Another controversial project: Waterloo Road and roundabout

Transport for London (TfL) is proposing major changes to Waterloo Road and roundabout. This follows its implementation of major alterations at the Elephant and on Blackfriars Road and Harleyford Road, all of which have been widely criticised. TfL proposals for Westminster Bridge Road are under construction despite opposition from Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and the RNIB who took legal proceedings against TfL plans but won only minor changes. An on-line petition gained a large number of signatures.  A major issue at St Thomas’ was the safety of people arriving by bus as the bus stops will be separated from the pavement by the cycle tracks.

The TfL proposals for Waterloo Road and roundabout are also contentious. Formal consultation closed in August but views can still be expressed to elected representatives as decisions have not been finalised. Following local concerns about Waterloo Road, Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall (which includes Waterloo), arranged for a special meeting of the South Bank Forum on 7 September attended by Val Shawcross, Deputy Major for Transport. This gave an opportunity for views to be expressed to a very senior figure at TfL and the meeting covered a wide range of issues.

If Tfl decides to go ahead, work will start at the end of 2018 and finish in early 2020.

TfL says its proposal‘would create better walking and cycling routes, a new greener public space and an upgraded bus station.’ According to TfL, its proposals would:

  • Reduce the dominance of traffic, allowing people to better enjoy the area
  • Create a healthier and safer environment for more people to walk, cycle, and use public transport
  • Create a sense of place with the proposed new greener public square, having the potential to benefit biodiversity, landscaping and wildlife
  • Keep buses and traffic moving through the area

These proposals form part of the Mayor of London’s plan for Healthy Streets –“a long-term vision to encourage more Londoners to walk and cycle and use public transport by making London’s streets healthier, safer and more welcoming.”

On the other hand, many locals contend that the current proposals will have results exactly opposite to those intended. If, as TfL propose, the right turn from Waterloo roundabout onto Stamford Street is abolished traffic would seek a route through small residential streets. Apart from the problem for residents, this would also be an issue for cyclists as Cornwall Road is part of the TfL designated quiet cyclists route. These roads are also busy at rush hours with pedestrians flocking to and from Waterloo Stations.

The proposed narrowing of Waterloo Road, abolishing the bus lane and widening the pavements, also seems counterproductive to some people. Waterloo Station is the busiest station in the UK and at the morning rush hour, there are long queues of commuters waiting for buses. Surely if TfL’s earlier idea of bus lanes are needed anywhere it must be here?  More fast flowing buses to speed commuters on to their next destination, not abolishing the bus lane. The widening of the pavements also ignores rising awareness of the dangerous pollution levels in Waterloo. The community’s own local plan stresses the importance of pedestrian being helped to take routes away from the major roads. Pollution levels drop significantly on the side streets.

Many Londoners will have noticed ambulances stuck in traffic as TfL has narrowed roads. There is a major ambulance Station on Waterloo Road.

Residents of Edward Henry House, a housing co-op nearby, have produced as report arguing that the TfL proposals would:

  • Increase congestion and reduce air quality, already among the worst in Europe!
  • Bring Stamford Road Street to a halt from backed up traffic
  • Create rat runs on Cornwall Road and other residential streets
  • Destroy the public space and beautiful mature trees outside St John’s
  • Create more conflict between busses, cars, bikes, and pedestrians

Waterloo Action Centre is finding that many people grumbling about the proposals will respond the consultation because the impression has become widespread that TfL only listens to cyclists and not to the full range of pedestrians and other needing to move around safely and quickly. So responding would be banging your head against a brick wall.

Some people who have sight loss or other disabilities have found that their journeys are more treacherous since TfL changes such as bus stops on islands and abolition of the subways at the Elephant. A loss of subways is also planned for Waterloo Road.  Those who care about mobility for all are arguing that no changes be implemented without detailed attention to safety for all.

Waterloo residents fought off the Garden Bridge proposal.  Does the same fate await this TfL’s project? We’ll know by the end of the year – for now, let us know your thoughts, for or against. Write in at [email protected] – we will publish a selection of views on both sides.

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