diamond geezer

 Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Consultation hats on.
"TfL are working with the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham and the London Legacy Development Corporation to enhance the transport links and public realm at Bromley-by-Bow and Marshgate Lane. The proposals would make it easier for people to cross both the A12 and Stratford High Street by providing new or upgraded pedestrian and cycle facilities, improving access for vehicles, enabling new bus routings, encouraging more walking and cycling, and connecting local communities and new developments in the surrounding area."

I've told you this story before, last November, when the LLDC published plans to redevelop the area northeast of Bromley-by-Bow station. What's different this time is that TfL have launched a consultation based on road junctions and transport, rather than new blocks of flats.

We'll come to Marshgate Lane in a minute. I only mentioned the place on Sunday, sorry. Instead let's focus on the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road, which is where all the meat of this latest proposal is based. In short TfL want to add two new road junctions on the A12 where currently there are none. This will be both extremely useful and annoyingly unnecessary, depending on who you are. [summary map]

At present you can drive all the way from Redbridge to Bromley-by-Bow and beyond without meeting a traffic light - that's six miles undisturbed. The new plans propose adding two sets of traffic lights, barely 200m apart, between Bromley-by-Bow station and the Bow Interchange. Here's where the first one's going.

Roughly where that red van is, at the current exit slip onto St Leonards Street, a big gap will be carved out of the central reservation to create a bus-friendly junction. Traffic exiting from the new development on the Tesco site will have to turn left onto the A12, as now, so cars will see no benefits whatsoever. But buses will be able to cross six lanes of traffic and continue along the slip road opposite into St Leonards Street, avoiding the big loop south they currently have to make round Twelvetrees Crescent. Intriguingly buses will also be allowed to emerge from this slip road, against the current one-way traffic, but will then have to turn left onto the A12 in a sort-of giant dog-leg.

The other winners are pedestrians. Currently they can only cross by subway, this route forced by a whopping great barrier down the centre of the A12. In future they'll be able to walk at street level via a staggered crossing, which'll be ideal for residents of the new development trying to get to the station. Meanwhile the subway adjacent to the station will be made more accessible - we're not told how - and the subway opposite Tesco will be removed. The adjacent scrappy patch of grass will see its poorly-used footway improved, as well as the addition of a brief segregated cycle lane.

The second set of traffic lights will benefit buses, cars and pedestrians alike. This is where northbound traffic on the A12 will be allowed to turn right into the new development - currently they have to go up to the Bow Roundabout and turn back. This might even ease congestion, but more likely it'll create congestion as the 99% of traffic that doesn't want to turn right is forced to wait at lights. Local residents will be able to bring traffic on the A12 to a halt at the press of a button, and that's every time they want to go to the shops, which could be quite often.

Interestingly the new road into the development has already been added. It's called Culvert Drive, and it runs along the edge of the first blocks of flats at 'Bow River Village'. At present the road's a cul-de-sac ending in a small children's playground, but when the final set of flats are added this'll become a through route and the climbing equipment will have to be moved elsewhere. For now the road ends on top of a gabion wall above the River Lea, but in a few years there'll be a bridge here, for buses, bikes and pedestrians only, linking to the much bigger Sugar House Lane development on the opposite side. The red line is mine, and is purely indicative.

There isn't yet a road through the dirt on the other side of the non-existent bridge. Neither are there any flats, just a load of diggers scooping and raising and flattening the land. But there will one day be a link, and this'll connect to the second part of the consultation, which involves sending buses up Marshgate Lane. This manoeuvre wouldn't work at present because the junction at the end of the lane comes before the end of the Bow Flyover, so the intended solution is to create another bus/bike/pedestrian-only bridge. Approximately here.

It'll branch off from Stratford High Street directly opposite the end of Sugar House Lane. There is already a signalled junction here, it was added last year, so this isn't an issue. The new link will then pass through the old Porsche dealership, which has just been demolished, before crossing one of the Bow Back Rivers, namely St Thomas Creek. Then it'll smash through the Marshgate Business Centre, I'd say taking out the timber workshop, or maybe the fruit and veg wholesalers nextdoor. It's OK, the redevelopment of the Pudding Mill neighbourhood has long had this entire run of businesses pencilled in for demolition, so it's not as if the new bus link will kill anything extra. [summary map]

And here the bridge joins up with the bend in Marshgate Lane, so perfectly you'd think it was recreating an original roadway. According to November's consultation buses will terminate by the station, then turn round and head back through the two new links to Devons Road and ultimately to Limehouse. If that's the case it won't exactly be the most useful bus in London, but it will wiggle past a heck of a lot of new homes. It'll also be the catalyst for some expensive road modifications, and some useful extra river crossings for cyclists and those on foot.

Here's why I'm cross. This is what part of the proposed new bus route looks like today.

This is the cooking sauces aisle in my local supermarket, which cars and buses will be one day be driving straight through. The existing Tesco interrupts the proposed street pattern so will be knocked down and replaced by a new store, less than a quarter of the size, built slightly further to the north. The new store won't offer anywhere near as much choice, neither will it have a car park because it's being downgraded to a 'walk-in' rather than a 'drive-to' facility. Given that the new flats won't have parking spaces either, this means vehicle movements will undoubtedly be lower than they are today, but for this TfL intend to gouge out two brand new junctions on the A12.

The downsizing of my local supermarket has nothing to do with TfL, and everything to do with the price of land. Diverting the D8 and a brand new bus route through two large new estates makes perfect sense in terms of passenger accessibility. But I still can't help thinking that slowing down the traffic on the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road, twice, for a couple of underused bus services isn't the smartest of moves. Sure, it helps heal a long-standing pedestrian severance and supports the Mayor's new Healthy Streets initiative, but it's the exhaust fumes on the A12 that'll kill us, not the fact we can't easily cross it.

Meanwhile, hidden quite a long way down the consultation page is the admission that another long-standing aspiration has bitten the dust. TfL had been hoping to replace the Bow roundabout and flyover with an at-grade crossroads - much safer for pedestrians and cyclists alike - as part of the last Mayor's Vision For Bow. No longer. Instead it says...
"We have looked at further options to redesign Bow Interchange and remove both the roundabout and flyover, giving pedestrians and cyclists more direct access to facilities. However, we have now deferred development of this scheme until we can identify the significant funding required to take the plans forward."
...which is shorthand for "there is absolutely no money for this". Indeed upgrading the Bow Interchange is now languishing in the same non-existent pot of money as the Metropolitan line extension, so is probably doomed, with the current Mayor's fare freeze a significant contributing factor. And this almost certainly means that the 'interim scheme' delivered last summer, the one which diverts pedestrians across the centre of the roundabout, is the last that we'll get.

If you'd like to meet the TfL team behind the latest consultation, public exhibitions will be taking place at Kingsley Hall on Saturday 8th April (1200-1600) and Thursday 20th April (1600-2000). The advisory letter posted through my letterbox yesterday also gives a date of Monday 27th March (1600-2000), but hints that these dates may not be especially well fixed. Or simply fill in your response to the consultation online, by Sunday 23rd April. If you plan to live locally in one of the new developments, I think it's thumbs up all round. If you only ever drive past Bromley-by-Bow on the A12, and don't want me pressing buttons to slow down your journey, I'd complain like hell.

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