Lewisham Now (then)

Two years ago today, local infectiously-catchy-tunesmith Cesar Laser uploaded onto YouTube this wonderful tribute to his home borough (the song refers to town but I’d say from the video he probably lives in Catford) – Lewisham Now:

I only became aware of its existence late last year, when Londonist found and shared it, but since then it’s a near-guaranteed earworm whenever anyone says “Lewisham” to me – and, since I live near the station and use a lot of public transport with automatic destination announcements, that’s pretty often.

The track shows its age only insofar as it would surely be impossible to write such a song now without referencing our more recently famous hospital, and I’d like to think quick shots of 2013/14-opened Coffee Addict and Bucketmouth would also have fitted the mood nicely, but other than that this still very much captures the town, and indeed borough, I know and love.

Since my blog is no longer dormant, I thought I’d mark this second anniversary of YouTube gaining this local delight by attempting to spread it into a few more people’s ears. Reader, I bought the MP3.

Lewisham Gateway: 2013 evolution

This is probably getting unnecessarily nerdy now but when I received the Lewisham Gateway bus plan from TfL last month, I noticed two stops were missing from the numerical sequence – 11 and 12 – and that the plan was subtitled “mitigation measure: bus stop 11 and 12 removed”.

So I followed up that Freedom of Information request with one asking for the previous version of the plan, showing those stops, and yesterday TfL responded with it –

– along with this obvious word of warning and brief explanation:

Please note this drawing is out of date and no longer relevant as it reflects the proposed bus stop arrangement for the highway layout which was approved in 2009. The highway layout has changed as a result of the work done recently to ensure that the road space is managed as best we can for all road users.

It’s an interesting form of words: can removing two bus stops really be for the benefit of all road users, including bus passengers? In fact it may be a borderline case where you could just about argue that.

Cops’ stops

The stops in question were basically the same ones as the two outside the police station now. These are notably absent from the current working plan PDF (drawn up in April 2013) but are still there in the plan as it stood in January 2013.

Bus stops 11 and 12, outside Lewisham police station, before and after removal

Bus stops 11 and 12, outside Lewisham police station, before and after removal

Under the new plan, there’s very little need for the vast majority of Lewisham visitors to use the pavement outside the police station. The station and all bus routes are now planned to be so well connected directly through the Lewisham Gateway development site to the town centre, that it’s no great hardship to choose between the new stops nearest the station and the old stops down on the high street near the market, so making about 13 bus routes perform an additional stop on their way southwards is arguably just slowing them down to relatively few people’s benefit – although I’m sure residents of the area around St. Stephen’s Church and the police station would disagree!

It’s not an unquestionably good decision though: it may well mean less road space specifically allocated to buses. Presumably this is a result of traffic modelling showing forecast congestion before they made this amendment, eased by making it, but as a public transport advocate it’s not a pleasing sight.

Quaggy Quarter?

Assuming this is the way forward, though, isn’t there now an opportunity for some additional public realm improvement work? The pavement outside the police station is pretty enormous, and only very occasionally used by TV crews filming pieces to camera about disgraced newspaper editors being questioned under caution there. I assume the reason for this expanse of paving is because no foundations for anything else could go there as it has the river Quaggy running beneath it.

So, with the bus stops being removed and that pavement becoming less used, couldn’t more of the Quaggy be uncovered, opened up, turned into another river-centred public space like the new Confluence Place? (Or would that be too prone to flood Europe’s biggest police station, literally frightening the horses?)

Crossings out

There’s one other change I’ve spotted between the two plans, from January and April 2013. The January one shows three separate small crossings between Lewisham Station and the Lewisham Gateway ‘island’ (as I like to call the big chunk of land containing the bulk of the DLR station and the majority of the planned Gateway flats and shops), while the April one shows one far larger one.

Station Road crossings before and after the change of plan in early 2013

Station Road crossings (shown in solid black on the road) before and after the change of plan in early 2013

Again, there are pros and cons here – the new plan may seem a little less ‘desire line’-matching, attempting to funnel everyone going in or out of the various access points for the station and along any of the routes through the Gateway island onto a single crossing, but the April crossing is wide enough that its central position compared with two of the January crossings means very little diversion from where they were planned to run to use it – and the January third crossing only really seemed to cater for people wanting to get from Confluence Place to the taxi rank, a group arguably small enough not to warrant an entire separate bus-slowing intervention.

Latest

Meanwhile, nothing noticeable has happened since my previous post – but the official Lewisham Gateway News page really does make it sound like we’re not far away from Month 1 of 27 now – watch this space, or perhaps this space:

Work begins?

Lewisham Gateway: official news (and olds)

A month ago today, with next-to-no warning or explanation, big changes took place to bus running around Lewisham station. In the absence of any official communication, I revived this blog and shared what I knew and could figure out, drawing a couple of thousand interested/baffled people to that post in its first few days. There was clearly an appetite for information, but a shortage of it from official sources.

Last week, the Lewisham Gateway developers circulated a leaflet to homes in the area. The Lewisham Gateway Site Preparations Update leaflet (PDF) said it was the second such leaflet recently, but only this one got as far as my flat (near Tesco) – or rather as far as a pile on the floor of my block’s lobby, not anyone’s individual letterbox, but that’s progress. The leaflet repeatedly encouraged readers to visit their web site and follow them on Twitter - but at that stage the site contained less news than the leaflet and their Twitter had been dormant since last April, so anyone following this advice would have been a bit disappointed and not encouraged to return.

Map from Lewisham Gateway leaflet, 27 March 2014

Map from Lewisham Gateway leaflet, 27 March 2014

But now, one month on from the initial bus changes, finally the Lewisham Gateway developers have tweeted for the first time in 347 days, and updated their web site’s News page to contain, well, news. And indeed olds, since I’m not sure you can really call retrospective updates about what happened up to a month ago ‘news’.

Let’s have a look at their three news updates, the first two of which are backdated to when they happened but have only appeared this week.

1 March 2014

Preparations start on site:

As a large number of buses use this area it has not been possible for all buses to continue to terminate next to the DLR (at bus stops C, D and F), as doing so would cause unnecessary congestion and pinch points in the area, causing significant delays to services. We have produced an online map showing the bus stop moves – click here to view map.

The information in the PDF linked to first in the second bullet point would certainly have been useful a month ago, but by now regular Lewisham station-goers will have figured all its contents out the hard way.

The Google map at the end, although it contains a few minor inaccuracies, is also a nice bit of online info-sharing, but a month on from the changes it describes kicking in.

Bridging the Ravensbourne?

11 March 2014

Ground investigation work starts:

  • At the Molesworth Street/Loampit Vale junction
  • On the roundabout island

Work should not affect any travel arrangements. To see a location map of where we’re working click here.

So that explains what I’d seen going on on a few evenings recently – again, weeks after I saw it. Also, the (again, promisingly clear) location map and the above bulleted list don’t mention any work in the semicircular park to the east of the roundabout, but that’s currently shut and being dug up too, so that seems a bit of an oversight.

Utilities works in the park

The top news update is indeed actual news – current, relevant and informative, if vague date-wise:

Spring 2014

Construction work is expected to start on site. In the coming weeks we plan to close the section of Station Road between the DLR and Lewisham Road. The route will be signposted and you can also click on this online map to see the site and location of the first two new buildings and park.

Another useful and clear Google Maps overlay. This quality of information presentation bodes well for future updates.

We will update this page and circulate an update to residents, businesses and other interested parties, with more details ahead of construction work starting. You can register for updates by emailing updates@NewLewisham.com.

Great! I’ll certainly be registering for updates, as you’d imagine, and I’d encourage you all to do so too. If Lewisham Gateway’s developers can just keep the updates timely, open and clear, their long overdue web site update suggests my (guess)work here may yet be done.

The bus stops of Lewisham Gateway’s future

Following interim bus stop inconvenience and two years’ rearrangement of Lewisham Gateway’s streets, the third and final piece of information I obtained through my Freedom of Information request to Transport for London related to the plan for where the buses will all pick up and drop off passengers at the end of those two years.

Sure enough, TfL were able to provide a simple PDF showing the currently intended stopping arrangements for the foreseeable future once the Lewisham Gateway highways work is complete in 2016. By all means have a look at that by clicking the snippet below:

Post-Lewisham Gateway bus plan PDF

Post-Lewisham Gateway bus plan PDF

However, I don’t think this is very clear to follow – some of the ‘towards’ labels on the key are downright misleading, arguably wrong, and it generally looks a bit of a mess.

So, I’ve made my own interactive guide to all the buses’ routeing after Lewisham Gateway highways reconfiguration, which you can visit here:

Interactive post-Lewisham Gateway bus plan

Interactive post-Lewisham Gateway bus plan

This lets you click routes and directions and see their exact intended routeing through the area, as well as toggling the network of bus stops showing all the routes serving them on and off. All parts of routes not shown (i.e. beyond the map area) are assumed to be identical to their current running.

Stopping arrangements

So what are the arrangements like, then? In essence, the main ‘island’ of the Lewisham Gateway development and DLR station becomes a kind of bus gyratory, with buses only flowing around any side of it in one direction (clockwise).

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 2Perhaps the strangest bus stop that results is the first one on the new Station Road, located very near Maggie’s cafe. This stop will be served by routes which flow northwards from Lewisham on either side of the station area, up Brookmill Road and Lewisham Road, but in opposite directions from each other - four of the six buses at this stop are on their way south (180/199/273/380), while the other two are heading north (47/225)!

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 9Aside from this the new stops are almost entirely logical and consistent in their grouping of routes, in one case to the point of pedantry: at the stop we currently know as FF, opposite Glass Mill leisure centre, routes 21 and 436 will continue to set down passengers (but not pick up) before terminating behind the shopping centre on Molesworth Street, but they’ll be joined by route 108, which will start its journey to Stratford here. While it may seem strange to mix a first stop with an alighting point in this way, the start of the 108′s route is down Molesworth Street in order to serve the High Street (before heading up Belmont Hill to Blackheath), so these three routes do head off in exactly the same direction from here.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 1The splitting out of the northbound 47 and 225 from the other routes which head west onto Loampit Vale from the station mentioned above does give the advantage of providing a stop, also on the new stretch of Station Road, at which all four buses (21/136/321/436) share the whole of their next stretch of route, as far as New Cross Gate.

Meanwhile, the High Street (north of the clock tower – the part by Lewisham Market is not affected by Lewisham Gateway) ends up with surprisingly few bus stops: just three, all on one side of the road (the northbound side).

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 3The four buses heading up Lewisham Road (180/199/273/380) stop opposite St. Stephen’s Church (just north of the police station), while the six buses destined for Loampit Vale stop by the entrance to Lewisham Shopping Centre just north of the clock tower.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 13The six buses currently serving stop P, right next to the clock tower, are joined there by the 89, 178 and 261, which all terminate at Lewisham station and wouldn’t otherwise serve the shopping centre, having not come up the High Street.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 14The information provided to me doesn’t mention N-prefixed night buses, but I’d imagine these will mostly share stops with their daytime equivalents. The movement of the 89, and so presumably N89, to share the clock tower stop with the 180 and 199 therefore satisfies a particularly pedantic bit of my brain which has never been happy with the N89 stopping opposite the police station while the 180 and 199 serve the clock tower despite all three of these routes then heading up Lewisham Road.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 8Back up at the station, there’s a huge and clear contrast with the eleven routes terminating at Lewisham station compared to the painful interim arrangements whereby none of them get anywhere near the station itself. Once the work is finished, all these routes – 75, 89, 108, 178, 181, 185, 208, 261, 284, 484 and P4 – will terminate right alongside the DLR station, where the former stop G was – even better than before the work for DLR access, and a tiny bit nearer the railway station entrance too!

Finally, what about those same routes when they start from the station? Until the work began these were split across three stops (C, D and G). Including the movement of the 108′s starting point to the stop near CarpetRight, mentioned earlier, these routes will in fact be spread across five stops in the new plan. The rationale for most of these is very clear.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 5If you want a bus straight down to Catford, you want the second stop away from the DLR entrance, where the 47, 75, 136, 185 or 208 will whisk you directly southwards past our legendary hospital and only slightly less legendary giant fibreglass cat.

If you’re heading for Ladywell, the next stop’s down is for you: the 284, 484 and P4 will take you directly there, before snaking off around various roads to disparate destinations.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 7Or if you’re Lee Green-bound, the furthest stop from the DLR entrance, just before the corner with the newly widened Rennell Street, will sort you out with a 178, 261 or 321 bus.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 4That just leaves the 89, 181 and 225. The good news for those of us who often catch the 89 is that its stop is closest of all to the DLR station – in fact, an 89 bus picking up passengers will be doing so in almost exactly the same position it does so now, just angled slightly more southerly.

And so we come to the point where TfL’s stop logic has hit a blind spot. People destined for Hither Green have long found themselves in the difficult position of having two stops to choose between, stop G for the 181 or stop D for the 225, and these stops even being separated from each other by another stop entirely.

Lewisham Gateway bus stop 6So you’d think the news that the 225 will be joining the three buses the 181 has shared its stop with for years (284/484/P4) would be a time for rejoicing. You’d think that, but it seems TfL’s campaign of maximum trolling of Hither Green residents is set to continue post-Lewisham Gateway: no sooner does the 225 finally move to that stop, than the 181 moves away from it, instead sharing the 89′s stop outside the DLR, which is, er, separated from the 225′s stop by another stop entirely.

Still, the overall picture is quite promising, with stops mostly being more logically grouped, and terminating nearer the station. Have a play on my interactive map and see what you think. And if you don’t like what you see, let’s hope this stuff isn’t set in stone yet – for Hither Green’s sake!

Lewisham Gateway: the 27-month plan

I can’t keep you waiting any longer. Here, obtained from Transport for London via a Freedom of Information request, is the 27-month plan for Lewisham Gateway (as at January 2014):

The 27 monthly phases of the Lewisham Gateway highway changes in animated GIF form

The 27 monthly phases of the Lewisham Gateway highway changes in animated GIF form

That’s an animated GIF, which you can click for a larger-sized version of, but if you prefer to scroll through at your own pace, the full PDF (9MB) is also available here.

So, assuming they stick to these plans and timescales, what can we expect over the next couple of years?

Month 1

The first thing that’s clear from looking at this document is that we’re not yet at Month 1. Whenever Month 1 finally comes, most of Station Road will be shut – essentially, the entire part you’ll currently find filled with taxis on a Friday night (if you’re not sitting at home blogging about Lewisham Gateway on your Friday night). The remaining straight part of Station Road, between the DLR and platform 2 of Lewisham railway station, becomes a two-way taxi and pick-up/drop-off area.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 1

But what’s also particularly striking about Month 1, especially for those of us living near Tesco, is the effect of the work on the available pedestrian routes (that’s the bright pink lines on the maps) to the station. No longer can I walk between the temporary hillocks from Maggie’s to Station Road, then directly along Station Road itself; instead, anyone approaching from that direction will have to walk around the entire building site, past the roundabout, past bus stops C and D and the ghost of stop G, and up the other end of Station Road. If ever there were going to be a time for Southeastern to row back and open up direct access to Platform 4 from the Tesco car park, the first 15 months of this Lewisham Gateway development work should really be it.

The other Month 1 change is the establishment of an entrance for building-site traffic off the roundabout at the eastern end of bus stop D, with an exit from the site into the shut end of Station Road towards Lewisham Road – a couple of points for passing pedestrians to beware of.

Month 2

Month 2 sees the construction of the new routes to be taken by the rivers Quaggy and Ravensbourne, moving their confluence from its current position to the north of (current) Station Road, to its new position in the spot that will become Confluence Place park. It looks like the rivers don’t start flowing along these new routes until…

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 3

Month 3

…when the first hint of the blocks of flats which will line the east side of the DLR station begins to appear.

Month 4

The first signs of the road revolution (if that’s not an ironic word for the removal of a roundabout) appear! With the pair of pedestrian crossings you’d use to get from the DLR station to Glass Mill leisure centre relocated to the Glass Mill side of the railway, it’s the beginning of the end for the four snaking roundabout approach islands that until now have necessitated every road to be crossed in two phases by long-suffering pedestrians. They’re converted to “carriageway construction” during this month, with all the associated traffic lights relocated into barrels for manoeuvrability. One island at a time will be worked on “to minimise disruption”. Expect disruption.

Month 5

Goodbye, insignificant Rennell Street! This unassuming dead-end side-road, home of Coffee Addict and the forming-up spot for many a Save Lewisham Hospital march, shuts in its old form, with a short stretch left open for access. The car park there also shuts, and work begins on building pavements and utilities for a bigger, more important Rennell Street: the only link between the east and west sides of Lewisham town centre for general traffic – and the only road for pedestrians to cross when heading to the town centre from the DLR station.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 5

Meanwhile, at the opposite (northern) end of the site, similar work begins on the new Station Road, linking Lewisham Road to the station ticket office area in a straight line next to the railway bridge. The added complication over Rennell Street is that here, the road runs over a currently exposed part of the River Ravensbourne, so there’s bridging to be done.

Speaking of the Ravensbourne, work starts on diverting it further upstream, where the new northern end of Molesworth Street will run.

Month 6

As if they hadn’t got their hands full enough building a whole lot of permanent new roads, at this point the developers have to build a short temporary road, purely for use over the subsequent 16 months. This small kinky diversion will run from the Lewisham Road exit from the roundabout, swing left across that end of what was Lewisham Bus Station, and swerve back to the normal line of Lewisham Road just in time to go under the railway bridge and past Maggie’s. It’s slightly complicated by the fact that this final swerve is across the new end of Station Road; they’ll therefore build this end of Station Road first, excluding its kerbs, so drivers on the temporary road will actually pass over some tarmac which will ultimately be reserved for buses, taxis and bikes.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 6

Over near Glass Mill and Molesworth Street, work begins on building new kerblines and pavements: although Loampit Vale doesn’t move as much as most other roads in the Lewisham Gateway area, there are nevertheless small shifts to be made.

Month 7

Farewell, semicircular park of pigeons and drinkers! You know the one: you could choose to walk through it between the station and the police station, but rarely did. Well, as of Month 7, you never will again.

As the temporary kinky Lewisham Road diversion opens nearby, with bus stops A and B shifted northwards to fit around it, work begins in and around that small park to prepare it to become the new, straight stretch of road linking Lewisham High Street to Lewisham Road. Month 7′s work there includes building new pavements and utilities across the southern half of the park, and constructing some parts of the new culvert through which the Quaggy will flow under the road.

It also appears, from those pink lines again, like this month sees the closure of enough of the pavement opposite the DLR station to prevent its use by pedestrians, meaning that if you wanted to get from Glass Mill to the shopping centre by an approved/safe route, you’d have to do so by crossing three sides of the roundabout instead of one. I suspect this may just be an accidental omission from the map; if not, fortunately it won’t last longer than this one month.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 7

Months 8 and 9

With work well underway on Station Road, Rennell Street and Lewisham High Street/Lewisham Road, that just leaves one side of the Lewisham Gateway road realignment to get stuck into, and Month 8 sees the new northern end of Molesworth Street start in earnest, on top of a section of newly built culvert that’ll guide the Ravensbourne 13 months later.

Month 10

The surviving part of the existing Lewisham High Street (alongside the police station) – basically all of it except the curve round to the roundabout – is resurfaced in readiness for its continuation northwards onto Lewisham Road. This work is expected to take place overnight and will reduce traffic to one lane in each direction while it’s underway.

Interestingly, without explanation, at this point bus stop P by Lewisham Clock Tower appears to split into two, with a built-out pavement reshaping that corner of the road. This is indeed intended to be the final layout but it’s hard to see how the additional stop will be of use at this point, when stop E (opposite the police station) has yet to be removed.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 10

Month 11

One-and-a-half sides of the Lewisham Gateway road network suddenly appear to be complete, construction and surfacing-wise: Rennell Street and Lewisham High Street appear ready for use – aside from the fact that the new bit of Lewisham High Street is a dead end at this point.

Months 12 and 13

Happy developmentiversary! As with Lewisham High Street in Month 10, resurfacing work gets underway on the non-condemned sections of Loampit Vale and Molesworth Street during this month, while construction starts on the final sections of the culvert that’ll carry the River Quaggy under Lewisham Road 11 months later.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 12

Month 14

Speaking of which, in Month 14 work begins on building the new southern end of Lewisham Road to link onto the new northern end of Lewisham High Street – and it doesn’t stop there, either, with pavements rebuilt and reshaped all the way up Lewisham Road to its junction with Blackheath Hill, which by the end of the Lewisham Gateway project is expected to become a mini-roundabout.

Month 15

If you enjoyed driving around the southern side of the big Lewisham roundabout, bad luck: not only do you have questionable taste in pastimes but also from Month 15 you’ll never again be able to do so! The gyratory format of the roundabout continues but its south side moves a lot further south, into the new Rennell Street. Essentially, the roundabout which was a small circle becomes a large triangle instead. Traffic is now driving on substantial parts of the new road network, especially the north ends of Molesworth Street and Lewisham High Street, but only in one direction on each.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 15

With traffic now not using the westbound exit from the half-shut roundabout, that space is clear for work to begin on building the next part of culvert that’ll carry the River Ravensbourne under Loampit Vale in seven months’ time.

Month 16

To no small celebratory fanfare from those of us living on the Tesco side of the tracks, the new Station Road opens to traffic and pedestrians, restoring a far shorter walking route to the railway station from Maggie’s – shorter even than now, in fact, as it runs in a straight line all the way from the railway bridge over Lewisham Road. Quite how the “traffic” Station Road is supposedly open to enters the road when bus stop A is still positioned across its entire entry junction for a further eight months is anyone’s guess, though!

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 16

The opening of the new end of Station Road means the end which turned two-way and stayed open can return to one-way operation, and do so in a single lane, freeing up half its width for resurfacing.

Months 17, 18, 19 and 20

Bus stops C and D may have lost their shelters in February 2014, but it’s only in Month 17 (and remember, we’re not in Month 1 yet) that the stops themselves finally move out of the way of the work. These two stops join Stop FF (where the 21 and 436 drop off passengers for the station before terminating at the shopping centre) in a close-knit run of three stops alongside Carpetright, all the way up to the corner of Station Road, where they’ll stay for at least four months – I suspect six but the plans suggest they vanish entirely for the last two, which will not be a popular move if true.

Their vacation of their current positions enables the construction there of the final section of culvert for the River Ravensbourne, which will pass under the new public space at the front of the DLR station when it’s complete.

Also in Month 17, the triangular last-gasp roundabout becomes a little more ghostly in shape as its two non-roundabout corners shift slightly onto new bits of road that are now ready, to allow for more work to take place on the bits the triangleabout was routeing traffic across until Month 16.

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 17

Month 21

The new River Ravensbourne culvert goes live, carrying the river along a new route, safely out of the way of future blocks of flats planned for the southern part of the Lewisham Gateway site.

This is also the point mentioned above, where it appears stops C and D completely vanish, but there appears to be no reason for this to happen yet so hopefully it’s not the case and these will only go when their replacements open two months later.

As the big moment of traffic routeing switchover approaches, installation of all the new traffic lights gets underway at the various new road junctions around the site.

Month 22

In its final month as any shape of gyratory, the triangleabout becomes a squareabout, now routeing traffic almost entirely along new stretches of road that will form the completed Lewisham Gateway road network (but still in one-way form at this point). Traffic-light installation, road markings and traffic islands are completed, and the developers liaise with TfL and the police to determine a good time for the big switch…

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 22

Month 23

It’s happened! The Lewisham Gateway road network is here! Suddenly everything falls into place. The temporary kinky Lewisham Road diversion is wiped out, meaning the new pavements/kerbs can be put in on the corner of Station Road where this previously swerved back towards the road under the railway bridge.

Perhaps most excitingly for bus passengers, a whole new arrangement of stops begins, offering generally convenient interchange and presumably lots of nice new shelters – an improvement in particular when compared with the previous two years’ arrangements! I’ll cover the final bus stop arrangements in a post in the not-too-distant future, because this was the subject of the other document I received from TfL in their response to my FoI request, but for now suffice it to say the current plan is for there to be eight stops serving the Lewisham station/Glass Mill area: six around the east, north and west sides of the central ‘island’ with the DLR station, Confluence Place etc. on it, and two outside/opposite Glass Mill (much as now).

Lewisham Gateway snippet, Month 23

The new River Quaggy culvert opens for business (well, for water) and the old one is closed off – again, this slight rerouteing of the river so it passes under Lewisham Road at a more southern position will make way for the foundations of a planned small block of flats roughly where bus stop B currently stands, opposite the end of the current/old Station Road.

Months 24, 25, 26 and 27

At first glance, these maps, the first of which is simply captioned “SWI [site-wide infrastructure] works complete”, appear to show a period for the developers to stand back, arms folded, smugly nodding at what they’ve achieved and patting themselves on the back. In fairness, that would be understandable if all’s gone well for two years but in fact these few months show them finishing the construction of the two blocks of flats that sit between Confluence Place and the DLR station.

Still, then they can sit back and relax, right? Well, apart from needing to get on with building six further blocks of flats, shops, public spaces and so forth, none of which I’ve yet seen detailed planning applications for, so they might just have a touch more work to do after this epic 27-month transformation process.

And remember, we’re not yet at Month 1.

TfL explain why buses aren’t terminating at Stop F

I’ve passed Lewisham roundabout after 10pm on each of the past two nights and there’s been work going on actually in the middle of it, digging bits of it up and laying large flat metal boards, which is good to see – it really feels like the beginning of the end for SE13′s unwelcome circuitous obstacle.

Roundabout work continues

Meanwhile, today I’ve received an answer to my Freedom of Information request sent in late February to Transport for London – a week before their deadline, which is pretty good I think.

The most pressing question I raised was why all the buses which previous terminated at Lewisham Bus Station, and now stand in the new Thurston Road bus stand area, don’t set down passengers at bus stop F (outside Glass Mill leisure centre) at the end of their route. This would provide a far better interchange with the railway and DLR stations than them terminating opposite Lewisham Police Station (or in some cases around the back of the shopping centre) does.

In my initial big Lewisham Gateway post, I speculated based on little evidence, like some kind of transport-oriented Nick Robinson, as follows:

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.)

The parallel with Nick Robinson breaks down now TfL have replied to my FoI request, because I was basically correct. Their response to this question, in full, was as follows:

The decision not to use bus stop (F) on Loampit Vale was based on the fact that alighting buses mixing with through buses would not allow enough space and additionally buses terminating at Thurston Road would have to force their way onto the right hand lane to make the right hand turn into Jerrard Street. Originally as part of the development stop (F) was ear marked for mixed use coaches and drop off for taxis, that was part of the decision to fight for stop (F) only being used for buses going through Lewisham towards New Cross and other areas.

Overloading the stop would have an adverse effect of traffic on the roundabout and cause unnecessary pinch points on a section of the highway which is already stretched due to the works. Each individual passenger would have a desire to have the smoothest interchange possible but due to the extent of the works and the need for minimal disruption during a major project it was agreed that through routes only could use the stop.

I can confirm that the decision was taken verbally and therefore we do not hold any documents relating to the changes.

(I suppose that’s one problem at organisations being cut to the bone by austerity – no-one has time to write stuff down.)

It’s interesting to note that the set-down area mentioned in the original development plans was supposedly only meant for coaches and taxis during development – it hopefully now sounds like that won’t be the case and we should perhaps be grateful that at least the through buses are still able to stop there, or at least that’s the message they’d like us to take from this, if I’m reading it correctly.

In making the action of buses having “to force their way onto the right hand lane to make the right hand turn into Jerrard Street” sound so difficult, they overlook the fact that 47 and 225 buses already do this manoeuvre without any problems – but on the other hand it’s easy to believe that up to eleven other routes doing this could cause traffic issues. The fact that none of this has been documented does leave a slight question-mark over how evidence-based this is (no traffic modelling computer program output, for instance?), but perhaps there’s a number of buses per hour pulling across a two-lane road above which it’s ‘common sense’ to those in the business that trouble will follow – and the (peak?) figures I’ve seen (document coming in a future post!) show there’d’ve been 61 terminating buses per hour at that stop on top of the 11 through buses also doing the right-turn manoeuvre and 32 per hour stopping there but not turning right.

So, it sounds like these arrangements are here to stay for the time being. But what other bus stopping arrangements await as the project unfolds? How will pedestrians, taxis and traffic be rerouted as the development work progresses over the next two years? Thanks to my FoI request and TfL, I’m in a position to answer that with reference to a comprehensive 27-month diagrammatic schedule of works – but I don’t have time today. Stay tuned!

Lewisham Gateway: NewLewisham.comms

I haven’t actually been past the former bus station site for nearly a week*, but I thought I should share a very small bit of news on the comms front regarding Lewisham Gateway.

I’m told the developers have “circulated to the immediate area” a double-sided Lewisham Gateway leaflet (PDF).

Lewisham Gateway Leaflet, March 2014

Lewisham Gateway Leaflet, March 2014

On the one hand this is great news as it’s obviously an improvement on doing nothing at all. But on the other, well, it’s just not very good, is it?

For a start, what is the “immediate area” they’ve distributed this leaflet to? I live about five minutes’ walk from the former bus station site and haven’t received it. Circulating a leaflet hyperlocally suggests a bit of a misunderstanding of the nature of this site, in any case: this isn’t a conservatory going up on a suburban housing estate; this is the major redevelopment of one of south-east London’s biggest transport interchanges, used daily by thousands of people from all over this corner of the capital.

Content-wise, the leaflet says very little. The main information on the leaflet has also appeared on their web site, NewLewisham.com, in a box on the home page:

Preparing our site

Some initial work has started to prepare the site for redevelopment and on 1 March 2014 Lewisham Bus stand relocated to Thurston Road. All bus services will continue to run, although there are minor changes to some routes passing through the area – details of the changes can by found on Transport for London’s website.

I suspect passengers on the affected buses, who suddenly have to negotiate four of the very pedestrian crossings Lewisham Gateway has been set up to eliminate, would question the idea that the route changes are “minor” – and they affect around half the routes serving Lewisham as a whole, already – a proportion which will only go up as the project progresses.

It’s a shame it took them until over a week after the changes kicked in to release this info, after over a thousand baffled commuters had come to my big post about the changes via routes including searches like “lewisham station buses no longer stopping” and “what’s happening at lewisham bus terminal”, but it’s better than nothing – and, interestingly, the web site update ends as follows:

If you have any questions or comments about Lewisham Gateway please feel free to get in touch:
020 7403 8587
info@NewLewisham.com

Tempting! Particularly given that my enquiries to their Twitter account have gone unanswered, as they edge ever closer to a full year without mustering a tweet – 327 days and counting, TweetDeck informs me…

Let’s hope they start displaying info on signs around the site itself – the only reliable way to reach the vast majority of those actually affected by the changes – and updating their web site, which they recently told councillors “will act as a central source of information as the project progresses”.

In the meantime, thanks very much to one of my local councillors for keeping me up to date. More if/when I get it…

Update: the morning after posting this I did have a couple of minutes to check on the former bus station before catching a train. No signs, no info, but at least the slightest of signs of work beginning: two vans parked and two men in high-visibility jackets on-site, one of whom was pushing some sort of wheeled measuring device back and forth across the vacated bus area. I shall, literally, watch this space.

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