Labour’s petition for a better deal for rail passengers during London Bridge station rebuild

Labour candidates at London Bridge station

Labour candidates Cherry Parker, Paul Morrissey and Damien Welfare at London Bridge station

Labour’s candidates for Blackheath Westcombe ward – Paul Morrissey, Cherry Parker and Damien Welfare – have started a petition demanding a better deal for passengers during the rebuilding of London Bridge station.

The petition at change.org, which can be signed here, welcomes the rebuilding of the overcrowded and dingy London Bridge station, as it will improve the overall punctuality and reliability of trains into London in the long term.

But the rebuilding will have a major impact on passengers using Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, Blackheath and Kidbrooke stations: between 2015 and 2018, many trains will pass through London Bridge without stopping. As a result many passengers will need to drastically alter their journeys, starting from different stations and using buses and tube trains to reach their destinations.

This will make journeys longer, more crowded, and in some cases more costly for people who don’t use a season ticket. The problem has been covered extensively on this website over the past year (see here, here and here).

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TFL gives a masterclass in how not to repair a motorway bridge

CIMG2373Transport for London has just put up ugly temporary fences on both sides of the Old Dover Road and Charlton Road bridges over the A102 – without consulting or notifying local residents or councillors, and with no regard to the impact on local views.

And now TFL can’t even say how long the fences will be up, what work is to be carried out behind them, and how high the bridges’ railings will be once work is complete.

According to one nearby resident, the new fences “look ugly, look scary, ruin the view and make you feel that you are in prison”. Another resident describes them simply as “hideous”. “Monstrosities,” says another.

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Charlton Road shows how cycling can be made easier and safer

CIMG2376Good to see that work by Greenwich’s Labour council to widen the cycle lanes on Charlton Road (and move parking bays so lanes are no longer blocked by parked cars) is almost complete, making cycling between Blackheath Standard and Charlton a lot easier and safer.

Greenwich has not got as many cyclists, or cycle lanes, as London boroughs like Hackney and Lambeth but this is changing. A new Cycling Strategy, agreed by the council’s cabinet earlier this month, includes an ambitious Action Plan for a new network of cycle lanes and Greenways including a new east-west route along Kidbrooke Gardens and Westbrook Road, making Kidbrooke Park Road safer for cyclists, and a new north-south cycle route parallel with Westcombe Hill (exact route yet to be decided).

The percentage of all journeys done by bike has tripled from 1% in 2005 to an estimated 2.9% now. The strategy sets a target to increase this to above 5% by 2025, and to double the percentage of adults cycling weekly from 7% in 2010 to 16% in 2020. Thanks to new cycle lanes and a lot of training in schools cycling has already got a lot safer: the number of cyclist injuries in Greenwich halved between 1999 and 2011. And according to maps included in the strategy’s ‘Evidence Base’, residents of Blackheath Westcombe ward are already cycling more, and are more likely to take up cycling, than most other wards. Read more of this post

Credit where it’s due: TFL now want to make Shooter’s Hill Road safer

Shooters Hill Road 4 - pedestrian crossingAt long last Transport for London is putting forward proposals to make Shooter’s Hill Road (the busy A2) safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Consultation has just started on proposals to improve the junction of Shooter’s Hill Road, Stratheden Road and Prince of Wales Road on the northern edge of the heath.

TFL are proposing to install new cycle lanes, remove the ‘sheep pen’ in the middle of Shooter’s Hill Road and make the crossing there straighter. A stranger part of the proposals is to put a new island in the middle of Prince of Wales Road, narrowing the left filter lane so only cycles will be allowed to turn into the A2: cars would no longer be able to make this turn. This is opposed by residents living on the slip road on the south side of Shooter’s Hill Road, who would have to drive via the Standard or Blackheath Village to join the A2 towards London. As this would increase traffic flow but do little to improve safety, I hope TFL will reconsider. Shooters Hil Road-stratheden road proposal map 2014

Overall the scheme  is not revolutionary and won’t do much to make it safer to cross the junctions from east to west (there still won’t be a proper pedestrian crossing from one side of Stratheden Road to the other). But it’s a start.

There have been safety concerns about this junction for more than a decade, and it’s high time TFL made it safer: there are four schools (Invicta, Blackheath High, Pointers, and Blackheath Nursery & Prep) nearby and if we want children to walk to them we have got to make junctions like this safer. As these old Westcombe Society minutes record, back in the summer of 2002 a school pupil was very seriously injured in a collision here and had to be taken to hospital by air ambulance.

A speed indicator device (a sign that flashes “30” at drivers that exceed that speed, pictured here with yours truly) was put in on Shooter’s Hill Road eastbound in 2008, but despite repeated requests from the council TFL have refused to put one up on the westbound side of the road, which has more of a speeding problem. Further east at the pedestrian crossing by Vicarage Avenue, it took several years of lobbying before TFL finally agreed in 2010 to allow people two more seconds to cross the road in safety: their first priority always seems to be keeping the traffic moving, not pedestrian safety.

Alex Grant by speed indicator device on Shooters Hill Road 2008 - 2Details of TFL’s latest proposals can be found here: please note any comments have to be sent to them by Friday March 21st.

TFL is also promising details next month of new measures to make the Woolwich Road roundabout (under the A102 flyover) safer for cyclists and pedestrians. I hope TFL continue this burst of activity by doing something to screen those living near the A102 from noise and pollution, too, and fixing the broken Charlton Road bridge over the A102, using some of the income they will get from the advertising screens that they have just got planning permission for at the Sun-in-Sands roundabout. I’m not holding my breath.

All is forgiven, planners: you are now needed more than ever

Huntsman mapped

Good news from the Planning Inspectorate last week,  who turned down a proposal for 131 new homes on the Huntsman site, a disused playing field just off the Cator Estate.

Although everyone accepts the land will end up being developed as housing (its designation as Metropolitan Open Land was lifted some years ago as part of a land-swap to enable the Ferrier estate to be redeveloped as Kidbrooke Village), the proposed development was wrong in many respects. Above all it would have turned its back on the neighbouring Kidbrooke Vision development it was supposed to be part of. As this map shows, all the traffic would have gone onto the Cator Estate’s narrow (and privately-owned) roads to the west, via a dangerous new entry junction on the corner of Manor Way and Brooklands Park.

It is pleasing that for once a planning inspector has agreed with the council and local residents, and refused the scheme on traffic grounds. It was clear at the public enquiry earlier this year that residents across Blackheath, who organised an effective campaign called No to the Huntsman, felt that this was the wrong scheme both for them, and the borough as whole: although the site is about a half-mile south of Blackheath Westcombe ward (whose southern boundary is Blackheath Park) I was contacted by many concerned residents living north of Blackheath Park as well as south. The Planning Inspectorate’s judgement, issued on February 26th, can be read herePhotos July 2008 029

The Huntsman is not the only large planning application causing concern locally. In Kidbrooke Village itself, Berkeley Homes are beginning to consult on a proposal for a 30-storey tower by Kidbrooke station, with a public exhibition being held later this week. The new proposal is much higher than the building heights that Berkeley already have outline permission for. As most of the new development in Kidbrooke Village has so far been top-quality, let’s hope it won’t be ruined now: see here for a discussion on Skyscraper city, an online discussion forum about tall buildings, and here for SE9 magazine’s coverage (it’s on page 18).  Read more of this post

Rail passengers face triple whammy: no more Charing Cross trains on the Greenwich line, no chance to change at London Bridge, and then trains won’t stop at London Bridge at all

Candidates Paul Morrissey, Cherry Parker and Damien Welfare at London Bridge station

Labour candidates Paul Morrissey, Cherry Parker and Damien Welfare at London Bridge station

If you were given a leaflet about the “Thameslink Programme” at a London railway station recently, make sure you read it very carefully. The Thameslink Programme is not just about changes to Thameslink services between Gatwick Airport and Bedford: it also involves the  complete rebuilding of platforms 1-6 of  London Bridge station between 2015 and 2018.

Anyone travelling through London Bridge faces a difficult three years of missed connections, longer journeys and overcrowding. Given that London Bridge is the UK’s fourth-busiest railway station, and Crossrail is no use as an alternative as it won’t start until 2018, it’s still far from clear how people will commute to and from work over this three-year period. And worryingly, while SouthEastern may not be as bad as their predecessor Connex, they were recently judged to be one of the least popular train companies in the country, before the worst disruption at London Bridge even starts.

The service changes are complex and have not been well-explained to rail passengers, many of whom are confused by the project’s branding as the “Thameslink Programme”, rather than something more sensible such as “London Bridge station rebuilding”. In summary, from early 2015 until August 2016, all Charing Cross-bound trains will pass through London Bridge without stopping. From August 2016 until early 2018, all Cannon Street-bound trains will pass through London Bridge without stopping.

London Bridget_0

Network Rail and SouthEastern railway are, at last, beginning to do more to inform passengers of the chaos in store, thanks to pressure from a new Greenwich Line Users’ Group (GLUG) and the Labour-run council. A new credit-card sized information leaflet was  handed out at London Bridge station in January (much of the content of this can be found online here and here) and more publicity is promised in April.

But the disruption now looks even worse than previously feared (see here and here for previous posts). All rail passengers in south-east London will be hit but Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park  stations will be particularly badly affected, as all their trains go to and from Cannon Street off-peak (other lines have a mixture of Charing Cross and Cannon Street trains).

This means a triple whammy: from January 2015 onwards all trains on the Greenwich line (including during the rush hours and on Sundays)  will run to and from Cannon Street only. Secondly, from 2015 to 2016 there won’t even be any trains from London Bridge to Charing Cross to change onto. Thirdly, from 2016 to early 2018, all Greenwich line trains will go through London Bridge without stopping on their way to and from Cannon Street: anyone wanting to reach London Bridge, Waterloo or Charing Cross will have to travel by bus or tube from Cannon Street.

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TFL’s Sun-in-the-Sands adverts given the go-ahead

Sun in Sands from north - showing ad position

This is the view that drivers will have from the A102 later this year. Despite objections from local Labour councillors, the Blackheath and Westcombe societies  and the Greenwich Conservation Group, a planning inspector has just allowed Boris Johnson’s Transport for London to put up huge electronic advertising panels, 3m high and 12m wide, on the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout. A mock-up of the north-facing one is shown here, with the south-facing one below.

The plans were turned down by Greenwich Council in 2013 but TFL wouldn’t take no for an answer and appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which held a hearing on January 7th to consider the appeal. (For previous posts on the story see here and here).

The Planning Inspector’s judgement, published on January 29th, can be read here. The inspector has added some conditions limiting the brightness of the illuminated adverts, ordered that images should change no more frequently than every ten seconds, they the images should not move, and that it should not take more than  a second to change from one image to another. But generally this is a bad day for drivers on the A102, who may well be distracted by flashing adverts, and the roundabout’s neighbours who will now have to live alongside them.Sun in Sands from south - showing ad position

The inspector’s report is a dry read, but tucked away in the text are two intriguing details.

Firstly, the inspector seems to have been swayed by the fact that Transport for London had, funnily enough, not objected to their own planning application:

In reaching this conclusion, I have given considerable weight to the lack of objection to the proposal from the highway authority and to the compliance of the advertisement displays with the guidance adopted by the highway authority in relation to proposals of this nature. Whilst I note that, in this case, the highway authority is also the appellant, the evidence before me indicates that the highway safety assessment of the proposed advertisements is undertaken separately to any commercial assessment of site suitability and is subject to a safety audit. In the light of this lack of objection, whilst I have had careful regard to the concerns of the local planning authority, including those relating to drivers potentially breaking the speed limit, I have not found the evidence presented by the Council in this respect to be compelling and, as such, I am not satisfied that it would be appropriate to find against the proposal for this reason.

Translated into plain English, this means that the planning inspector thinks that TFL are the best-qualified people to judge whether flashing adverts are safe on a road run by, and bringing revenue to, TFL itself. Hmm. Read more of this post