Lewisham Gateway: met the contractors

On Thursday, I dropped into the foyer of Glass Mill and met various people at the Lewisham Gateway ‘meet the contractors’ event there.

It was pleasantly surprising that I think everyone I spoke to was aware of my blog! Likewise, there was a fair bit of holding up of hands and acknowledgement that things could be much improved on the communications front, which was encouraging to hear.

Perhaps because of my own transport bias, my most interesting chat was with a representative from Transport for London. He’s going to feed back that their communications of bus stop changes in Lewisham have simply not been good enough so far – as I said to him, I’ve heard more about the closure of Putney Bridge than of nearly all the main bus stops in my own town centre, and I’ve never been to Putney.

I also took the opportunity to raise with him the apparent trolling of Hither Green residents in the planned final Lewisham Gateway bus stop arrangements (see end of that post), whereby the 181 and 225 buses will continue to stop at entirely separate stops with another between them, as had long been the case before the Gateway works began, despite both heading next to Hither Green. He’s taking this back to TfL and our conversation left me optimistic that this may well be able to be resolved now it’s been flagged up (no bus stop pun intended).

On a less optimistic note, I also tried to clarify stopping arrangements for all the buses formerly terminating at Lewisham Station. These were all curtailed to stop E opposite the Police Station, but this is now closed itself and most of these buses now set down at Stop F outside Glass Mill, on their way to the bus stand on Thurston Road. This was previously ruled out by TfL for reasons given to me in response to a Freedom of Information request a few months ago. Accordingly, TfL’s thinking on this is all a bit unclear at the moment – indeed the TfL rep hadn’t been able to pin down an exact list of which buses were officially dropping off there now in time to bring it along with him to this event.

It seems TfL are still not keen on using stop F due to the potential congestion, but were left with little choice but to give it a go while stop E is closed. I hope they’re monitoring how much of the theoretical congestion manifests itself in reality during stop E’s closure and will review their decision not to use stop F going forward accordingly, but I fear it’s more likely they’ll simply revert to stop E when it reopens later this autumn without any review. Keep your fingers crossed, station-bound bus users!

I chatted too with a council officer, and with Lewisham Gateway’s communications person, the latter of whom said he’d look again at the inadequate information provided on the project’s news page. The TfL bus stop closures link they currently give provides no information at all about alternative stopping arrangements – I suggested that for as long as TfL’s communications are that poor, just linking to them was inadequate and they should instead be plugging the gap themselves.

It looked like there’d been a steady flow of visitors seeking information about the project, so hopefully these drop-in sessions will be a regular occurrence over the coming months as Lewisham Gateway progresses.

And there was one thing that everyone I asked completely agreed on: whether they had any meaningful influence whatsoever over Southeastern, the private railway company (renowned for its complete lack of interest in customer service in the London ‘Metro’ area) whose franchise has just been extended by the government for several years without competition or consultation. I knew the answer before I asked, but asked anyway, and sure enough, it’s a ‘no’. So don’t hold your breath for that Platform 4 gate at London’s tenth-busiest non-terminus railway station to be opened any time soon.

Meet the Lewisham Gateway contractors, Thursday 11 September – plus webcam!

Over a week after my last post, Lewisham Gateway’s official News page has had a minor update, providing a somewhat useful map of suspended bus stops and a link to the shorter version of the inadequate information about this on the Transport for London web site.

More excitingly, they also announced a drop-in “meet the contractors” event (not mentioned on their News page, though!) taking place in the foyer of Glass Mill leisure centre on Loampit Vale (SE13 7FT) tomorrow, Thursday 11 September, between 16.00 and 19.30. This should be well worth dropping in on if you’d like to find out more about progress. I certainly would so I’m hoping to make it along!

Latest Lewisham Gateway webcam image

And the most exciting new online development is a webcam overlooking the whole Lewisham Gateway site, from the top of the old Citibank tower above the shopping centre. A glorious view (including my own block of flats) and I look forward to watching whatever timelapse video they make with the pictures they record over the next couple of years!

Lewisham Gateway: communication breakdown

I’d love to be able to give you an update on what’s going on with all the bus stops and bus routes around the Lewisham Gateway site at the moment, but I can’t, because once again the developers are failing to announce or share what’s happening, or update their out-of-date News page.

I gather from a bus stop notice on TfL’s site (the only such notice attached to any of the stops in the Lewisham Gateway area on TfL’s system, despite all the changes) that stop E – the one opposite the police station where all the station-bound buses had been terminating – is now closed for two months, until 28 October, for ‘planned pavements works’, but it seems no part of that plan was to announce this anywhere else.

I hear from a follower on Twitter – and saw to my own surprise in the case of an 89 yesterday – that buses may now be setting down passengers at stop F outside Glass Mill leisure centre, but this directly contradicts what TfL had told me was possible before, and I can find nothing to say this is officially happening anywhere, so goodness knows if that’s just kind bus drivers or official policy. I also saw a 208 setting down passengers at stop P, by the clock tower, this evening; if that’s where buses to Lewisham Station are now officially terminating, that’ll be very unpopular as it’s even more of a walk than stop E was.

89 at Lewisham station bus stop F

Update: while the bus stop notice linked above ends at ‘planned pavements works’, there’s a far longer notice available on each individual route, bizarrely, which reads as follows:

LEWISHAM HIGH STREET SE13: Routes 21 47 54 75 89 108 122 136 178 180 181 185 199 208 225 261 273 284 321 380 436 484 P4 N21 N47 N89 N136 from 1000 Tuesday 26th August until 1530 Tuesday 28th October will not serve Bus Stop Lewisham Police Station (E) due planned pavements works. Routes 108 178 261 N89 will serve nearest Bus Stop Lewisham Clock Tower (P) located on Lee Bridge Road. Routes 21 47 54 75 89 122 136 180 181 185 199 208 225 273 284 321 380 436 484 P4 N21 N47 N136 will serve nearest Bus Stop Lewisham Station (F) on Loampit Vale.

So it seems the use of stop F is official, despite contradicting TfL’s previous explanation. Long may it continue – they’ll surely struggle to justify returning all those buses to terminating at the far less convenient police station after this! (Although that notice includes some routes which never served stop E anyway, like 180 and 199, and certainly won’t be serving stop F, which they don’t go past.)

Stops F and FF (opposite F) have supposedly been shut between 10.00 and 15.30 daily since 1 August, but I’ve seen nothing to suggest that is happening. Here’s a related and somewhat impenetrable TfL “Status alert for route 21″:

LEWISHAM HIGH STREET/MOLESWORTH STREET SE13 – ROUTES 180 199 273 380: From 1000 Monday 4 August until 1500 Monday 29 September August, buses will not served Stops F and FF due to roadworks.

Quite why a “Status alert for route 21″ begins with a list of routes which aren’t route 21, and don’t serve the mentioned stops, I don’t know. It then goes on to specify a time period which we are well into and says the stops will be closed for all of it – I assume it’s meant to say 10.00-15.00 daily, not just that entire period, but either way, the stops are still open today, almost a month into that time. I look forward to it ending on “Monday 29 September August”.

Stops A and B, on either side of Lewisham Road near Maggie’s, were meant to have the same daytime closure arrangement in place from 21 July, but didn’t, then suddenly became completely closed 24/7 earlier this month, without warning.

And throughout all these changes, all the official Lewisham Gateway News page has mustered is an update, still unaltered, about the daytime changes to stops A, B, F and FF that haven’t happened in the way described, and an update about noise levels from sheet piling. I signed up for their e-mail updates from the start and have not received any of those since 18 July either.

But hey, when you’re dealing with dozens of bus routes interchanging with the tenth busiest non-terminus railway station in Greater London, why would anyone need to be kept informed?

Lewisham Gateway: more bus stop changes from now

You may not have heard about this, because Transport for London certainly haven’t made any effort to tell you, but further bus stop changes kick in around Lewisham Station from tomorrow, 21 July 2014, as major work progresses on the Lewisham Gateway development site.

Bus stops affected by temporary changes during summer 2014

Bus stops affected by temporary changes during summer 2014

Bus stop changes – details

Starting now, bus stops A and B – the ones called Lewisham Station which are located near Maggie’s, opposite each other on Lewisham Road – will be closed every day of the week between 10.00 and 15.30, until 18 September. These are the stops served by the 180, 199, 273 and 380 bus routes, in each direction.

Furthermore – and you get a little more notice on this – bus stops F and FF, also called Lewisham Station, located outside and opposite Glass Mill leisure centre on Loampit Vale, will also be closed every day of the week between 10.00 and 15.30, from 1 to 31 August 2014. Stop F is served by the 21, 47, 136, 225, 321 and 436 as they leave Lewisham town centre to head towards New Cross or Deptford. Stop FF is where routes 21 and 436 drop passengers off before they end their journeys behind the shopping centre on Molesworth Street.

You can see these stops, all with variously incorrect names (apparently because TfL told the developers the wrong stop names), on this map the developers have made.

Very unimpressively, today, less than a day before the first closure, there was no mention anywhere on or near stops A and B that these daily closures are happening at all. I’m told responsibility for such publicity lies firmly with Transport for London, but they haven’t even got an electronic message into their online stop-specific Countdown system, let alone publicity near the stop. Clearly there are a lot of ‘partner organisations’ involved in this development but if one party is singularly failing to provide timely information, perhaps it’s time for another to step in and stick up a couple of posters?

Latest photos

Lewisham Gateway progress, 19 July 2014

I’ve published another 35 or so photos from around the site over the past couple of weeks into the usual place – the top of my Lewisham Gateway album on Flickr. (All the photos have captions which you should be able to see on the web version of Flickr, at least – I think these days the apps and mobile version don’t make it easy to see the captions unfortunately.)

The photos include clear signs of work on the new Station Road, which I also tried to document on Vine on 17 July but the following short clip seemingly failed to publish successfully, so you can enjoy it here in non-looping format instead!

Consultation exhibition

Yesterday I attended the Lewisham Gateway consultation exhibition in Lewisham shopping centre and met several of the people running various aspects of the project.

Lewisham Gateway consultation exhibition

Sadly, I don’t have time to write up what we spoke about now (and I do mean sadly; I’d far rather do that than go and iron the shirts that have just finished in the washing machine). So that’ll have to wait for my next post…

Lewisham Gateway: Phase 2 consultation

I haven’t posted here about Lewisham Gateway lately, just because the project has been merely ticking along roughly according to plan – we’re in about Month 3 of 27 of Phase 1 and accordingly:

  • the old bus station site and former Station Road have been utterly destroyed and the river beneath them has been exposed and is being messed about with;
  • the Rennell Street car park closed, on 16 June, and combined with the former hillock where Save Lewisham Hospital marches used to set off from has become another hoarded-off section of building site;
  • a week from today, on Monday 14 July, ‘major roadworks’ begin around the roundabout: this’ll be the beginning of the end for the triangular islands in the centre of each road off the roundabout, and see various traffic signals moved into barrels for ease of manipulation – and the Glass-Mill-to-DLR pedestrian crossing moved to the Glass Mill side of its neighbouring railway bridge.

I continue to update my ongoing set of Lewisham Gateway progress photos (newest first), which generally have descriptive captions, so do check in on those from time to time if you wonder how things are going. Here are a couple of recent highlights…

Goodbye, Station Road bridge:

Lewisham Gateway progress 1 July 2014
Lewisham Gateway progress 3 July 2014

Rennell Street site:

Lewisham Gateway progress 4 July 2014

 

Phase 2 plans

But even as Phase 1 makes progress through its 27-month plan, the developers have their eye on Phase 2, and as such have updated their web site with a new page consulting on their plans for Phase 2.

A particularly striking thing about Phase 2 is that this isn’t the phase in which the reclaimed roundabout site gets redeveloped, or anything much happens anywhere south of that towards Rennell Street: no, this is actually the completion of what you or indeed I may vaguely have in the backs of our heads as being Phase 1 – the development of the former bus station and Station Road site.

Phase 2 of Lewisham Gateway is mainly about building new homes (flats) to the north of the new Confluence Place park – essentially, a strip of flat-building roughly where the eastern arm of Station Road ran until it closed recently.

Consultation exhibition

As well as the information and feedback form on the web site, there’s a chance to go to two exhibitions about the proposals next week, and indeed to “find out more about the work already taking place now”, which is perhaps the more alluring prospect:

Friday 18 July, 14.30–19.00

Leemore Centre
29-39 Clarendon Rise
Lewisham
SE13 5ES

Saturday 19 July, 10.30–15.00

Centre Square
Lewisham Shopping Centre
Lewisham High Street
SE13 7HB

No, I’m not 100% sure what ‘Centre Square’ is myself but I assume it’s probably the interior space in the shopping centre, next to Muffin Break.

So, what’s in store on the Lewisham Gateway site? When will some affordable housing put in its first appearance? (Phase 2, I hope – it was disappointingly dropped from Phase 1 to ensure the developer went ahead with the huge highway reconfiguration.) Just how many Phases will there actually be by the end of the Lewisham Gateway project? When is the end of the Lewisham Gateway project going to be anyway? All questions we may be able to get some kind of answers to at the end of next week – should be worth dropping in!

Southeastern draft 2015 timetables: lucky Lewisham?

January 2015 will see some huge changes to rail services in Lewisham and indeed much else of south-east London. From The Murky Depths has already covered this in some depth so do have a read.

Screenshot of Southeastern January 2015 draft timetable web siteOr dive straight into the timetables themselves on Southeastern’s site, but be warned this is not much fun for those of us living somewhere with more than one line passing through it as they’re presented as entirely separate PDFs, making it very tricky to get an overview of all services through Lewisham, for instance.

Undoubtedly the complete inability to change between Charing Cross and Cannon Street services at London Bridge will give people a major headache over the three years of major work at London Bridge that prevents these interchanges – yet in a set of timetables that for many will be grim reading, there are good news stories too and indeed Lewisham could feasibly be the luckiest station on the Southeastern network, notwithstanding its access issues of course!

For a start, Lewisham is well served by services destined for each of Charing Cross and Cannon Street, so the lack of interchange between these at London Bridge will pose less of a problem for locals. The main impact on us may well be people travelling from the lines feeding through Lewisham to London choosing to change at Lewisham for their desired terminus – be prepared for busier platforms.

Victorious

But this isn’t merely a case of us not being too affected by the bad news; the draft timetable for the Bexleyheath line (PDF) brings delightful, long-overdue and very welcome news too: our Victoria service is at last becoming a fully-fledged, all-day, seven-day-a-week route.

Every half an hour, Monday to Sunday, right through until typical service-end times at about midnight, Lewisham will be properly connected to:

  • Nunhead (for e.g. Thameslink services)
  • Peckham Rye (for e.g. Southern services)
  • Denmark Hill (for e.g. London Overground services) and
  • London Victoria itself, with its multitude of other services and Underground connections – somewhere it’s currently possible to head out to in the early evening but not back from past about 8pm (or indeed at any time on a Sunday).

These places are also destinations in themselves of course, not just of use for interchange. As long as improved connections to Denmark Hill don’t see Jeremy Hunt coming back for a second go at downgrading Lewisham Hospital and directing us to King’s College Hospital instead, it’s hard to see a downside!

Bexleyheath byproduct

The people most drastically affected by this generally excellent news are those living along the Bexleyheath line. Their current timetable (PDF) on a Sunday gives them a train to Charing Cross every half an hour, whereas their new Sunday timetable is 100% different, with no Charing Cross services but instead a half-hourly Victoria service all day – a pretty significant change from one week to the next. On the brighter side, the extension of the existing Mon-Sat Victoria service into the evenings means the evening service on those days doubles for Bexleyheath line-dwellers as these are simply added onto the half-hourly Charing Cross trains they already have.

Lesser-spotted Blackfriars service

A final oddity worth noting in the new timetable is Lewisham gaining a rather rarer but still potentially useful direct link to another key London terminus: Blackfriars (via Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill and Elephant & Castle). Don’t get too excited as the service levels don’t even come close to matching those of the current Victoria service, let alone the future: here’s the entire Lewisham to Blackfriars timetable for the week:

Monday-Friday from January 2015 – to London

Lewisham 08.03 08.23
Peckham Rye 08.10 ——
Denmark Hill 08.13 08.31
Elephant & Castle 08.20 08.39
London Blackfriars 08.29 08.49

Monday-Friday from January 2015 – from London

London Blackfriars 16.18
Elephant & Castle 16.23
Denmark Hill 16.29
Peckham Rye 16.31
Lewisham 16.37

(For details of stations served further out than Lewisham, see the full timetable PDF here.)

Yes, that’s all there is – a service level more akin to a 600-range TfL school bus than a rail service! Nevertheless, it could be useful on occasion and does mean from Lewisham you’ll be able to travel directly to six London termini (London Bridge, Charing Cross, Waterloo via Waterloo East, Cannon Street, Victoria and Blackfriars).

Lewisham's central London rail network from January 2015

Zones 1-2 lines and stations directly served at least once per weekday by Lewisham trains from January 2015 are highlighted on this map

So all in all, despite the pain at London Bridge (which will surely be worth it by 2018 to make using that station more pleasant and ease congestion at one of the worst pinch-points in the whole UK rail network), I’d say Lewisham comes out pretty well from these draft timetables – would you agree?

Platform 4 gate: the case against

I welcome (and will always try to engage with) comments under my posts here on SE13URE. But one of the more surprising ways in which I’ve received feedback this week was through an e-mailed Word document letter sent to me via a mutual contact!

With permission of its sender, I’m reproducing it here in full, one paragraph at a time, with my comments, as it seems fair to air a competing view to my much-publicised petition – while also explaining why I disagree!

Dear Paul,

Firstly I wish to applaud you for the excellent Se13ure website.  It is very informative concerning the Lewisham Gateway scheme.   A pity that the Council have left it up to you to provide details of what is going on.

This is a little unfair on the council I think – the developers were tasked with providing this information and (after a very slow start) are now doing so to a decent standard.

That said I wish to take issue with you over the reopening of the dangerous slope from platform four into Silk Mills Path.  I have no doubt that you will get plenty of signatories for your petition but if you asked the motorists using a rat run if they did not wish to see road closures I expect you would get a 100% to sign up with no regard for the children and aged crossing the road.

I dare say you would get a majority (I suspect not 100%) but the comparison is inappropriate – even as the argument develops in subsequent paragraphs it’s clear that the only people whose lives would supposedly be put at risk by reopening the slope are those signing the petition as potential slope-users, so that’s not equivalent to the passive “children and aged” mentioned here.

Originally this was a track workers access route and never intended as a passenger entrance.  When it was used as a temporary exit during the installation of the staircases and lifts it caused a great deal of problems for the residents of this quiet, pretty street who had to endure not just a huge amount of rubbish but late night revellers, people urinating, even defecating between our parked cars, drug dealing and abusive, aggressive car drivers blocking our parking spaces while they waited for passengers coming down the slope.  All of this my neighbours and I would put up with while the first phase of the Gateway scheme takes place.

I’m glad we are at least agreed at this point that Silk Mills Path is a “quiet” street – I don’t know if I’d go as far as “pretty” but that’s just personal taste :)  The scenarios described here are of course not good, but it’s very hard to quantify. Much of the described behaviour is clearly illegal, so Police/Safer Neighbourhood Teams could be deployed to monitor this in the event it did become a serious problem. And parking there to collect commuters should certainly be banned, with enforcement.

However please consider how dangerous this exit is.  We residents of Silk Mills Path have witnessed many close shaves when passengers leaving the station via this slope step out in front of vehicles from a blind corner.  It is just a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt – even a bicycle could cause severe injury.  A  very likely accident as bicycles are not noisy.   No health and safety officer would ever countenance the use of this exit.  It is for this reason that Network Rail sensibly closed it.

I have considered how dangerous this exit is, and reached the conclusion that, well, it’s not very dangerous. For a start, we established in the previous paragraph that it’s a “quiet” street. I agree, which is why there’s simply not a high risk of accident. My correspondent mentioned earlier in his letter that the slope was open all the time during the installation of the lifts etc., which from memory took about a year; if it is truly “just a matter of time” before a serious accident, quite how much time will this be, if none happened during that whole year?

And even if we accept that this risk is serious, there are simple mitigation measures that could be employed such as:

  • a short barrier at the bottom of the slope to force people to walk left a short distance when reaching the bottom so that they’re no longer turning a blind corner; or
  • a mirror opposite the end of the slope to show what’s coming.

His next paragraph seems to turn a little sinister:

I have copies of much correspondence with Network Rail, station managers, politicians and other interested parties concerning this potential accident spot.  So if the slope were reopened there would be some anxious people who would quite rightly be fearful of litigation when the inevitable accident happens.  And be assured there are some of us residents who would have no hesitation in pointing the noses of injured parties in the direction of those responsible.

Is that some sort of threat? Does he believe that every signatory to the petition should be jointly and severally liable for damages in the event of this gate being reopened?! All the more reason to get as many people as possible to sign, I suppose, to limit each person’s costs ;)

Finally, I’m pleased to say we can end on another point of substantial agreement:

Paul, I totally understand your frustration at the longer walk you and many other rail travellers have to take but reopening that slope is not the answer.  Far better to make an entrance into Tesco’s car park as it appeared in the original plans for the upgrading of the station.  I have no idea why this was not carried out as it would be simple to, as you say, ‘oysterise’ and provide easier access for disabled people – something not provided by the slope because of the steep steps from the platform level. This entrance would also allow direct access to the central concourse, ticket office, platforms 1 and 2 and the DLR for those coming from the North side of the station.  Minutes in the morning are usually more important when going to work than when arriving home in the evening.

I completely agree that this is the only sensible way forward in the long – but hopefully not too long – term, and have said as much in the petition and in the message to Southeastern that each signature of it triggers. The problem with it, however, is that the eastern end of Station Road is closed now, and arranging to install a proper exit gate in the most sensible place, even if Southeastern miraculously agreed to it overnight, could take months. The only practical short-term fix is to reopen (and Oysterise) the Platform 4 gate – now.

I’d be interested to know what my correspondent has done in the years since the Platform 4 gate was last fully open to press Southeastern for the proper exit to be installed at the foot of the Platform 4 stairwell into the Tesco car park. I suspect, perhaps unfairly, that his enthusiasm for this exit is linked very closely to the chances he perceives of the Platform 4 exit gate being reopened…

(Incidentally, I’m not sure what the relevance of the point about morning versus evening minutes was, but as someone in the minority who catch a train from Platform 4 to work every morning, I’m very much in favour of not assuming any particular exit is only of use at any particular time of day.)

And my correspondent signs off:

Yours,
Geoff Fleming

Ah, can this be the same Geoff Fleming who is standing as UKIP council candidate for Lewisham Central on 22 May? It surely can. It seems Mr. Fleming is keen for thousands of locals to be inconvenienced for the next year for the benefit of the small minority who live on Silk Mills Path and fear problems from those exiting the station via their road. Typical UKIP, always defending minorities’ rights ;)

(Full disclosure: I’m a member of the local Labour party – it hardly seems fair to bring my correspondent’s affiliation into this without bringing my own into it too – neither is really relevant to anything under discussion, after all!)

Anyway, if Mr. Fleming (or anyone else) wants to reply to any of the points here, please do so in the comments – I’d far rather discuss this publicly than by letter. But (sincerely) thanks for the correspondence!

» Sign the petition here

» Full Lewisham Gateway content archive

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers