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Archive for the ‘Traffic and transport’ Category

Two new speed limit signs have appeared in the last few days.  The first pair, at the entrance to Aldebert Terrace, add to what is now a fairly unpleasant clutter of signs, but are now clear enough.*

Aldebert Terrace signs

Another new sign at the entrance to Albert Square, finally confirming the road marking which has been there for quite a while.

Albert Square sign

That at least means that most drivers looking for a short cut will have no excuse for not being aware of the lower speed limt.  But approach St Stephen’s Terrace from Bolney Street, and it’s a different story.  The signs there were put up to mark the end of the 20mph zone round Fentiman Road (known to the planners as “St Stephen’s” for bizarre reasons of their own).

Bolney St speed sign

Since the two 20mph zones are contiguous, the signs simply need to be removed to ensure that drivers are accurately informed throughout the area.
*When it first went up, this sign was on a very short pole – even shorter than the one at the entrance to Albert Square – and was potentially very dangerous as it blocked half the pavement at head height. Credit to Lambeth for replacing it with the much taller and safer pole within a day.

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Lambeth Council has produced a draft Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), which was published in July, and is open to consultation until 15 December.  It’s a long and detailed document covering the area from Lambeth Bridge in the north down to Wyvil Road in the south.  The plan is seeking to encourage significant redevelopment in the area, though recognising that this would add further pressure to already stretched transport services.

Draft Vauxhall SPD coverThere are some curious details – a photograph looking south along South Lambeth Road labelled as looking north, another of the Strand, which is gridlocked for much of the day, presented as an “example of a quality street not compromised by high traffic volumes”, enough typos to suggest that it was put together in slightly too much of a hurry, and quite a lot of repetition.  But there is also quite a lot of systematic thinking about how the area might develop, with a pragmatic realisation that implementation might take 15 years.

There is an online questionnaire which goes with the draft plan and which is worth answering even if you can’t quite face the 111 pages of the SPD itself – it’s pretty straightforward and should only take a few minutes to complete.  One or two of the questions have a pretty strong slant – the two options for answering a question on tall buildings are:

  • Tall buildings should form a cluster around Vauxhall Cross (Vauxhall Heart)
  • Tall buildings should be allowed anywhere in Vauxhall

Not having tall buildings is apparently not an option, despite the transport pressures and visual intrusion they would create, though to be be fair there is an “other” category which provides space for alternative answers.

There are public exhibitions about the plan in several locations over the next few weeks, with details on the consultation web page.

Thanks to Andrew Orange of the Tradescant Road & South Lambeth blog for spotting the documents on the Lambeth website.

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End of the line

The new Transport for London business plan, published on Thursday, promises much for the next ten years:

The Programme will focus on the upgrade of the Tube, building Crossrail, extensions to the DLR and London Overground networks, supporting the 2012 Games and securing a legacy from them, smoothing traffic flows, leading a revolution in cycling and walking, and providing greater flexibility for London’s boroughs to deliver local transport solutions.

Tram lines in the Kingsway tunnel

Buried in the small print at the bottom is the less positive part of the story – which is the part which affects us most directly.    The cross-river tram, which might have come down Clapham Road, has been cancelled:

Cross River Tram (cost to complete £1.3bn):

Given the lack of funding available to implement the project and the likelihood of not securing additional third party funding, TfL is not in a position to develop the scheme any further.

However the Business Plan will deliver a number of transport improvements to the communities along the proposed routes including the increased capacity and more frequent services to come on the Northern, Victoria and Piccadilly lines.

TfL and the London Devlopment Agency will now look at alternatives to Cross River Tram including Northern line separation, improved bus operations and other ways of supporting local regeneration.

The tram always was a long shot, but it’s a shame that the prospect has disappeared altogether as it could have made a big contribution to easing transport pressures.

The opaquely named “Northern Line separation” offered as one of the alternatives is a scheme which would, in effect, permanently separate the Northern line into two lines – one from Morden through Stockwell, Kennington and the City to one of Edgware and High Barnet, and the other from Kennington through Charing Cross to the other of Edgware and High Barnet.  That can’t happen soon – it depends on rebuilding Camden Town station to create more capacity for changing trains and is rather opaquely described in the new business plan as “Northern line upgrade – Part 2, completion date 2020”.  If it ever happens, we would of course lose the direct connection to the Charing Cross branch from Stockwell and Oval, so it may not obviously look like a service improvement – but apparently not having to slot trains from the different branches behind each other on the same lines would allow overall train frequency to be increased by 20%.

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Residents in the Albert Square conservation area should have today received updated consultation material from Lambeth Council about the proposals for traffic calming measures in the area. The last meeting of the Albert Square and St Stephen’s Association (ASSA) Committee considered these and came to the following conclusions, which we hope will assist you in making a response to the proposals (the closing date is now 17 October).

Slow

The Albert Square and St Stephen’s Association (ASSA) welcomes the opportunity to respond to Lambeth Council’s current consultation on a traffic calming scheme in the Albert Square conservation area. But we believe that local residents need a far more effective approach to the serious problem of traffic that is too much and too fast. ASSA is opposed to the current proposals for the following reasons:

  • We don’t believe that the proposed additional sinusoidal road humps will be sufficient to reduce the volume and speed of traffic that now uses our area as a ‘rat run’ – a fact of life acknowledged in the council’s paper
  • We believe that any traffic calming measures for our area should be part of a wider strategy that situates our needs within the wider network of local streets. Such an approach was agreed by Lambeth Council in 2006, when the Executive Director of Environment reported to the North Lambeth Area Committee that the ‘Fentiman Road Cell scheme’ would be processed for implementation that year. Under this scheme, our area would have been subject to an ‘entry treatment’ that would have reduced the volume of traffic cutting through our streets, and its speed
  • There is an existing 20mph speed limit through our area – though you would hardly know this because of the lack of signs and road markings. This limit needs to be more vigorously signed and enforced. For example, a census of traffic through our area a year ago found that in excess of 1,000 vehicles a day were passing through the area, with average speed of 22mph and 15% were travelling at speeds of more than 26mph.

We welcome Lambeth Council’s attempts to tackle traffic calming in the Albert Square conservation area, but call on them to withdraw this scheme in favour of further consultation with residents to introduce more effective longer term solutions to reduce the volume and speed of traffic in our area.

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The deadline is on us for responding to the consultation by TfL and Lambeth council on the proposed installation of seven “sinusoidal road humps” at locations shown in red on the map.  The pack which came through my letterbox said there was a questionnaire about the proposals, but didn’t actually include one – though there was an email address – gbull@lambeth.gov.uk – for more information.

The objective of the scheme is clearly one we all share – these proposals will, we are told, “lower traffic volumes, limit vehicle speeds, reduce collisions and improve road safety”.  That’s a lot for seven humps to achieve, and there’s some reason to doubt that it will fulfil the planners’ hopes.

The first problem is that this looks as though the completely piecemeal approach to traffic planning is continuing:  none of this takes us any closer to seeing a coherent approach to planning for the whole of the South Lambeth Road – Clapham Road – Harleyford Road triangle.

The deeper problem is that key components of the traffic management system seem to be off limits in any overall assessment of what’s going on, most importantly the traffic lights at the end of Aldebert Terrace which made the Albert Square  – Aldebert Terrace cut through much more attractive.  So having generated traffic through doing one thing, we have lived through a whole series of measures designed to counteract the effect of the first one.

That’s not to say that adding more humps is a bad idea, even if it is born more of desperation than of strategy.  Interestingly, the Department for Transport seems pretty sceptical about the advantages of (more expensive) sinusoidal humps over the common or garden variety.

Whatever your views, tomorrow is the last day for sending them in, using the questionnaire if you were lucky enough to get one, or simply by email to the address above if you weren’t.

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The London Freewheel took place today, with thousands of cyclists enjoying a traffic-free route which stretched from Buckingham Palace to the Tower of London. Four feeder routes brought people into the central area, one of them starting at Clapham Common and running through Aldebert Terrace and St Stephen’s Terrace.  Last year apparently 38,000 cyclists took part – this morning what seemed like most of them were going past.

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ASSA has written to Transport for London protesting against proposals for a trial traffic scheme that would bring in a no-right turn at the junction of Fentiman Road and South Lambeth Road.

In a letter to TfL on 29 August, ASSA said:

The new proposal would shift more traffic from Fentiman Road into neighbouring streets, particularly our own [Albert Square, Aldebert Terrace, St Stephen’s Terrace and Wilkinson Street] …

The no-right turn would have major implications for traffic in neighbouring streets. We are frankly outraged that this proposal should be put to us out of the blue.

ASSA points out that there is a comprehensive traffic plan for our whole area – “the Fentiman Road residential cell” – that was agreed following a thorough and expensive study by JMP Consulting culminating in public consultation in October 2005.

Decisions were taken in the context of a landmark resolution by the whole Lambeth Council to the effect that they would no longer countenance piecemeal traffic changes without thoroughly considering their effect on the wider area.  The plan includes entry treatments for Fentiman Road and Aldebert Terrace, which have not been implemented.

ASSA has called on TfL to:

  • let us know if its strategy for traffic in our area has changed since 2005
  • give us the entry treatments for Aldebert Terrace and Fentiman Road, which were fully consulted on and agreed in 2005
  • re-open the east-west route through Lansdowne Way
  • drop the proposal for a trial ban on the right turn out of Fentiman Road
  • re-establish the strategic dialogue for the “Fentiman Road cell”.

ASSA has also informed Lambeth council and local Greater London Association member Val Shawcross of our objections.

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History and background to traffic proposals in the Albert Square area

NEIL SANDERS of the Albert Square and St Stephen’s Association looks at the background to concerns about this scheme
Having lived here for 32 years, it is hard to avoid feeling that someone in transport engineering has a vendetta against us!  When I moved here, the Albert Square Conservation Area was a quiet backwater with virtually no through traffic.  There were two well-established routes for east-west traffic.  One was Fentiman Road, a classified B road and a recognised local distributor, the other Lansdowne Way.  Fentiman Road was a straight road, not too wide, so traffic could proceed without any particular hazard, but, because it was quite narrow, the traffic would not be tempted to go too fast.  Anyone who moved into Fentiman Road knew that it was a classified road and might, one might argue, be expected to take the consequences.  Lansdowne Way presented one single problem: the angled junction with Clapham Road which was an accident black spot.

Over the years, the policies of Lambeth Council and Transport for London (TfL) and its predecessors have stated ever more strongly the importance of removing traffic from residential areas (and also protecting the character of Conservation Areas, etc), yet their actions have had precisely the opposite effect and diverted traffic into our area.

The route through Albert Square and Aldebert Terrace is a particularly dangerous one, because it alternates between tight bends with very restricted visibility and a wide street giving every incentive to traffic to race.  It is also particularly unsuited to through traffic because it is an exceptionally fine Victorian Conservation Area and houses an exceptionally good local community, both of which are damaged by through traffic.

The worst change came with the introduction of Red Routes, when restrictions were placed on access to Lansdowne Way from Clapham Road so as to eliminate its use as an east-west route. Overnight, Aldebert Terrace was transformed from backwater to rat-run.  The introduction (at the same time) of traffic lights at the junction of Aldebert Terrace and the South Lambeth road guaranteed the exit from the rat run. The reason for closing the Lansdowne Way route was to eliminate the accident black spot at the angled junction with the Clapham Road.  However, the new traffic lights at the junction were set up so the two conflicting traffic flows which caused the danger took place separately rather than together.  This would have solved the accident problem without any need for the access restrictions.  Lansdowne Way produces far less clash between through traffic and residential frontages than does the Albert Square – Aldebert Terrace route.

In our view, the re-opening of Lansdowne Way would offer the most important strategic benefit to the area.

After the introduction of the Red Routes the Council commissioned a major study by JMP Partners of the so-called Fentiman Road residential cell, which culminated in public consultation in October 2005.  The proposals were agreed, and the Council decided to implement them.  Also the full Lambeth Council passed a landmark resolution that they would no longer countenance piecemeal traffic changes without considering their effect on the wider area. The proposals for our cell were still going ahead under the Lambeth Opportunity Fund when they were considered by the North Lambeth Area Committee on 10 January 2006.

Tfl were then granted new powers to control junctions with Tfl roads.  Abu Barkatoolah, our Lambeth contact, told us that Tfl had called in the Fentiman Road cell proposals to have another look at the junctions, but that he would continue to implement the measures within Lambeth’s control as resources permitted.  Subsequently Abu was promoted, and all efforts on our part to find out what Tfl and the Council are doing about the key entrances to the cell have failed.  We have made numerous enquiries, and we have continuing problems in establishing a dialogue with either Lambeth Council or Tfl – even on mundane matters such as giving us promised traffic figures.

The proposals for an experimental no-right turn came to us out of the blue.  It seemed to us that, having blocked the excellent scheme, which had been subject to full consultation and agreed, Tfl, the strategic authority, has started on the futile business, which the Borough Council has formally abandoned, of shuffling traffic from one residential area to another.  We were outraged that it should be put to us in apparent concert with Lambeth Council, when the Council had given us firm undertakings that no changes would be made in traffic arrangements in the “Fentiman cell” without full consideration of knock-on effects in adjacent areas.

The fact that we had made so many efforts to find out what was going on but were told nothing added to our sense of grievance.

We are puzzled by the role of Lambeth Council, because although the Tfl letter states that local Councillors are in favour of the scheme, we know that our Ward (Stockwell) Councillors are all vehemently opposed to it. We are also anxious to re-establish an effective dialogue with Lambeth Officers and re-connect with the history.

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