It increasingly appears that my tweets on this subject are the only source of collated information about the Lewisham Gateway development online, or possibly anywhere, so I’ve decided to resurrect this long-dormant blog in the interests of consolidating what I’ve managed to glean so far.
Yesterday, 28 February 2014, was the final day of operation of life as we’ve long known it in the area stretching from Lewisham station to Lewisham Shopping Centre. There’ve been significant moments in the Lewisham Gateway project before – the demolition of buildings between Station Road and Maggie’s and likewise of those just north of Rennell Street and their replacement with strange hillocks back in 2010, for instance, or the sudden clearing of the trees on the land south of Platform 3 outside Lewisham station about a year ago – but these were just that: moments.
Today, 1 March 2014, sees the start of around two years’ work to remove the fatal roundabout and unpleasant pedestrian environment and essentially wipe out the entire road network in this part of Lewisham to replace it with something less awful. You’ll be able to walk from a DLR train to Lewisham market using only one pedestrian road crossing, instead of the current minimum of four. And hopefully (though this was rather a late add-on in recent years to plans first agreed most of a decade ago) there’ll be no more ghost bikes in the vicinity.
Extract from overall plan for the Lewisham Gateway road network
(overlaid on the current road network)
Clicking the extract from the plan above will open the full plan (also available in PDF form via WhatDoTheyKnow, here). This particular diagram is the single clearest illustration I’ve seen among all the documents I’ve waded through trying to work out what’s happening when. It shows the plans for the new road network (and basic outlines of new buildings), in black, overlaid on the washed-out grey plan of the layout of the area as it currently stands. (Well, more or less: the fact Glass Mill leisure centre is shown as “Construction works” illustrates one problem with what information is out there on the Lewisham Gateway project: it’s been so hard to get off the ground amid the credit crunch, recession etc. that it’s been delayed for years at a time. I’ve seen even earlier versions of the plans showing a whole set of roads in the place of Glass Mill which I had no awareness of ever having existed, as someone who only moved to Lewisham in 2010.)
At the heart of the change is a move to push all the roads out to run straight along the very edges of the area, currently filled with things like small areas of grass or indeed those 2010 hillocks, creating a new ‘H’-shaped road network for most vehicles while keeping Station Road one-way, restricting it to buses, cycles and taxis only and spreading bus stops liberally along its edges, along with those of the large new area opened up in between all the edge-hugging roads – inside the top of the ‘H’. The bottom of the ‘H’ contains the shopping centre, while its horizontal bar, linking a straightened Molesworth Street to a straightened High Street, is a much-widened Rennell Street: this currently tiny dead end, home of Coffee Addict (formerly the parking shop) will be open on both ends – and will be the only road to cross between the DLR station and the town centre.
There’ll also be a new park (not shown on that highway-focussed plan), Confluence Place, where the rivers Ravensbourne and Quaggy meet. Currently this happens largely under the concrete and tarmac of Lewisham Bus Station and its environs, so a park in which these rivers go their separate ways sounds like an improvement – and, if nothing else, I suppose the drunks and pigeons who currently congregate in the tiny semi-circular park near the police station will have a new home after the straightened High Street has been driven through their current one.
Byebye bus station
Which brings us to yesterday: the final day of operation of Lewisham Bus Station. You may say a decent blogger would be able to find out when such a glamorous site first came into use, but I make no claims to be a decent blogger and wasn’t able to do so. Clearly, though, it’s been there a long time. (Google Earth’s somewhat limited historical aerial photography reveals it opened at some point between 1945 and 2002: helpful.)
It’s a bit of a misnomer, though: Lewisham Bus Station. What kind of bus station is out of bounds to the public? One which is really a bus stand. (That’s not a joke, in case you were trying to parse it as one based on its syntax.) Lewisham Bus Station is just a place for all the buses which terminate at Lewisham station – and that’s rather a lot of buses, since routes 75, 89, 108, 178, 181, 185, 208, 261, 284, 484 and P4 all finish there – to park in between journeys, before heading off in the other direction, picking people up from one of the three stops west and south of the ‘bus station’ – G, C and D.
Update: a kind commenter called Ned has provided the following historical information about Lewisham Bus Station in a comment below this post – thanks, Ned!
The bus station opened on 22 April 1978. Until then, buses used to stand around the back of the old Odeon on the wrong side of the road and couldn’t be converted to one person operation until the bus station opened.
Initially, it was a proper bus station with individual stops but became more of a bus stand sometime in the mid 90s when the roundabout went in.
Ahh, the ’90s. Ahh, the roundabout. So that’s the history (according to Ned, whom I’ve no reason to doubt!), and how we reached the situation described above.
That all changes from today, 1 March 2014:
- Buses will no longer enter Station Road or Lewisham Bus Station.
- The bus station alighting point and bus stop G close for good.
- A new bus stand area opens on Thurston Road, alongside platform 1 of Lewisham station, behind CarpetRight.
- Routes 75, 89, 181, 185, 208, 284, 484 and P4 will terminate at bus stop E, opposite Lewisham Police Station – four pedestrian crossings from the station, instead of none (or one if you count the quiet, controlled-crossing-less Station Road).
- Those routes will then start from one of the stops outside the DLR station (stop D if they already started there; otherwise stop C).
- Routes 108, 178 and 261 will terminate on Molesworth Street (near where the 21, 180, 380 and 436 currently terminate).
- Those routes will no longer start from stop C at Lewisham station, instead starting from stop H outside the police station (178, 261) or stop V on Lewisham High Street (108). You could make a good case that 108 passengers who interchange with Southeastern or the DLR are the single most inconvenienced group in all these initial changes, as the bus terminates nowhere near the station and starts even further away still.
Why the F not?
The obvious question about most of these changes is: why on earth aren’t the routes terminating at stop F, outside Glass Mill leisure centre, which is very near the station (two close crossings instead of four more distant ones from the police station or Molesworth Street). And indeed, in a 2006 Lewisham Gateway planning document Lewisham Council’s web site makes it surprisingly difficult to link to, when Glass Mill wasn’t even a “Construction Site”, this was the plan: a “set-down” area where stop F is. Buses will run past this stop while out of service after terminating at the police station to get to the new Thurston Road bus standing area, so why not serve it?
My best guess is that it was felt that, while the 47 and 225 routes already do the necessary rapid lane-hopping to get from stop F into the right-turn lane to head for Thurston Road, expecting eleven further routes to do this as well would cause problems. (Which then raises the question of why this was the plan in 2006.) Fortunately, the Freedom of Information Act means we don’t have to settle for my best guess, but we do have to wait up to a month for a more concrete answer.
In my FoI request, I’ve also asked Transport for London to provide all their current working documents showing how buses will be diverted in different ways as the Lewisham Gateway project progresses. I’m actually quite taken aback at how minimal the publicity around these quite major and very long-term changes have been: there was absolutely nothing on bus stop G yesterday to hint at the fact it was closing for good today, and the only one of those yellow-backgrounded bus notices I’ve seen anywhere in Lewisham is on bus stop C, mentioning that the 108, 178 and 261 won’t be stopping there any more.
Presumably as a cost-saving way to communicate the news, TfL have instead sent out e-mails to users whose Oyster history suggests they use the affected routes. This only happened on Thursday, giving people only just over a day’s notice of this major change, and more importantly, it certainly didn’t go to all affected users: not only will many not have e-mail and/or a registered Oyster card, but also I, a regular passenger on the 89, received nothing. A friend forwarded me hers (full e-mail as screenshot):
I am writing to let you know that Lewisham bus station will be closed from Saturday 1 March, for about two years. This is due to redevelopment work, as part of the Lewisham Gateway regeneration scheme. During this time, buses will be affected as follows:
- Routes 75, 89, 181, 185, 208, 284, 484 and P4 will start at Loampit Vale and buses towards Lewisham will terminate at Lewisham High Street
- Routes 108, 178 and 261 towards Lewisham will terminate at Molesworth Street
- Route 108 towards Stratford, route 178 towards Woolwich and route 261 towards Locksbottom will start at Lewisham High Street
For more details, including a map, please click here
It’s pretty weird in some ways – the bus station isn’t shutting “for about two years”, it’s shutting for good and turning into a park and two blocks of flats. And the information about where the buses terminate and start is vague to the point of misleading – my friend assumed the early termination was worse than I’d been saying, because she thought “will terminate at Lewisham High Street” meant they’d finish at the shopping centre, not at the stop called “Lewisham Police Station”, opposite Europe’s biggest police station, which TfL are oddly ignoring the existence of throughout their e-mail. I was also surprised and disappointed that the ‘more details including a map’ link was in fact just a link to the new Lewisham bus spider diagram, useful though this is.
(Technologically, though, the e-mail’s undoubtedly clever: the Subject of the message, “Changes to bus routes 75, 185 and 208″ references the three affected routes the friend who forwarded it to me catches most; another friend said her otherwise identical e-mail was called “Changes to bus routes 181 and 284″.)
One of TfL’s contracted operators of affected buses, Metrobus, did a clearer job of communicating changes to its routes, tweeting and Facebooking the following statement:
Routes 75, 181 and 284 will have revised stopping arrangements from the first bus on Saturday 1 March in readiness for the Lewisham Gateway project.
Buses will terminate at Stop E opposite the Police Station. Routes 181 and 284 will start from Stop C outside the DLR Station. Route 75 will continue to start from Stop D in Loampit Vale.
Simple, arguably also a bit late (yesterday evening), but clearer than TfL’s e-mail.
Tip: if you’d like to see your bus’s actual route now, you can use a weirdly hard-to-find feature of TfL’s web site, after they removed their excellent interactive bus maps facility for no apparent reason some time last year. If you go to the TfL Buses home page and enter a route number into the search box in the very centre of the page (under the heading “Live bus arrivals – Get live bus arrivals for your stop”), you’ll be asked to choose which direction you want to see and then taken to an interactive map of its route. At time of writing all those I’ve checked have been updated (a little messily in places) to show the correct new route from 1 March onwards. For instance, here’s the 108.
Lewisham terminus of the 108 route from 1 March 2014
SE13ING the initiative
So it seems TfL’s communications leave a lot to be desired on the Lewisham Gateway front. I’m going to endeavour to use this previously dormant blog more as the Lewisham Gateway project progresses to share what I can learn about how it’s going, its phasing and, of course, its transport effects.
I also intend to document Lewisham Gateway through photos on Flickr. My Lewisham Gateway photo set is here and, at time of writing, consists almost entirely of captioned pics from Lewisham Bus Station’s final day of operation.
The lack of concrete, up-to-date information online makes this hard to answer, but hopefully in due course my FoI request to TfL will start to bring this into focus. From reading around old planning documents and the official, if untouched-for-a-year, Lewisham Gateway web site, though, and adding quite a lot of guesswork, I think the most likely way things unfold from this point will be:
- March 2014: developers take over site of Lewisham Bus Station and perhaps fill it with their equipment, site office etc.
- Spring 2014: Station Road realignment is undertaken, expanding the former bus station site towards Maggie’s by running a new eastern section of Station Road far closer to the Bexleyheath railway line than is currently the case.
- Mid-2014: major works to realign all the rest of the roads in the Lewisham Gateway area kick off. More bus stop movements begin – for instance, stops C and D are surely going to have to be removed before too much longer. Their shelters have gone already.
- Late 2014: as soon as there’s enough space cleared by road realignments (and knowing how keen the developers would be to get the revenue-raising bit of their project finished, late 2014 may be overstating the delay), work starts on building the two blocks of flats on the former Lewisham Bus Station site and Confluence Place park.
- 2016: everything’s finished – oh, except the other five blocks of flats, the great load of new shops lining the route from the station to the town centre, the possible cinema… I think Lewisham Gateway’s not likely to be fully complete this side of 2020, but the highway reconfiguration should be finished by 2016, when we’ll all be using a whole new set of bus stops. But don’t get too excited about that plethora of easy-to-reach bus boarding points for now – we’ve got some rather less convenient arrangements to make it through first…
To see all planning documents relating to Lewisham Gateway, go to planning.lewisham.gov.uk and search for Lewisham Gateway – but the crucial very first planning application I’ve gleaned the most from is here – the catch being that many of the documents date from 2006. The one called “5. transport assessment” (a 32MB PDF!) has the most info about the highway and bus changes, as at 2006, which I’m assuming is still broadly along the right lines. Pages 52–63 and 76–84 are particularly useful.
If anyone has any info they’d like to contribute, or corrections to anything I’ve said, please comment!
Filed under: Buses, Lewisham Gateway | Tagged: buses, Lewisham Gateway | 14 Comments »