Ikea’s car parking plan for its new east Greenwich store made traffic worse on its opening weekend, Transport for London has told 853.
The store’s first few weekends have been blighted by weekend traffic jams – as predicted by neighbours who opposed Greenwich Council’s decision to give it planning permission – as shoppers flock to the Swedish furniture store.
TfL has said in response to a Freedom of Information request from 853 that the retailer imposed its own one-way system in the store’s car park, without consulting either the council or TfL, making conditions worse around the site.
However, Ikea has said that both TfL and Greenwich were told about its plans in advance of the store’s official opening on 7 February.
Efforts to are ongoing to reduce the impact of the store on an area already blighted by queues from adjacent retail parks. One Sunday earlier this month saw long tailbacks on the A102 as store traffic coincided with the closure of Greenwich town centre for The Big Half running event, with bus services diverted away from the Blackwall Tunnel approach.
There are three areas being looked at: Ikea’s car park, traffic signals, and signage to the store, with plans to route traffic via Blackwall Lane rather than the congested Woolwich Road roundabout.
TfL said: “We are also working with Ikea’s traffic management lead and the borough to refine their car park loading plan, this has helped to reduce congestion on the approach roads by getting vehicles into the car park quicker and loading it from one end.
“Initially Ikea put in a one way system with no communication with TfL or the borough and which unfortunately then worked against all the traffic signal strategies we had prepared for the opening event.”
But an Ikea spokesperson said: “In the run up to the Greenwich store opening, we were a key member of the safety advisory group which representatives from the Royal Borough of Greenwich and TfL also attended.
“The traffic management plan for opening day and the weekend that followed was shared with all relevant parties in advance. We are continuing to keep a close eye on traffic around the Greenwich store, particularly during peak times, and remain in close contact with the Royal Borough of Greenwich.”
TfL is also working on changing traffic signals to allow traffic to flow more easily. It says it has already amended traffic signal timings at the Woolwich Road roundabout, Blackwall Lane flyover and at junctions on Blackwall Lane and Peartree Way; while junctions at Blackwall Lane and the store’s access route on Bugsby’s Way are to be added to TfL’s SCOOT control system which allows signals to respond to current traffic conditions.
On the store’s eastern access route at Peartree Way, TfL says that traffic signals are
being upgraded so that they can be controlled via its central computer system. It adds: “In the meantime we have changed to pre programmed timings to help with the traffic flow. The upgrade is in progress.”
The Freedom of Information response reveals Ikea’s attempt to promote its store on road signs on the A102 – which has led to a delay in erecting signs directing drivers away from the congested Woolwich Road roundabout – conflicted with the store’s own transport strategy, which suggested signs could be placed “in conjunction with other retail parks/units on Bugsby’s Way, to find an area wide solution”.
Earlier this month, 853 revealed that TfL has refused to use the store name on signs on the A102 – the FOI response says this is down to a number of grounds, including that the store is “typical of the region and so does not warrant individual signs”. TfL says it “may be able to agree some temporary signage” in the meantime, and has recommended Ikea use a postcode which encourages drivers with satnav to use the Blackwall Lane exit of the A102.
“The 2014 Transport Assessment proposed signage strategy was to identify the retail area rather than a specific shop for drivers using the A102. TfL policy is minimise signage clutter on the highway as this may confuse drivers or drivers may ignore signage if there is too much information. TfL’s approach to signage is guided by national policy and TfL published guidance,” it said.
Using Google Maps, the postcode given for Ikea does route drivers via Blackwall Lane. But entering “Ikea Greenwich” continues to route drivers via the Woolwich Road roundabout.
TfL says: “As with any new store it will take time for numbers and routing advice to settle. We also are very supportive of Ikea’s promotion of alternatives to car access to the store though again it will take time for that message to influence customers.”
Ads have appeared at bus stops and railway stations in south-east and east London – including Lewisham, Blackheath, Peckham Rye, Bexleyheath and on the Isle of Dogs – encouraging people to use public transport to reach the store.
An Ikea spokesperson told 853: “As Ikea Greenwich is our leading sustainable store, we’re encouraging as many people as possible to use public transport when visiting us and to leave their cars at home.”
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