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News roundup - January 2023

Active travel back on the agenda

A number of schemes to improve roads for walking and cycling are back on the agenda having been suspended when TfL funds were hit during the Covid crisis. Amongst those being funded are safer junction schemes in Holloway Road and at Battersea Bridge. A further 28 kilometres of TfL roads are to be restricted to 20mph in North London. 14 kilometres of additional cycle lane sections are to be added and a further 16 kilometres of cycleways including the missing section of C4 on Lower Road, extending C2 from Stratford to Forest Gate, extending C6 from Kentish Town to Hampstead and protected cycle lanes on Loughborough Road. A new cycle route from Wembley to Wood Lane is to be installed. There will also be bus journey time improvements including 25 kilometres of new bus lanes.

Funding will also be available for firms to install kit to freight vehicles so that they comply with the Direct Vision Standard (DVS) scheme required by TfL for vehicles operating in London. To obtain the required safety permit vehicles over 12 tonnes need to be equipped with a number of features to protect pedestrians and cyclists. These include mirrors to increase the field of vision for the driver in the blind spot directly in front of the vehicle, a camera monitoring system and an audible warning of left and right turns and reversals.

ULEZ extension

The Mayor has said that the ultra low emission zone will be extended to the boundary of Greater London from 29th August 2023. He says that London has made significant progress over the last six years in improving air quality. However, toxic air caused by traffic is still leading to children growing up with stunted lungs and thousands of premature deaths a year – with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in London’s outer boroughs, which the ULEZ doesn’t currently cover.

A new vehicle scrappage scheme announced by the Mayor will include a grant of £2000 for any non-compliant vehicle which is scrapped. The money will only be available to people in receipt of certain benefits. The money can be used to purchase a compliant vehicle but can also be used for greener transport such as cargo bikes. An additional option is to receive a free bus and tram pass for a year, although this would not include rail. Higher grants will be available for scrapping vans or minibuses (£5000 for a van and £7000 for a minibus) for small businesses and charities. Disabled drivers will be able to continue to use non-compliant vehicles until 24th October 2027.

Cable car gets a makeover

Many people label the cable car line crossing the Thames near the O2 as one of Boris Johnson’s follies. It’s been kept going by sponsorship by Emirates Airline. When Emirates ended their sponsorship there was talk of the somewhat lightly used transport link closing. However, it has now been rescued by a Swedish software firm, IFS in a deal worth £420,000 a year. IFS provides some of the software used by the cable cars.

New developments in electric traction for buses

Developments in electric traction for London buses are proceeding at a rapid rate.

There are now, as of the end of October, 850 all-electric buses in operation in London. They are able to operate without recharging for a little over 100 miles which is not really enough for a full day’s work

A new facility at Bexleyheath garage has one answer to this problem. 18 buses on route 132 are able to call into the garage during the day for a quick recharge. A 10-minute top-up can recharge the battery by about 20 per cent, giving them around 20 miles more running time. Recharging is through a pantograph which is lowered onto a receptor on the roof of the bus, operated by the driver. One of the advantages of this new facility is that it might make it possible for buses to use smaller batteries saving on cost and weight.

An alternative to frequent recharging is to instal larger or more efficient batteries to extend the range and bus operator Go-Ahead is trialling an experimental electric double decker which is claimed to run 250 miles on a single charge, enough for a full day’s work in London traffic. Additionally, LT11, one of the so-called Boris buses, has recently been converted to full electric operation. If the experiment is successful consideration will be given to converting all 1000 of these buses.

Another development is the introduction of so-called ‘trambuses’ on route 358 between Crystal Palace and Orpington early next year. These are single-deck buses supposedly designed to look like trams, (although the only nod in that direction appears to be the covered wheel arches). Like the double-deckers on the 132 they will also be recharged during the day, sitting for ten minutes under a pantograph, in this case not at a depot but at each end of the route.

Renwick Road on again

Development of housing in ex-industrial areas in Barking – Creekmouth, Castle Green and Thames Road – partly depended on the provision of a new station on the Overground extension to Barking Riverside. Financial problems appeared to have scuppered both the station and the houses but now plans for the new station are being worked on by TfL. This should enable the delivery of 10,000 new homes on these sites by 2030.

The new station, provisionally named Castle Green, would sit on an island site where the lines in and out of Barking Riverside have been build wide enough apart to accommodate it. Renwick Road would form one entrance and another, at the other end of the platform, would serve new housing. Funding is likely to be a mix of developer money and some central government funding via the Housing Infrastructure pot.

Five new parklets for The Cut

The Cut is a busy road connecting Waterloo Road with Blackfriars Road. Most buildings are commercial. They include the Old Vic and the Young Vic, branches of Lewisham and Southwark Colleges, and a number of bars and restaurants.

The road also now boasts improved cycle parking and also five parklets, each taking at least one car parking space.

Anthony Lau, founder of Cyclehoop which installed to parklets, said: ‘By extending the pavement, the parklets offer additional space for pedestrians with a safety barrier protecting users from road traffic. This means the main pavement thoroughfare is not disrupted and visitors can relax and enjoy the outdoors. By providing 24 cycle parking spaces on the carriageway this frees up even more space for pedestrians.’

The parklets are not only of benefit to pedestrians and cyclists. According to Lau, restaurants which use the parklets to extend their seating area can experience a 30 per cent uplift in turnover, and, together with improved cycle parking, can increase retail spend by up to five times.

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