to travel and making sure town centres and high streets function properly. It’s important that we listen to what people are saying so that we get this right.”

But other London Councils such as Lewisham are not listening and are still persevering in the vain home that the worsening traffic congestion they have caused will go away. It will not.

Opposition is growing to road closures across London with many local groups being formed. The ABD is happy to advise or assist any local groups.

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Is the Traffic Management Act Being Ignored?

The Traffic Management Act was passed by Parliament in 2004. Its objective was to improve the management of the road network.  Part 2 of the Act imposes a duty on all local traffic authorities to secure the expeditious movement of traffic on their road networks. Authorities are required to make arrangements as they consider appropriate for planning and carrying out the action to be taken in performing the duty and part of the arrangements must be the appointment of a “Traffic Manager”.

Section 16 of the Act specifically says:

The network management duty

(1) It is the duty of a local traffic authority or a strategic highways company (“the network management authority”) to manage their road network with a view to achieving, so far as may be reasonably practicable having regard to their other obligations, policies and objectives, the following objectives—

(a) securing the expeditious movement of traffic on the authority’s road network; and

(b) facilitating the expeditious movement of traffic on road networks for which another authority is the traffic authority.

(2) The action which the authority may take in performing that duty includes, in particular, any action which they consider will contribute to securing—

(a) the more efficient use of their road network; or

(b) the avoidance, elimination or reduction of road congestion or other disruption to the movement of traffic on their road network or a road network for which another authority is the traffic authority;and may involve the exercise of any power to regulate or co-ordinate the uses made of any road (or part of a road) in the road network (whether or not the power was conferred on them in their capacity as a traffic authority).

But the road closures that are taking place all over London and in many other parts of the country are surely ignoring that obligation. In other words, the law of the land is being ignored. As a result we have massively increased congestion which the Act was designed originally to avoid.

Local councils such as Lewisham are claiming that they can do so because of the Guidance published by the Secretary of State in May (See Reference 2). This provided additional guidance on how to adapt roads to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic – for example to improve the support for active travel modes such as walking and cycling . That included reallocation of road space and the use of Modal Filters to close roads to motor traffic. But that surely contradicts the basic wording and obligations imposed by the Act of Parliament. That should not be overturned simply because some civil servant in Whitehall thinks it’s a good idea to do so.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is apparently reviewing the Act but it would surely be unwise to change the principles behind the Act as it stands.

Reference 1: The Traffic Management Act 2004:  https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/18/contents

Reference 2: Statutory Guidance 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reallocating-road-space-in-response-to-covid-19-statutory-guidance-for-local-authorities/traffic-management-act-2004-network-management-in-response-to-covid-19

Reference 3: Statutory Guidance 2004: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/tpm/tmaportal/tmafeatures/tmapart2/tmafeaturespart2.pdf

Roger Lawson

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