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News round-up - May 2023

Liberating kerb space

A number of boroughs are planning to reduce the amount of kerb space available for the parking of cars. Lambeth estimates that 94 per cent of kerb space is either freely available for parking or has yellow lines or is opposite a private driveway. The plans aim to reduce it by 25 per cent reallocating space to bus lanes, trees, sustainable drainage systems, parklets or cycle parking.

Lewisham estimates that 60 per cent of kerb space is available for car parking and intends to convert some to trees, EV charging points, cycle parking and safer crossings and junctions. They also want to increase the number of spaces for disabled and car club parking. They admit that Lewisham allows more unrestricted car parking than any other inner London borough. They say: ‘The proposed improvements aim to make better use of this space in order to prioritise active travel, create safer streets for residents and help make Lewisham a net-zero borough by 2030.’

TfL’s property development

TfL is the third biggest property owner in London after the Emirate of Qatar and the Mayor of London. A property arm, TfL Properties, was created in 2012 to develop land for housing and offices. The largest scheme currently under way is at Earls Court with homes, jobs and community venues planned and a central park.

In the suburbs attention is concentrated on the redevelopment of station car parks for homes. There is a particular concentration of eligible stations in north west London and there are plans for the conversion of car parks to homes at East Finchley, Arnos Grove, Cockfosters, High Barnet, Stanmore and Canons Park, amongst others. Providing facilities for commuters to drive to tube stations is becoming more and more of an anachronism at this time where the reduction of traffic is a necessary aim and it would also increase the number of homes. Predictably there has been a backlash by drivers and their supporters. At some stations plans have been approved and at others the outcome is awaited.

Elsewhere concentration is on commercial development. There are plans to build above Bank, Paddington and Southwark stations.

All change at Bank

The enlargement of Bank underground station is now complete and work is continuing on traffic calming the Bank road junction where Poultry, Princes Street, Threadneedle Street, Cornhill, Lombard Street, King William Street and Queen Victoria Street all meet. Since May 2017 traffic, apart from buses and cycles, have been banned from the junction between 7am and 7pm, but advantage of this change has now been taken to widen pavements, make Poultry one way and close Queen Victoria Street and Threadneedle Street to traffic. The area is transformed and the junction now swarms with pedestrians.

TfL claims that these changes have shaved 15 minutes off bus journey times in the peaks. The City of London carried out a feasibility study looking at whether to reintroduce motor vehicles into the area in April 2022 but concluded that removing the scheme would lead bring significant delays for commuters on some 21 bus routes.

Counting the cost of falls

30 per cent of people over the age of 65 are liable to suffer a fall whilst walking outdoors each year. This rises to 50 per cent for over 80s. The reason is usually the poor state of the footways often with uneven and broken slabs or exposed tree roots.

This is revealed in the Living Streets report launched on 1st March; Pedestrian Slips, Trips and Falls. Most falls are not recorded but for about 30,000 a year they result in hospital admission. The figures suggest that this is three times the number of people admitted after being hit by vehicles. Local authorities paid out £15 million in 2018 for claims made by people injured in falls due to bad quality pavements. Total cost to the NHS has been estimated at £2.3 billion per year.

A report for the Department for Transport in 2021 estimated that about £1.5 billion is needed to address poor conditions of footways and prevent further deterioration. Dr Rachel Lee, Policy and Research Manager at Living Streets, who wrote the report, contrasted this with the £27 billion the government is proposing to spend on new roads.

Countdown upgrade

Route 63 is not only getting new buses (see newsletter no. 46) but also getting new style Countdown signs along its route. These new signs will eventually be rolled out in every London borough, boosting the total in the capital by 12 per cent.

Route 63 is ‘becoming a bit of a test bed for quality bus travel initiatives that bus companies in the provinces have been doing for years’, according to Roger French in his blog ( Countdown information, in greyscale to save on electricity, is contained in the bus stop flag. At some stops, information normally provided in printed form in cases on the bus stop pole is provided instead in electronic cases. These can contain all the information normally found in printed form and more.

TfL have for some time held to the policy that, although they will replace Countdown signs which have to be temporarily withdrawn, they will not install new ones unless they are paid for by local authorities. But in a new move, 300 new boards are being installed in East London.

More roads at 20

Kingston-upon-Thames is moving to a borough-wide 20mph default. Remaining TfL Red Route roads in Camden, Islington, Haringey, Hackney and Tower Hamlets are now 20mph. By September this should be extended to Greenwich, Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham, Southwark, Wandsworth, Merton, Bromley and Lambeth, including sections of the A205 South Circular, New Cross Road, Tower Bridge Road and Stockwell Road.

Collisions involving vulnerable road users on TfL controlled roads since the introduction of 20 mph limits have reduced dramatically. Collisions involving death or serious injury have reduced by 25 percent, collisions involving vulnerable road users by 36 per cent and collisions involving people waking by a massive 63 per cent.

Enforcement of speeding offenses is rising as police devote more resources to this important task: 93,000 in 2018 rising to 478,685 in 2021/2.

It also seems that compliance with the new restrictions is also rising. This is helped by speed limiters being applied experimentally to some TfL buses and other vehicles.

Renaming the Overground

The Mayor’s manifesto commitment to give individual names to the various routes of London’s Overground system is now to be put into practice. TfL say they are working on the project ‘and are in the first stages of development which includes determining the budget required and potential timescales for delivery’.

According to the TfL editorial style guide the various routes are presently to be described in terms of their outer destinations but this leads to names which are far too long for everyday use. For example, the North London Line is to be referred to as ‘Overground Richmond/Clapham Junction – Stratford’ and the West London line separately as ‘Overground Willesden Junction – Clapham Junction’.

One issue will be whether each group of lines will have a unique name (like the District line or the Metropolitan line) or whether each branch will receive a separate name (like the Hammersmith and City and Circle Lines). It seems that TfL are leaning towards the latter which would mean, for example, that the East London lines to West Croydon, Crystal Palace, Clapham Junction and New Cross would each have a separate name.

There will be a consultation period for everyone to suggest their own preferred names and there will, no doubt, be a lot of controversy before and after the final decisions are made.

New hope for West London orbital rail link

Hopes for a passenger rail link between Hounslow and Hendon have been given a boost by Sadiq Khan confirming that planning is underway. Engineering consultants are in the process of being selected to work on a detailed design and Khan said ‘timetable assessment undertaken by Network Rail is nearing completion and has identified that a viable West London Orbital service is expected to be achievable.’

Trains would use the Dudding Hill line which links Old Oak Common and Cricklewood and is currently used only by freight trains. They would use the existing line between Hounslow and Brentford and then branch off onto the North London line with a possible new station at Lionel Road. There would be new stations at Old Oak Common Lane (for exchange with the Elizabeth line and HS2) and at Harlesden (for the Bakerloo and Overground lines) and Neasden (for the Jubilee line). Trains would then serve Brent Cross West and Hendon in one direction and Cricklewood and West Hampstead Thameslink in the other.

The service was first proposed by the Mayor in his 2018 Transport Strategy and should be ready for opening in the early 2030s.

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