There is no evidence that measures to stop rat-running drivers in west Greenwich are causing traffic jams in east Greenwich, council leader Danny Thorpe said last night.
Streets around Crooms Hill and Royal Hill, to the west of Greenwich Park, have had planters placed on them since August to block through traffic and encourage walking and cycling as an alternative to public transport.
Residents around Maze Hill and Vanbrugh Hill, to the east of the park, have since complained of worse traffic congestion each morning. While there have been large increases in traffic in general since the first lockdown ended, many residents have linked the jams to the closures; there are no plans at present for similar restrictions on those roads.
Similar “low traffic neighbourhood” schemes, which have been funded with money from the government, have split communities across London – in nearby Lee Green and Hither Green, Lewisham Council recently withdrew some elements of a scheme there to ease congestion on the narrow South Circular Road, which had been overwhelmed by post-lockdown traffic.
The west Greenwich scheme – called Hills and Vales – was planned and consulted on last year, but then introduced as part of the response to the pandemic. It has coincided with the closure of Greenwich Park to through traffic and work to create a segregated cycleway along Trafalgar Road and Woolwich Road.
The issue was raised by all three councillors for Blackheath Westcombe ward at last night’s council meeting – with a 3,000-strong petition calling for “an immediate solution” to the Maze Hill problems presented. The meeting was the first to be held with no public questions, which the council says is needed to allow its staff to work on the response to the pandemic.
Asked by Labour councillor Leo Fletcher on behalf or residents’ groups how the council was monitoring the scheme, and how it would define the success of the west Greenwich scheme “in light of the traffic displacement it has caused”, Thorpe said the council had agreed to put extra measurement systems in place so traffic could be monitored.
“What we’ve found out is that car and van usage in particular has increased by up to 60 per cent,” Thorpe said. “Our initial evidence is that within the Blackheath area, the A2 and Maze Hill have increased by 17 per cent. Now, clearly if the A2 has increased by 17 per cent, and traffic on Maze Hill has increased by 17 per cent, it’s quite reasonable to draw a conclusion that we have people who are trying to rat-run and make connections to other roads in the borough.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable to make any suggestions about traffic displacement, clearly we’re looking at that, but we’re having to look at that in a context where traffic has increased overall in real terms. We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and attribute blame where perhaps it’s not entirely true.”
He said that while the issue was “difficult” for residents, “if we don’t make the changes [in the borough] the whole thing is going to go bang and nobody will be going anywhere”.
Fletcher’s Labour colleague Mariam Lolavar – also posing a question for residents’ groups – said it was clear that “there has been an acknowledgement that Maze Hill is experiencing a significant increase in traffic volume”, and asked if the council would work for “an immediate solution” to the morning queues and a long-term solution to traffic issues on both sides of the park. Thorpe, who recently visited the area to see the queues for himself, said “the short answer is yes”.
Adding that he had discussed the issue with new Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford, he said: “I’m determined to ensure our local neighbourhood streets are not subjected to the kind of rat-running we’ve seen in other places because those streets are designed for communities and not for massive traffic jams.”
When Conservative Geoff Brighty – who also represents Blackheath Westcombe – said the west Greenwich “Hills and Vales” scheme should be scrapped, Thorpe quoted Boris Johnson back at him. The prime minister recently said new government funding would “help ensure the right infrastructure is in place to build truly active neighbourhoods”.
Thorpe added: “Therefore it would seem astonishing at this point to withdraw a scheme based on no real evidence but based on the fact that we trying to manage such increased demand, and we were continue to work with the government who have provided funding for these schemes.”
Close by, Transport for London says work on Cycleway 4 along Trafalgar Road and Woolwich Road should be completed by early December – later than expected, which it says is due to problems with the supply chain and some design alterations. The route uses Old Woolwich Road to create a link from the Old Royal Naval College to Farmdale Road, on the Greenwich/Charlton border.
The route has seen parts of the A206 narrowed to provide a safer, segregated route for cyclists, and will also feature a crossing of the notorious Angerstein roundabout under the A102. It is intended that the route will eventually link Tower Bridge and Woolwich, although only a section from Tower Bridge to Rotherhithe Tunnel is open at present.
A TfL spokesperson told 853: “The cycleway between Greenwich Town Centre and Angerstein roundabout is expected to finish by early December. This is later than originally anticipated for a number of reasons, including delays in our supply chain for temporary materials, issues with ducting identified when on site and a recent design change to Vanburgh Hill bus stops to assist bus operations.”
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