Progress on the South Eastern branch of Crossrail

abbey-wood-station-design-architects-impression

Areas around the Crossrail route continue to evolve as work advances at both stations and nearby development sites. At Abbey Wood construction is ongoing with much track work in progress between the station and Woolwich. A trip along the line by rail shows numerous orange-clad workers and machinery on the route. Abbey Wood station has also recently seen the installation of a new bridge at the station. This comprises both the first part of the planned temporary station as well as the the first installment of the permanent station.

Temporary station site and stairs

Temporary station site and stairs

The section on the left of the bridge (shown above) will be in place up to 2017, and will form access from the temporary station now under construction behind the fence and blue hoardings. The section of bridge to the right of that, which includes the span covering the tracks with two sets of stairs heading down, will remain after the dismantling of the temporary station and form part of the new station when it opens in 2017. The curved roof line above the steps, just about seen on the right, shows the higher spec design compared to the temporary stairs on the left. A better image showing the curved roofline is below -

Permanent staircase - first section of new station

Permanent staircase – first section of new station

A Crossrail track heading from central London will go to the right of the platform and bridge, where the land has been cleared. The track on the right side of the existing southeastern lines becomes the Crossrail track heading to central London.

The image below of the temporary station from Network Rail and Crossrail does not seem to match the bridge installed. Plans for the temporary station must have altered. Perhaps the station will be at ground level and not elevated on stilts.

Stairs on newly installed bridge do not match plans

Stairs on newly installed bridge do not match plans

Further along the line a new pedestrian footbridge has almost finished at Church Manorway near the Abbey Wood and Plumstead boundary. The final lifting of the main span had to be abandoned recently due to high winds. Work is also now underway for bridge replacement at Bostall Manorway and Mottisfont Road. Once completed the entire stretch between Abbey Wood and Woolwich will be wide enough to move the current tracks (parts already have been) and install Crossrail tracks.

Work on the Sainsburys led development of ‘Cross Quarter’ by Abbey Wood station is now well underway, with foundation and piling work ongoing and a large crane assembled on site. Related road works will shortly reduce Harrow Manorway to one direction at a time with temporary traffic lights. Work on the flyover above Abbey Wood station has also reduced the road to one lane in each direction. These combined Crossrail and Cross Quarter works will mean much more congestion for people heading from Thamesmead in coming months.

Main route from Thamesmead. Supermarket on right.

Main route from Thamesmead. Supermarket on right.

I still think Harrow Manorway (shown above) will need to be widened from its current two lane status to four lanes, with a dedicated bus lane in each direction. The road is already quite wide so a great deal of additional space would not be needed. There’s ample space alongside its entire stretch to widen, along with implementing a segregated cycle lane alongside running all the way from the station and supermarket to the pedestrian bridge over Thamesmead’s dual carriageways. This would help buses avoid inevitable future congestion on the way from Thamesmead, as well as make cycling a more enticing option.

Harrow Manorway is the major (and only practical) route from Thamesmead to Abbey Wood station and usage will only increase with additional homes planned for Thamesmead. Add in a large new supermarket and housing development facing it at Cross Quarter, and the major Peabody Homes development just off it in Thamesmead and congestion will become severe. The transport assessment for Sainsburys stated that it would bring traffic up to the maximum capacity. That’s before the numerous other developments and Crossrail.

Thamesmead towerWork on the aforementioned £200m redevelopment of Thamesmead South (formerly Tavy Bridge and now ‘Southmere Village’) has halted whilst new owners Peabody Homes look to alter the scheme. Originally drawn up by Gallions, the plans (see left) were for a tower facing a roundabout and a square behind next to the lake. Gallions had a pretty terrible record with new developments and built some awful stuff across Thamesmead (though those plans looked better), whilst Peabody have constructed some great buildings in recent years and place far more emphasis on quality architecture, so hopefully the re-worked plans will transform the blighted name of Thamesmead.

The former Thamesmead new acres library remains standing – a small stump left over whilst all else was demolished in 2013 before plans were halted. I’m not sure why it hasn’t gone like the rest of the site, as even if plans are altered, it is presumably not part of any new scheme. Then again perhaps it will be, and Peabody want to retain part of what made Thamesmead unique. The architecture is interesting and would look great if cleaned up. Without the early modernist stages of Thamesmead, the town is just a bunch of squat Barrett boxes, some terrible 80s and 90s planning, rubbish post-millenial Gallions built dross and an out of town retail park for a town centre, which helped kill off much of the formative attempts at a town centre. So if it is retained it’s not such a bad idea, with some modifications.

PLUMSTEAD

Large new Crossrail facility highlighted in orange

Large new Crossrail facility highlighted in orange

Construction is also well advanced on the Crossrail train maintenance yard at Plumstead – details can be seen here. This facility hasn’t gained much attention, but is pretty sizable and includes eight lines for stabling trains and three for maintenance trains. There will be 100 parking spaces for staff and 20 for Crossrail lorries and vans. The plans for this facility only came to light after much of the proposals for Crossrail were submitted, and initially registered as being temporary. It is now a permanent facility. It should provide many new jobs locally, and isn’t situated too close to residential areas so hopefully noise will not be an issue.

At Woolwich station work continues inside the box to fit out the station with the installation of platforms, track bed, escalators and lifts. Above ground a couple of the Berkeley Homes towers are complete, and the concrete core of another has topped out at about 20 stories high. The completed section looks to be good quality. Heading past that and the Thames tunnels have both been complete for some months now.

Custom House stationThe Victorian tunnels under the Royal Docks, formally used until 2006 by the line running from north Woolwich and Richmond, have completed refurbishment for Crossrail use.

The next station along the line is Custom House, with a render on the left. It is a basic design of prefabricated modular parts shipped and formed on site. The station structure is taking shape pretty quickly at the moment with around a quarter complete.

Moving along from the site of Custom House station and work has just finished on one tunnel from Limmo Peninsula to Victoria Dock on the way to Canary Wharf . The second tunnel should be completed soon – It took about 9 weeks to dig the first. Work will be complete by the end of 2014.

The last remaining station before the line joins the north east branch at Stepney is Canary Wharf, which is now externally complete. Work inside on the shopping centre is ongoing and it will open in May 2015. The lattice roof has gaps along the length to allow trees to rise through.

Tom Lawson

As at Woolwich, the station box is seeing platforms, track work, lift, escalator and ticket office work. Much work has now been completed for the entire south east branch. The entire tunneling work for all of Crossrail could well be complete by the end of 2014. Station and track works will then be the main focus.

Many proposed developments close to stations on the south east section will continue construction in future which I will report on, along with any new plans that are bound to emerge. Who knows, if Bexley and Greenwich councils get their heads together and come up with a masterplan for Abbey Wood, as strongly urged by Crossrail, we could see some cohesive planning for the many areas nearby that will be redeveloped.

 

 

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More on Southeastern & Crossrail

New build above Woolwich Crossrail

New build above Woolwich Crossrail

Another transport related post today. Firstly a bit on southeastern and then at the end Crossrail. Here’s a few more snippets regarding changes to southeastern services -

The last train will leave Charing Cross at the same time as now but will not head straight to London Bridge after Waterloo East. Instead it will head to Cannon Street after Waterloo East, then on to London Bridge. After its detour to Cannon Street the last train leaves London Bridge at 00:36 instead of 00:26. Good news if drinking around Cannon Street or London Bridge – an extra 10 minutes drinking time. From 2015, people having a late drink can use the 24 hour tube on weekends to go North Greenwich.

Later trains from Cannon Street should perk up the pubs, bars and clubs in the City. The area already has quite a bit more late night entertainment than it used to, and this will only increase when people easily can stay late. Places like the ‘one new change’ shopping centre nearby, with its late bars and restaurants, are another sign of the City changing from a late night ghost town, which the addition of later trains will encourage further.

As I covered last week the Greenwich line sees the biggest cuts in the number of trains but capacity is maintained through longer trains. The forthcoming changes to trains on the Greenwich line sees 16 evening peak trains cut to 13 – a 19% reduction. Assuming each train averages 8 cars, then those 13 services need to see 24 extra carriages added to maintain current levels.

I said this in the last post but worth repeating it again – it is well worth reading this through post to see why SE London has not had the longer trains it should have had for years. First work was done in early ’90s. Millions spent and then scrapped due to recession, then impending privatisation. After a long delay hopes were for a mid-2012 introduction. Constant overruns since. The latest news was that now January 2015 would see maximum length trains to coincide with cuts in frequency. However at the end of the article there are recent comments from ‘SEDriver’ who states -

“12 car testing did take place and our health and safety reps at the depots were unhappy with the sighting on some platforms, they went to southeastern with their issues and basically my employer haven’t been exactly rushing to sort the problem out (contractors need to move cameras etc etc) so far nothing has been rectified and no more 12 car tests have taken place to my knowledge.”

He also added -

“We don’t have the stock as the networkers are getting on years, the metcams especially are falling apart (never should have been built they are so much more complicated than brels) also I think they missed a trick, they should have kept the class 365s as they were compatible with 465s and 466s. Would have had more stock to play with.”

Another person wrote -

“A pal (living in Hayes as it happens) sent this to me a couple of weeks ago: “It looks as though 12-car Networker workings have been suspended: in the latest CWN, what were 12′s from January are now listed simply as 10-car 465 and 466 XXX instead of showing unit diagram numbers; this may be because of sight lines on curved platforms, which the drivers were unhappy about; or maybe they can’t keep enough 465s in running order.”

Assuming these are true then delays to introduction could persist yet further into the time of service cuts. What impact will that have? Have Southeastern, Network Rail or the DfT carried out forecast modelling of crowding with the intention of 12 car trains, and if so what happens if they do not run? Two 10 car trains with a longer gap between may not be enough. And what’s the plan in two years time when many new housing developments are complete if stock levels are only maintained and yet reliability declines.

IMG_20140708_140751

Viewed from ‘dial arch’ square.

As for Crossrail, the flats above the station in Woolwich are now visible with the tarpaulin removed. In common with much of the Arsenal development Berkeley seem to have done a good job on the architectural front. The buildings are handsome additions, with a solid framed frontage and recessed balconies. The red sections within the grid are not terracota panels but red brick, and look all the better for it. Thankfully the frames and penthouse are a classier black and not drab grey as seen so often.

IMG_20140708_140519These aren’t going to set the world on fire, but given some of the dross around and what Woolwich has suffered from then this does fine. The detailing is good, windows a decent size and the brickwork varied on the tower to the right in the pic above. Retail will be on the ground floor. This is a rare case of the finished article looking better than the render -

Woolwich crossrail phase 4

 

With the removal of some of the Arsenal boundary fence (seen on the left in the render above) and further improvements along the dual carriageway, to remove clutter and mess beyond the improved section, this should help connect the two sides of the road. The dangerous building, that was fenced off on the other side of the road to this development, has finally been demolished. That whole parade is a bit of a mess and could do with rebuilding to provide high density housing with retail at street level.

Also regarding Crossrail there is a public information meeting being held from 3:00-7:00pm on Wednesday 16 July at Abbey Wood Community Centre, 4 Knee Hill.

Work continues with line closures over the past three weekends on the southeastern line. The temporary station at Abbey Wood doesn’t seem to be making much progress despite an opening date of ‘summer 2014′. This needs to be complete before the current station is demolished.

 

 

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Southeasterns’ 2015 timetable released

Southeastern’s draft timetable for services from January 2015 has been released today. Half the platforms will be closed at London Bridge meaning alterations are needed. The bad news is the removal of 1 train to central London in the morning peak and 3 heading out in the evening on the Greenwich line. The good news today is the long awaited extension of Victoria to Dartford via Lewisham from its current last train at 20:39 to 00:09.

The three trains cut at London Bridge are the 17:37, 17:58 and 18:21. The 18:57 also doesn’t stop at London Bridge as it starts at Charing Cross so is unable with the platform reductions. The 17:14 is no longer running, as shown in the consultation, but this actually results in an improvement. It is replaced with one two minutes earlier at 17:12 making the gaps slightly more even.

The last train from Victoria to Dartford will stop at Lewisham at 00.33. This is 2 minutes before the last train from central London to Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead, Abbey Wood, Erith, Dartford etc so a quick connection will be possible. This is very good news for those who are in Victoria, Peckham, Denmark Hill etc late in the evening. This benefits those coming on a late southern train to Victoria who then want to head to SE London, as well as people arriving at Victoria on late coaches, and hospital users at the two big hospitals at Denmark Hill. This is a great improvement and well done for extending this service.

Train lengthening is a pressing issue and needed on many services as it is, without less trains and 3 years of future route growth. A 10% rise in passengers on the line over the next 3 years is not an excessive estimate with many new developments along the line. Last years growth was 2.8%. With three services cut from 5:30 to 7pm, and one not stopping at London Bridge, the pressure will be even greater up to 2018. It is to be hoped that a substantial amount of fast trains are 12 carriages and slow trains are 10 on the Greenwich line – the maximum possible due to short platforms at Woolwich Dockyard.

Off the top of my head there are large developments along the line at Slade Green (Howbury), Erith Park on the site of Larner Road estate, Cross Quarter in Abbey Wood, Peabody’s £200m ‘garden city’ at Thamesmead South, Woolwich Arsenal, Woolwich Dockyard estate demolition and rebuild, Victoria Way in Charlton, Convoys Wharf at Deptford and the development by the station. Merely maintaining capacity with longer, yet fewer trains, may not be enough. If those longer trains are not the maximum possible length then new stock to extend them may be needed before confirmed new trains in 2018.

Here’s an excellent and comprehensive overview from London Reconnections of why 12 carriage trains have not been introduced so far and the difficulties involced. It is well worth a read to explain the problems and slipped dates over the past few years. They should have been introduced 20 years ago. Then the plan was scrapped after much work was done due to lack of foresight in the early ’90s recession as well as impending privatisation before resurrection of the idea 10 years later, with work starting again a couple of years ago. There was some hope 12 carriages could be up and running by the Olympics which didn’t happen. Then the plan was for January 2014. Hasn’t happened. Southeastern boasted of thousands of extra seats from January and longer trains. No word on why it hasn’t happened though. Southeastern famed communications are in evidence again. There have apparently been issues with union agreement, driver rotas and trains going to be re-painted in Doncaster.

One comment on the site raises an interesting suggestion. It is to close the existing Woolwich Dockyard station which is in a cutting making platform extensions expensive. Every other station can accommodate 12 car trains on the Greenwich line except Woolwich Dockyard. An idea is to move the station slightly west to the open ground by Morris Walk estate. This would put it at a more even distance between Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton. The station is the least used on the line and saw the biggest decline in passenger numbers last year.

The estate is to be demolished soon and rebuilt to a greater density, though it loses some social housing which is unacceptable. Not only should there be more social housing, but money from the developers could be used to partly or wholly fund a new station and increase permeability between the two sides which the railway slices through. This would then allow 12 carriage trains on all-stopping trains.

On the subject of new trains, maybe one reason the powers that be havn’t prioritised new stock as they look at southeastern usage figures and see the lowest growth of rail franchises serving London. But one wonders how accurate that is when riding without a ticket is so easy – few staffed stations, no staff on trains, few barriers and those in operation open most of the time. London Overground’s predecessor was Silverlink on part of its route (North and West London line). It ran at poor frequencies, had no barriers and much unpaid travel. London Overground took it over, staffed many stations from open to close with barriers, put staff on some trains, upped frequencies and passenger growth has been phenomenal. London Overground now goes deep into south London, west London, North London, and east London. Next year it takes over Greater Anglia routes in North East London. SE London gets a couple of stations and only close to central London which are difficult for connections. The Greenwich line trains does not interchange with New Cross.

South west London doesn’t have many London Overground services but are getting hundreds of new carriages currently to extend suburban stock and that’s without cuts and major disruption to services.

The tube has seen billions invested. Many new trains. In 2015 it will run all night over the weekend. SE Londoners and people heading to Kent will still have to rush for a packed midnight train. Fair enough up to 2018 with substantial building works. After that though hopefully some later trains at weekends.

Southern and Thameslink are also seeing hundreds of new carriages coming into operation currently. The orders for these trains have an option for additional extra trains. Shouldn’t these options be taken up, or extended, and go to southeastern? The options have been there for years. If taken up some new stock could perhaps have been introduced in time for January 2015, or on a rolling program after.

The next few years will be difficult for many. It’s not all bad and in some cases an improvement. New trains are needed though. The options on the table for extending current train orders should be taken up as soon as possible to make the next 4 years more tolerable and cater for the coming growth.

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Southeastern trains likely to be cut

Southeastern train

The Greenwich line could see three  services cut in the evening peak, and one in the morning under planned timetable changes starting in January 2015 .The upcoming London Bridge station rebuild will see some substantial alterations to services. With less platforms in operation, it is looking likely that the Greenwich line could bear the brunt. We should find out imminently with the release of the proposed timetable in operation throughout the first stage of the rebuilding work, up to August 2016.

Southeastern carried out a consultation at the end of last year on their proposals. One of them was to cut the all-stations 17:06 service from Charing Cross (calling at London Bridge at 17:14) via Greenwich. This would leave a 22 minute gap between trains from London Bridge to Deptford, Maze Hill etc. The previous train stops at London Bridge at 16:58 and the next at 17:20. There is a train at 17:10 but this is a fast train which only calls at Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal and Abbey Wood.

The proposed cut service calls at all stations to Slade Green then swings back round via Sidcup to go back to Charing Cross. The consultation proposed starting it at Slade Green heading to Charing Cross via Sidcup. I used to use this train to get home, and it was comprised of 8 carriages.

It will be interesting to see what is done to alleviate this. The 17:10 London Bridge train could become an all-stopping train but this would still be a reduction in capacity. One possibility is that it is lengthened to 12 carriages after the rebuild of platforms along the Greenwich line. If this happened it would not be able to stop at Woolwich Dockyard which can only accommodate 10 carriages. One to keep an eye on when the timetables come out.

Recently there have also been mentions of additional long distance southeastern services. With the severe pressure on capacity from 2015 it could mean that these are at the expense of ‘metro’ suburban services. One of these possible new services is one from Ore. Other proposals are a new fast service from Ashford.

If this does happen Southeastern may justify it by claiming that trains which are currently  6/8/10 carriages will become longer, with some perhaps going to 12. However 12 carriages can only operate on fast trains. The issue with short platforms at Woolwich Dockyard prevents 12 carriage running. Many trains across the UK have had ‘selected door operation’ installed to allow trains to stop when longer than the platform. The Networker trains southeastern use have not had this despite the millions spent on upgrading every platform on the Greenwich line to 12 carriages, along with power supply upgrades. The other trains southeastern have (ordered by Connex) can be no longer than 10 carriages due to a lack of forward planning when ordered around 10 years ago.

There won’t be any new trains as things stand for at least 3 years – when the London Bridge upheaval should be over. This is in contrast to pretty much every other London based franchise. South West trains have additional carriages from southern, who in turn have ordered hundreds of new carriages to not only cover those but extend their services. London Overground trains are being lengthened over coming months. They are also taking over some Greater Anglia lines and purchasing new trains. Thameslink are to receive hundreds of new carriages, and some of those will likely go to First Great Western in a couple of years.

If the cuts occur then at best we will see capacity maintained through longer trains despite the reduction in frequency. This is probably a best case scenario and it will be intriguing to see how this increase in capacity is managed throughout the peak to avoid pressure building up at certain times. It’s very unlikely that capacity will be increased despite rapid population growth and large scale developments along the line. It will be a tight squeeze up to 2017/18 when rebuilding is complete and crossrail opens.

Another thing to keep an eye on is a better service from Victoria to Dartford via Lewisham. It currently has just 2 trains an hour off-peak, and does not run after 8pm or on Sundays. There have long been calls for this to be improved. Southeastern propose this and it is likely it will run to a midnight departure from Victoria. It’s an important link for SE London to an important London terminal, and connection to London Overground at Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye. It also serves the large hospitals at Denmark Hill. Yet it currently has a service more suitable for a quiet rural line than one in London serving important destinations so this would be good news. Longer peak trains are needed but a lack of stock again prevents this.

Southeastern last week came bottom of Passenger Focus’ nationwide passenger survey. This is a few months after they came dead last in Which magazines nationwide survey. Southeastern blame the weather. They were badly affected but so were many others like Southern and South West trains. Where southeastern fall down is communications. The rolling stock issue also comes to the fore again. Issues happen which often aren’t southeastern’s fault but are compounded by short trains.

OvergroundNegotiations with the Department for Transport (DfT) continue regarding the Direct Award contract to run the franchise from October 2014 until June 2018. Until this is concluded it is not impossible that another company could operate the trains including the state owned Directly Operated Railways which currently runs East Coast, and operated Southeastern to a good standard before it was privatised again by Labour in 2006. I suppose there is still a very slim chance TfL could get the suburban routes if negotiations go badly, but this is very unlikely. Operating the service throughout the rebuild is a bit of a poisoned chalice, but TfL could perhaps bring passengers round by ordering more stock as they have on other routes they’ve taken over, and greatly increasing off-peak services. TfL would also be more likely to put a challenge to the peak time cuts. Still, it seems that ship has sailed.

It’s not looking very good for the Greenwich line, nor other southeastern suburban routes. The TfL takeover which promised so much has now seemingly been put on the back burner. No new trains will arrive any time soon, services to Charing Cross will permanently cease for those past Charlton from January and peak time trains could be cut. The area also currently has some of the lowest off peak frequencies in all of London. If the new timetable confirms peak time cuts and doesn’t greatly improve the off-peak frequencies,  southeastern passengers will rightly be asking quite a few questions about the service they receive and local politicians will need to make themselves heard.

When the timetable is out I will write a new post regarding what services, if any, are cut, and what will happen to other services.

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Are Greenwich & Bexley Councils Taking Maximum Advantage of Crossrail?

crossrail abbey wood cropped

Work on Crossrail continues apace between Abbey Wood and Plumstead. New track is down and trains will be using it from tomorrow (Monday 16th June). The not particularly exciting pic above shows the track heading to central London from Abbey Wood. Trains will veer left onto new track that has been laid over the past few weeks. The link to the old track is already cut, as can be seen by zooming into the pic. Sadly the quality isn’t too good as it was taken on a not very good phone.

IMG_20140615_125625I’ve recently found a report which casts a poor light on Greenwich and Bexley Councils ability to take maximum advantage of Crossrail and may be letting opportunities go to waste. A recent Future of London Report on how communities and towns can take advantage of the benefits has some worrying comments. They are concerned with how both councils have failed to draw up a master plan for cohesive planning.

The report states -

“A Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Supplementary Planning
Document was produced jointly by Greenwich and Bexley
councils and adopted in 2009…However, no detailed masterplan has
come forward for the area, despite acknowledgement in
the SPD that a “comprehensive masterplanning exercise” is
required to avoid “piecemeal development”

“The area has significant scope
for further development, including the intensification of
existing land (highlighted in the Thamesmead and Abbey
Wood SPD); going forward though, there is a genuine need
for closer partnership working between public and private
sectors and the development of a more defined spatial
vision for the area to allow Abbey Wood to maximise its
potential.”

Greenwich recently produced master plans for Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Eltham but not Abbey Wood despite the huge forthcoming changes. The new leader of Greenwich Council is Denise Hyland, who represents Abbey Wood (though lives in Eltham). Will she do more to promote a clear plan for future growth and improvements for the area? Considering she has presided over continued decline of the area in the past hopes shouldn’t be set too high. The report continues -

“There are a number of hurdles
in delivering regeneration and development around
Abbey Wood station…Good work on strategic planning guidance risks
being lost if masterplans are not created to carry
their principles forward”.

abbey-wood-station-design-architects-impression

The report recognised good work from both councils working together to achieve a good quality station design after poor early proposals, but that subsequent progress has been lacking -

“Despite good cross-borough work on station design
and the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood Supplementary
Planning Document, progress has stalled in creating a
masterplan for Abbey Wood between RB Greenwich and
LB Bexley. Opportunity stemming from the new station
should not be lost, so potential levers to encourage its
delivery should be considered by all stakeholders involved.”

A master plan for the area will set out a clear framework for developers offering guidance in what can be built. It would also allow local people and business a say in future development. It is not a panacea to all problems, and we have seen Greenwich Council allow developers to ignore the carefully crafted (and expensive to formulate) master plan in North Greenwich. However they do offer an important role and a lack of movement on this is bizarre. Development plans are already happening in the form of the Sainsbury’s supermarket, hotel and housing by the station given permission last year. In addition Peabody Homes have taken over Gallions Housing Association and have plans for a £200 million mass redevelopment and the creation of a ‘Garden City’ within walking distance of the station. There are quite a few more sites developers will be looking to buy and build on in coming years.

Both councils have long neglected Abbey Wood. They seem to ignore the continuing decline. Public areas are in a very sorry state all over the town. With Greenwich Council in charge of almost all of the town the blame must overwhelmingly lie with them. Greenwich have been claiming since the late ’90s (long before it was confirmed) that Crossrail will bring improvements to streets and public spaces as though that was a fix-all solution. Though public realm work around the station will happen in 2018, this will be after 20 years of decline and promises, and will only cover a fraction of Abbey Wood. No plans for other improvements are apparent. There are no mentions of future funding bids to TfL for major town improvement works.

There was also no mention of Abbey Wood at all in Greenwich Labour’s manifesto for the recent local election, nor from ruling Tories in Bexley.

Crossrail’s chief exec Terry Morgan has also expressed surprise that Bexley Council had not pushed more heavily for Crossrail extensions into their borough, as almost every other London borough had done when their was a chance of greater transport infrastructure. The long term plan is to extend through Bexley to terminate at Gravesend. This would give Bexley stations at Belvedere, Erith and Slade Green.

In other Crossrail news there is an exhibition showing plans for public realm improvements at various stations. The Crossrail Places and Spaces exhibition is at RIBA from 16 June and at the Building Centre from 21 July. The Woolwich render appears to show the removal of the tall brick wall surrounding the Arsenal development.

Woolwich Crossrail render

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: The Bexley is Bonkers site has many photos (much better quality than mine above) of Crossrail work taken both yesterday and today (Monday 16th June). See here

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Eye-Opening Plan to Demolish Victorian Pub in Woolwich/Charlton

I was just told about this application and felt like I have to write a quick post on it. Normally I wouldn’t focus on such a small plan but this is something else. Plans have gone in to Greenwich Council to demolish an attractive Victorian pub building. It’s the highlight on a pretty grim stretch of road that should see some decent changes in coming years.

White Horse pub

Here is the proposed replacement -

Pub replacement

Ignoring aesthetics (as hard as that is) this proposal would only have 9 flats and 8 car parking spaces. The existing three storey pub building is a fair size and looks as though it could accommodate a sizable number of units. The top two floors could be converted to residential with the pub remaining open. If the pub is not viable, and that is quite possible in that area, then an alternative use could be sought. If that is not possible then the ground floor could be converted.

The current pub is on a stretch of road that has mainly industrial units, car parks and some poor examples of post-war housing. The current pub looks in good condition externally. It’s well maintained and the owners havn’t wrecked it. I can’t see any justification for its demolition, let alone what it is to be replaced with.

The plan is still being decided. It went in on 7th April so a decision will be soon. You can comment on this here or emailing janet.stewart@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Next to the pub is a temporary car wash. I initially thought this proposal was part of some bigger plan including that site which would have kinda made more sense, though it still wouldn’t justify its demolition. But no, it is demolishing just the pub, a good building in an area sorely lacking them, and replacing with a small number of units on the same small site. There seems to be a separate proposal for the car wash site.

Having a scoot around on the aerial views on google maps shows what seem to be a lot of wasted land around there, which matches the impression you get when passing through. Some of the unused or under-utilised land could be used to build housing to help with the housing crises. Future housing that could use the pub or another community facility within it.

There’s a derelict site a minute walk away by a roundabout. It’s overgrown with weeds and pretty sizable. Mcdonald’s recently applied to build a drive through which was rejected. It seems a decent spot for new homes.

Woolwich Overhead image

When looking around that area on google I also saw the usual mess of street signage and ugly street furniture Greenwich Council excel at. Here is a barrier put in by the traffic light that seems to serve no purpose.

Morris Walk Guardrail

There’s loads of the usual neglect and wasted money on unnecessary street clutter around there.

Other sites nearby for possible redevelopment are sites  like the single-storey storage place over the road from the pub, and various big car parks. The Charlton area masterplan came out recently and that can act as a trigger for changes. There is an intention to make the area where Woolwich meets Charlton near the river residential. The council could utilise the power it has to develop projects and also encourage private developers to take an interest in this area. The Morris Walk estate nearby is to be demolished and rebuilt which is good news. Alongside that the other wasted land can be developed but local assets like the White Horse pub need to be integrated within that.

 

 

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Forthcoming Cycle Lane Improvments in Greenwich

Greenwich Council recently published their new cycling strategy. With cycle use actually declining in the borough there is a need for some decent projects to change behaviour. One project to be implemented is changing the road layout from the Blackwall Tunnel flyover west into Greenwich, from Tunnel Avenue to Blackwall Lane.

aerial image cycle lane

The proposals seem decent on which is a constricted road. £132,500 is to be spent and is coming from TfL. They are however vague in parts – stating that continuous lanes will only be in place if there is ‘sufficient room’. Is that sufficient room just on existing tarmac or looking holistically at both road and paving space? If it the former there is little space for a dedicated cycle lane where bikes must dice with buses, lorries and cars as the road narrows. If an approach is taken consisting of space including paving then there is adequate space for a cycle lane, segregated from traffic, and pedestrians lose no space. Here is a very basic mock-up image of what i would like to see alongside how it is now -

greenwich cycle lane before and afterThe cycle lane would ideally cross the junction and the stop line on the road to the left moved back. A feeder lane could be installed on that road. Cars may block the lane as they move out but there’s a CCTV camera right next to it which could monitor the situation. This set up would be safer and more inviting for cyclists entering from the roundabout, Westcombe Park station and Combedale Road. It also removes the excessive street clutter and alleviates the ugliness of this spot, which is a very poor first impression of Greenwich upon exiting the dual carriageway. Kerbs, small bollards or ‘armadillos’ could be used to segregate the cycle lane from the path and road.

Greenwich crossing completeThis whole area is a spot in which no one wants to stay for very long. The parade of shops, pub and future owner of the library site (when it moves) would benefit from a more attractive space. ‘Humanise’ it so it is less hostile to pedestrians along with cyclists. Remove excessive clutter.  If some railings and signage are needed at least paint them and use higher quality materials. Hang some greenery. If nothing else you’d expect the council would want to make it a nice spot so they’ll have more interest if they sell the library site when they move.

Further along the road the paving narrows and the current cycle lane begins on the road. Itcycle lane bus stop will be widened from 1.2 metres to 1.5 metres. TfL and the police opposed this as this left just 3 metres each way for buses which are 2.25m wide. TfL and the police were worried traffic would then encroach into the widened cycle lane. A compromise has been reached so the central road markings are removed. A bus stop which juts out into the road will also be altered. The paving will no longer widen at this point.

There is another spot where cyclists conflict with a bus stop, where there is little space to do anything. Unfortunately a recent development has been built leaving narrow paving.

new development small pavingThe development could have been a number of metres to the left. This would have enabled a vastly wider pavement with sufficient space for a cycle lane by-passing the bus stop and avoiding the road. To mitigate developer complaints an additional storey could have beennarrow paving by new development permitted. The wider expanse of the street would prevent the building from appearing too overbearing. As it is we have a spot which is narrow and congested where buses, cars, lorries, and cyclists are all vying for space. Pedestrians and people waiting at the bus stop also have little space.

Moving along the road is the large junction by the former Greenwich Hospital, which now has large scale residential development under construction on a couple of sides and potential for more. This marks the end of this improvement scheme. I’ve wrote about this junction before. It’s awful – huge swaths of tarmac and street clutter.

Approaching it the paving widens ancycle lane heart of greenwichd there is scope for a cycle lane to peel off the road running behind the bus stops, removing cyclists from traffic and conflict with bus passengers. There is though the issue of conflict with the new development, its entrances and the space taken by the raised planters. Things like that could be remedied in the planning stage. The alternative for cyclists is dicing with two busy lanes of traffic and bus stops. Anything is better than that and if we want the very low percentage of people cycling to rise then usable segregated lanes are needed, and need to be considered at every stage of planning.

This would be a large scheme and unaffordable in the £132,500 funds available this year. However space is possibly available depending on the new building. Section 106 payments to the council from the many new developments here will run into the millions. In many areas across London public realm improvements occur on existing streets and public spaces directly from s106 payments. I can’t really think of many in Greenwich. Anyone know of any? There’s also future years’ TfL money that could be used to change this particularly ugly junction. Pooling the available funds should see enough money for improvements.

 

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