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.


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

» Full Lewisham Gateway content archive

26 Responses

  1. 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.

  2. Wow, thanks Ned, that’s a really helpful comment. I’ll update the post to include this. That makes the bus station 8½ months older than me!

  3. hi Paul, I found your blog while researching about L Gateway.You’re now officially responsible for any update 🙂 , also considering there’s not too much out there informing us poor citizens. I use buses 225 and 181 to/from DLR station daily and got mislead by the email I received from TFL. So thanks a lot for clarifying! Let’s hope this regeneration brings something positive to Lewisham, nobody wants it to become posh but a good cleanup wouldn’t hurt. Thanks agin.

    • Thanks very much Pier, glad it was useful to you. I’ll certainly see what I can do to keep people informed. The usual reason I volunteer to do something elsewhere in life is if no-one else is doing it (so therefore I can’t do it any worse because if I weren’t doing it, no-one else would be), and so far that certainly appears to be the case here!

  4. thanks for this info, I’ve been trying to find out how it affected the 75. This is completey absurd, it now stops significantly further away from the DLR

  5. […] Lewisham Gateway changes start today […]

  6. […] Big changes at Lewisham bus station. […]

  7. Hi. I just thought if mention that The “roundabout going in” was actually a part of a much bigger scheme to take traffic out of Lewisham high street by semi pedestrianising it and building a much bigger Moleswworth street. The roundabout was absolutely necessary to enable delivery lorries approaching Lewisham from the south on the A21 ( Catford direction) to be able to deliver in to all the shops in Lewisham shopping centre as a right turn off Molesworth street was impossible. ( plus a lot more than this but that was one reason) I am intrigued to know how this is going to be managed in future.

    • Thanks very much for your comment, Patrick – great to get a bit more historical context to all this!

      From the Lewisham Gateway plan it appears those lorries will be able to turn right off Molesworth Street onto Rennell Street, so I guess that will do the job? It’s an interesting question though and I don’t know for sure if that’s the answer!

      Regarding traffic levels in general (which isn’t really something you were touching on but you reminded me about it!) I know there’s a lot more data around now to suggest that building roads increases traffic and reducing them does the opposite – so I’m hopeful that if this new road layout does reduce the space given over to motor traffic (and I’m not sure that it does), traffic levels will simply reduce accordingly, which’ll be nice in our rather polluted area. I was very pleasantly surprised during similarly major roadworks in Bexleyheath last year that after a week or two of ‘chaos’ as everyone carried on driving there hoping it wouldn’t be too bad, in fact everyone subsequently avoided the area if not essential and there were no more jams – fingers crossed we see a similar pattern when the main roadworks begin later this year!

    • Hi Patrick!!! Long time, good to see you are still active and local. The roundabouts are crucial for servicing the shopping centre effectively. As you and I have been around for ages we have seen the plans and aspirations. Very very complex issues. Cyclists, rivers, pedestrians etc. (QWAG.org.uk have been very involved). Thanks for the blog and updates, great effort. History is important though and srb6 came about from a frustrated cabinet member trying to cross Loampit Vale from the station. The bus STANDING area was not a station as not big enough, like Catford Bus Station holds loads of buses overnight. Interesting that whole project has been delayed by new bus standing area in Thurston Road not having had planning permission flor mess room and toilets! Watch this space!!!!

      • Thanks for your comment Mike, great to get a bit more of the history from you. I think it’ll be great to see just one pedestrian crossing between the DLR station and town centre – hopefully a solution which would please even that historical cabinet member!

        The labels for ‘bus station’ are indeed a bit confusing – the terminating bus stop for all the routes that used to terminate on Station Road was called “Lewisham Bus Station” but it hadn’t been a proper bus station in a very long time. Meanwhile I think the place you refer to in Catford is probably Catford Bus Garage rather than Station isn’t it? Or is there another one? I am not too well versed in Catford, although obviously its enormous cat is one of Lewisham borough’s must-see highlights!

        Is it really true that that’s what caused the delay of the past year or so to the project? How bizarre. Even now the ‘buildings’ in the new bus stand area are just temporary cabins at the south end of the space, rather than the more permanent-looking building that I’m sure I saw at the north end of the space on a plan somewhere. That would be preferable because it would leave the way clearer at the south end for a potential future entrance to the station via its Platform 1 stairwell. (But I’m sure they could fit a path around the temporary buildings anyway so I shouldn’t let that become an excuse for inaction on that front!)

  8. […] bigger emerged at the weekend – Lewisham bus station closed, heralding the first steps in the Lewisham Gateway scheme, which will revamp the north end of Lewisham High Street, ripping out its dreadful roundabout in […]

  9. Great blog article. Go to know someone knows somewhat about what is going on. Im 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.

    • Thanks very much D, and very interesting to hear that you got even shorter notice than we did. In my wild imagination I had considered that drivers might have been shown the new bus stand area a while ago in readiness for their new parking manoeuvres and stuff – but that was clearly a ridiculous thought then! 🙂

  10. […] Lewisham Gateway changes start today […]

  11. […] Lewisham Gateway changes start today […]

  12. […] Lewisham Gateway changes start today […]

  13. […] 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 […]

  14. Great blog. Just back from the leisure centre, where I heard of the Barratt flats, on sale from today, twelve sold in the first ten minutes.

    I live in Granville Park and pass the station area on a daily basis. The first sign of the long-awaited development of this extremely ugly part of town was when they lopped the trees – the second was when they removed the bus shelters in front of the DLR and beside the bridge next to Maggies. Why, oh why? Because it’s the easiest thing to do?

    I look forward to future blogs

    • As far as I can see there seems to be a standard approach from TfL to removing shelters in one go once it’s certainly they’ll need removing in the not *too* distant future. The same thing’s happened to one elsewhere in greater London outside my workplace that’s going to be redeveloped in a month or so (about two months after the shelter went). The shelters around the Gateway site may have got in the way of hoardings etc. in due course, some sooner than others, so I guess they just thought they’d wipe them all out – although I don’t think they’ve yet removed the one opposite Station Road (I always get A and B mixed up but whichever’s across Lewisham Road from Maggie’s and along a bit), even though this stop completely disappears by the end of the project (replaced by a new one on the new Station Road).

      As you live in Granville Park, incidentally, you may want to have a look at today’s post and sign my petition!

  15. great blog, good to actually get some info on this. Thx
    If there is only one crossing needed to get into Central Lewisham, I wonder why they dont just stick a bridge up and seperate pedestrians from traffic altogether, while helping the traffic flow a bit better?
    Surely some architect could design something funky that could even become an attraction in it’s own right. (I know I know, no-one would want to actually pay for it…)

    • As I recall, an elevated pedestrian route from station to High Street was one of the early proposals. I guess cost ruled it out. Shame.

      • Thanks to both you and Noel for your comments!

        Personally I wouldn’t favour an elevated walkway as I think these have been largely discredited wherever else they’ve been used as people tend not to want to climb up onto them if they can at all avoid it, so you end up having to put a crossing in at ground level anyway and then there’s little point having built the bridge. I’ve seen quite a few examples lately of pedestrian bridges that have been removed and replaced by street-level crossings – although of course I can now think of none of them at all to cite to illustrate my point, d’oh!

        Anyway, thanks again, glad my blog is proving useful.

  16. Hi, Is the 273 from Petts Wood going to be able to stop nearer that station than Lewisham Clock Tower? And if so, when is the stop going to be reinstated? I can find no information on this.

    • Funnily enough, given the age of the post you’ve commented on, this is actually quite imminent now! The northbound Lewisham Station bus stop on Lewisham Road is due to reopen in a slightly different location on a temporarily diverted kinky bit of road between the roundabout and the railway arches, within the next few weeks, possibly even as soon as one or two weeks’ time. Which’ll be very nice for getting off the 273 when it’s come *from* Petts Wood (and indeed off the 199 from Catford, or onto the 180, 199 and 380 northwards), but the stop on the other side of the road will not be reappearing for now so you’ll still have to catch buses in the other direction from outside the police station.

      This is mentioned in the bottom section of my most recent Lewisham Gateway post, by the way.

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