Saturday, 21 February 2015

Boris ‘cycle superhighways’ get go-ahead . . .


Boris ‘cycle superhighways’ get go-ahead

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The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced the go-ahead for two continuous segregated ‘cycle superhighways’ through the centre of London.

The routes will become Europe’s longest urban cycleways – one running north to south, from Elephant & Castle to King’s Cross, and another running along Embankment and past the Houses of Parliament, linking Hyde Park in the west with Tower Hill in the east. Construction is slated to begin in the spring, following formal approval by the Transport for London (TfL) board next month.

Announcing the plans, the Mayor said: “We have done one of the biggest consultation exercises in TfL’s history. We have listened, and now we will act. Overwhelmingly, Londoners wanted these routes, and wanted them delivered to the high standard we promised. I intend to keep that promise.”

The mayor also responded to criticism attracted by the scheme during the consultation process, due to the possibility of increased congestion for motor vehicles, as a result of the reduction in number of lanes.

“I have also listened to those concerned about the east-west route’s impact on traffic,” he said. “Thanks to the skill of TfL’s engineers and traffic managers, we have made changes to our original plans which keep the whole of the segregated cycle track and junctions, while taking out much less of the route’s motor traffic capacity – and so causing much shorter delays.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said that, while it wasn’t opposed to the principle of cycle superhighways, it was concerned at the speed at which the scheme was to proceed.

“These projects will be in place for decades and therefore, more time should be spent now getting all of the aspects understood and correct before work begins,” said FTA – pointing out that the environmental impact report and business case were only published today, rather than with the consultation. Meanwhile, the final picture regarding loading restrictions remains unclear, the association added.

FTA’s head of urban logistics Christopher Snelling said: “The information published on delay times still does not reflect how industry and private motorists actually use these roads. And yet the first road-works to build these superhighways will start in just a few weeks’ time. 

“By this April we will see works underway on all the proposed routes, affecting some key routes into the centre of London. It seems that the target pushing this is the aim to finish the routes by May 2016 – when the mayor leaves office.”

FTA added that the impact on traffic would be: “considerable… not just on the routes themselves, but also across London and even out to the M25, as TfL re-sequences red lights to make it harder for motor traffic to get on the routes.”

“Given the tight constraints of drivers’ hours rules, this could result in significantly increased costs to the logistics industry,” added Snelling. “And that means increased costs for the businesses and residents in London who rely on them.

On a positive note, he added: “The improvements that have been announced today show how careful work can improve the situation to better reflect the balance of London’s transport needs, and the revised plans issued are an improvement on those previously put out – traffic delays have been reduced somewhat and more loading capacity has been added than was planned before.

“TfL has also committed today to work further with the freight industry to refine the loading facilities on the routes before they go live, which we welcome.”

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