Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Olympic Transport Arrangements for Westcombe Park

In Response to an invitation by the Commons TransportSelect Committee, the followin written evidence on the transport plans for the 2012 Olympic, has been submitted by the Westcombe Society   and accepted by theTransport Select Committee. 

  1. 1. Background to Comments
    1. 1.1. The Westcombe Society is a voluntary local amenity society, which aims to protect, preserve and promote the interests of the Westcombe Park community.  It covers an area bounded by Greenwich Park, Blackheath, the A102 and the Greenwich railway line.  During the Olympics, we believe the Westcombe Park area will be unique in that it is enclosed on all sides by designated ORN routes and there will also be serious disruption to services at both the area’s railway stations (Maze Hill and Westcombe Park).

    1. 1.2. Local residents are used to various events, such as marathons, severely restricting movement in and out of the area by car, and seriously disrupting local bus services.  However, all these events occur at weekends, last no more than a few hours, and do not disrupt train services or pedestrian and cycle routes through Greenwich Park.  During 2012, not only will there be severe disruption of all forms of transport over the actual period of the Olympics and Paralympics, but both the road through the park, (heavily used by rush-hour traffic), and the locally important pedestrian and cycle routes through the Park, will be closed for a full two months from early July. 

2.  Transport Planning, Communication and Consultation – General Points

    1. 2.1. Against this background, the handling of transport issues has been woefully inadequate: 
      1. 2.1.1. there  has been no serious attempt to engage with the local community (contrasting sharply with constructive dialogue over activities actually within Greenwich Park)  
      2. 2.1.2. the whole process of transport planning seems to be way behind schedule
      3. 2.1.3. there seems to have been no attempt to take an integrated view, looking at the combined impact of disruption to separate transport modes on particular localities
    2. 2.2. Overall there is no evidence that LOCOG is trying to strike a reasonable balance between the requirements of the Games and the need to enable local residents and businesses to carry on regular activities.
    3. 2.3. Greenwich Council has failed to properly establish the Olympic Transport Consultative Group, as required by the Greenwich Council Planning Board Decision of 23 March 2011.  After three early meetings (at which the LOCOG representatives seemed relatively uninformed or were absent because of the test event) there have been no Transport meetings involving local representatives since July 2011.  There has been no opportunity for local input to, or discussion of, local transport plans.   There is now an urgent need for a meeting which brings together representatives of the Council and local amenity societies with train, bus and riverboat operators, and with those controlling pedestrian and cycle routes, to produce a detailed and fully coordinated traffic management plan which takes due account of the interests/needs of local residents and businesses. 
    4. 2.4. All transport arrangements need to be underpinned by an integrated transport communication strategy to ensure that all local residents and businesses know who has overall responsibility, are made fully aware of what is planned, and are able to make their views known to the relevant authorities.

    1. 3. Summary of Recommendations for Action the Westcombe Society would like implemented.

    1. 3.1. Transport Consultative Group:  Reconvene the Olympic Transport Consultative Group, as originally required by the Greenwich Planning Board, to ensure full and transparent consultation with the local amenity organisations so as to take proper account of local circumstances and needs and especially to determine the most effective detailed implementation of the following: 
      1. 3.1.1 Cycle and pedestrian routes:  Maintain existing routes for as long as possible, and specify safe alternatives for when they have to close.
      2. 3.1.2 Disabled, medical and care needs:  
        1. Establish procedures through which disabled people, residents with medical appointments and carers attending local residents can obtain help and advice when transport disruption makes normal journeys impossible. 
        2. Provide disabled access from Maze Hill to the Kent bound ‘down’ platform at Maze Hill station.
      3. 3.1.3 Local congestion during closure of road through Park: Establish measures to mitigate unacceptable levels of local congestion during 2 month closure of Charlton Way, Blackheath Avenue and The Avenue.  
      4. 3.1.4 Trains: Require South Eastern trains to provide a better level of service during the Olympics to Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations at least on non-Event days.  On days where the service is cut compensate passengers by charging lower fares for all passengers (not just Season ticket holders) and arrange for all tickets/Oyster to be used on the river boat services at no greater cost than the cost of a travelling by train.
      5. 3.1.5 Bus priority:  Implement additional bus priority measures during Games so that the promised service enhancements are effective.
      6. 3.1.6 Parking:  Establish clear proposals for how parking restrictions will function during the Olympic period.

      1. 4. Detailed Analysis of Issues relating Recommendations for Action

    1. 4.1 Pedestrians and Cyclists:  
      1. 4.1.1 The closure of routes through Greenwich Park and along Charlton Way and the northern section of Duke Humphrey Road during much of the construction period as well as during the Games, raises potential hazards, as well as serious inconvenience, for local cyclists and pedestrians. Greenwich Park is the most direct, safe, and well used pedestrian and cycle route between Westcombe Park and Greenwich, and also provides a safe route between Westcombe Park and Blackheath and between Greenwich and Blackheath.  Many of the pedestrians and cyclists are school children, especially at peak hours.
      2. 4.1.2 If the claim that the London 2012 Olympics will be THE GREENEST GAMES is to have any credibility, then it must apply equally to non-Games journeys which are displaced by the Games.  Thus closure periods of normal pedestrian and cycle routes, both inside and outside the Greenwich Park, should be kept to a minimum, and safe diversions should be specified. To date no diversions have been planned, nor is it clear exactly when routes through the Park will be closed.

    1. 4.2 Accessibility Issues:
      1. 4.2.1 Greenwich Council Planning Board was assured in p. 143 of the March 2010 agenda paper that additional rail infrastructure was being provided by ODA to permit disabled access to Maze Hill Station for disabled spectators unable to use the footbridge.  However, no such infrastructure is planned.  We therefore fully support the submission from Lawrence Smith that disabled access to the departure platform for passengers travelling towards Woolwich and North Kent should be provided.
      2. 4.2.2 Even though previous periods of severely restricted access to the area (e.g. during marathons) have been of very much shorter duration than the Games, we are aware of a number of cases where carers have been unable to visit, or where disabled people have been unable to make crucial journeys.  We therefore need procedures to safeguard such vital journeys, including for routine medical appointments. Much can no doubt be arranged in advance, but (since it is inevitable that many of those involved will not foresee the full consequences of transport disruption) there must also be means of responding to problems as they arise, including widely advertised contact phone numbers for those needing assistance.

    1. 4.3 Roads - Maze Hill and Prince Charles Road (North of Shooters Hill Road):
      1. 4.3.1 The Westcombe Society is concerned about the significant impact that the closure of Charlton way, Blackheath Avenue and The Avenue during peak hours and over a full two month period will have on traffic levels on Maze Hill and the northern part of Prince Charles Road.  This was clearly seen during the Olympic test event when congestion reached unacceptable levels with tailbacks on Maze Hill reaching Highmore Road in both directions well into the morning.  This was reported upon as part of the consultation on the ORN and has been repeated in comments on subsequent transport issues.  We feel improvements could be made in the northern part of Maze Hill by changing the phasing of lights at the junction of Maze Hill with Trafalgar Road.  However, this is dependent on free flowing traffic in Trafalgar Road, which may need other traffic lights to be re-phrased, in particular those on Trafalgar Road to the west of Maze Hill.
      2. 4.3.2 Improvement to the tailback at the southern end of Maze Hill could be achieved by re-phasing of the lights at the junction of Maze Hill with Prince Charles Road to that which operated before the control box was replaced after a car collided with it a number of years ago.  The current phasing (a green light for Charlton Way, both directions, followed by the green light for southbound traffic from Maze Hill, followed by the green light for northbound traffic from Prince Charles Road), causes tailbacks when southbound buses discharge and load passengers in Prince Charles Road.  Changing the phasing back to the phasing in place before the accident (a green light for Charlton Way followed by the green light for northbound traffic from Prince Charles Road, before giving the green light to southbound traffic from Maze Hill), would largely eliminate the tailbacks making the removal of the bus stop unnecessary.
      3. 4.3.3 However, it is also essential that any local modifications are complemented by an urgent and concerted effort to persuade commuters, over a very wide area, to avoid the whole area around Greenwich Park, not just for the Games but for the whole 2-month period whilst the Avenue is closed.  This should combine effective communication prior to the closure with changes in traffic priorities at earlier points in their inward journey.
    2. 4.4 Trains and Buses:
      1. 4.4.1 There has been minimal direct contact with SE Trains which proposes to impose partial station closures at Maze Hill station and significant service reductions at Westcombe Park without due regard to the adverse impact on Westcombe Park area residents and businesses.  There has been no response from SE Trains as to why the Westcombe Park area has been singled out for such drastic cuts in service despite other transport options being severely restricted.  Nor has there been any explanation as to why the decisions on rail services were taken in complete isolation, and not as part of a wider transport plan for the area.  No compensation has been proposed for passengers who will be inconvenienced by cuts to services.
      2. 4.4.2 We welcome the increase in bus service schedules shown by TfL in “Temporary changes to bus services for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games”.  However, we are concerned that there has been no local consultation about but timetables and that no modelling appears to have been done as to the likely performance of services given expected traffic conditions during the Games, nor has there been any indication of additional bus priority measures.  At the very least we would expect a general rule (albeit with occasional exceptions) giving buses maximum priority on the ORN Games Lanes. 
    3. 4.5 Parking
      1. 4.5.1 In principle, we welcome the commitment to increased parking controls on Event Days, especially to those bays that are currently ‘free’, however, we feel the proposals for parking restrictions are unclear and contradictory.  The proposals outlined in the recently distributed “Greenwich One Transport Draft v1.1” are unclear.  Detailed plans which are clearly understood by local residents urgently need to be produced.  The current proposals are ambiguous as to how the CPZs will be enforced, how residents’ guests are to be accommodated, what is proposed for the currently ‘Free’ bays in the Westcombe Park CPZ, and what is proposed for those residents who do not currently have permits e.g. those whose properties are in areas with ‘Free’ bays.
Dick Allard
Chair,   Westcombe Society Planning and Environment Sub-Committee
Reply to: Dick Allard, 22, Mycenae Road, London SE3 7SG  020 8858 7305

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