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!

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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.

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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!

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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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Lewisham Gateway: changes bed in

Saturday’s big changes to bus routes terminating at Lewisham station certainly caused consternation for unsuspecting passengers – Clay Harris reports:

Mind you, according to a comment left on my original post today, it wasn’t just the bus passengers who didn’t know the changes were coming at the weekend:

I’m a bus driver terminating at Lewisham and we found out at the weekend. No proper documentation given to us, just notices on our information board.

Neighbouring MP Heidi Alexander seems to have kicked things into life on the communications front – after sharing my blog post, she tweeted this:

Today, Lewisham Council responded:

Great news, and sure enough their page has been updated and is a lot clearer and more current than before. Let’s hope the developers follow suit: at time of writing they still haven’t tweeted anything for 319 days…

On the ground

Alighting point - bus stop E

On Monday morning I popped down to bus stop E opposite the police station (complete with new ‘Alighting point’ strip on its flag) to see how the first morning’s commuters were reacting to a change most wouldn’t have been expecting – but, honestly, I didn’t have time to hang around because it took so long to get there via four pedestrian crossings that I had to hurry back to the station again (via a different four pedestrian crossings, for variety) to catch my train to work.

Certainly the pedestrian crossings nearest that stop were looking very well used in a stationwards direction:

Busy crossing

During Monday the old Lewisham Bus Station was sealed off with metal fencing. A mildly unfortunate side-effect of this is that the shortest walking route from the Southeastern railway station to the remaining bus stops (C and D) at the front of the DLR has been blocked off too – you’ll need to go around the other side of the DLR (or through it) instead.

Sealed-off Lewisham Bus Station and footpath

What goes around…

Meanwhile, Google have digitised an 1890s map of inner London and overlaid it on their usual maps system, complete with a transparency slider, which is an absolute delight to explore.

It reveals that, 120 years ago, Rennell Street cut right through from the High Street to Molesworth Street, and the site of the 1978-2014 Lewisham Bus Station was occupied by a mixture of housing and an open-air confluence of the Quaggy and Ravensbourne rivers. So in some ways Lewisham Gateway is history repeating itself – although sadly not to the extent of having trams trundling up the High Street and along Lewisham Road to my flat!

Lewisham Gateway in the 1890s

Lewisham Gateway in the 1890s

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Lewisham Gateway: new bus stand in operation

I started today with a long 2am post setting out what’s happening with the Lewisham Gateway development, because no-one else more knowledgeable seemed to be explaining it.

Unfortunately I’ve been busy for most of today but just before 10am I went for a quick look at how the new bus arrangements were working.

I’ve added ten photos I took then to my Lewisham Gateway photo set on Flickr.

The first thing I noticed on emerging from the DLR station was that bus stop C had again changed since last night, when routes 108, 178 and 261 had been crossed out on its flag. Today, they’d been removed completely and instead the flag now showed the four routes which now start here instead of at stop G: 181, 284, 484 and P4.

Lewisham station bus stop C

Stop G itself, which yesterday bore no indication it would be closing for good today, was now pretty unequivocally shut.

Lewisham Station bus stop G, closed for good

And the space which since 1978 had been Lewisham Bus Station, for the first time in goodness knows how long – not counting Christmas Days – was completely deserted:

Deserted former Lewisham Bus Station

Interestingly, there were still some taxis parked outside the station exit, as usual, so although the buses no longer enter Station Road, clearly the taxis have been allowed a little longer to continue using the road. It’ll be interesting to see how much longer they get before the road shuts in order for its eastern stretch to be moved northwards – if indeed they don’t manage to do the move while keeping the existing road open, of course.

Meanwhile, in Thurston Road, quite a contrasting scene to the above photo…

First day of new Lewisham bus stand

The 225 at the top left of that photo used to share Thurston Road only with the 47, bus-wise, but this morning it suddenly found itself with a great deal of bus company, as the new bus standing area opened for business to eight of the eleven routes which should eventually stand here between journeys.

First day of new Lewisham bus stand

The new bus standing area has a much neater layout than the old, with all buses performing a similar manoeuvre to park, driving past the target space and then reversing into it. A 181 can be seen doing this part-way through this six-second Vine video I shot this morning:

I wonder if the developers building just across Thurston Road have already sold their new flats or if prospective residents will now be visiting to look while buses are sounding their reversing signals regularly throughout every day!

First day of new Lewisham bus stand

Meanwhile I’ve had a fair bit of appreciation on Twitter and in comments for my earlier post explaining what’s going on – people have been caught out by the changes and not seen any publicity about them at all so have turned to Google or Twitter to find out what this “Lewisham Gateway” thing is, without a great deal of luck. Let’s hope as things progress more is done to explain what’s going on – or, if not, well… I’ll try!

First day of new Lewisham bus stand

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Lewisham Gateway changes start today

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.

Lewisham Bus Station's final day 016

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.

Grand plans

Lewisham Gateway plan extract

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

Lewisham Bus Station's final day 006

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.)

Lewisham Bus Station's final day 005

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.

Lewisham Bus Station's final day 011

Forever changes

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.

The space which became bus stop F, as at last September

No notice

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

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.

What next?

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…

Lewisham Bus Station's final day 024

Planning documents

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.

Help!

If anyone has any info they’d like to contribute, or corrections to anything I’ve said, please comment!

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