Simon Rush, PHV driver and president of the GMB Pro Drivers’ branch, discusses trade issues
HGVs stacked up each morning on The Highway, reducing two lanes to one. Cannon Street closed by the station with Bank Junction banned to all traffic except buses and cycles. The M4 shut west bound for one night to allow the placement of a new advertising board, with the A40 shut in the same direction. These appear to be just a few of the cases where the various transport departments have failed to communicate with each other, and in doing so created gridlock and misery for road users. Little wonder then, that emission levels are said to be on the rise.
Other areas of London are also experiencing high levels of congestion. Brixton Road, for example, is now cited as one of the most polluted areas in the capital. This is partly due to the many bus routes, but the GMB Professional Drivers Branch suggests that the increase in traffic in this part of South London can also be attributed to the Cycle Super Highway (CSH) on Vauxhall Bridge and Camberwell New Road. It takes up valuable road space and yet is usually empty outside of peak hours.
Whilst Transport for London’s attempt to prevent accidents involving cyclists and motorists through promotion of the CSH is laudable, its impact upon pollution, through congestion of vehicles crammed into ever-decreasing amounts of road space, appears to have been over-looked or under estimated during the impact assessment stage of the CSH consultation and is having a big affect on the health of Londoners.
Despite such oversight, which has been to the detriment of transportation services in London, the travelling public, and the health of the population, it appears that TfL is intent on continuing down the path of reducing London road space even further still, hampering the ability of motorists to navigate the city. This is evident in its recent consultation (ends 3rd Jan) on the closure of Oxford Street.
We know Oxford Street is the shopping hub of the West End. But statistics show year-on-year the number of actual shoppers is reducing due to increasing online shopping.
Oxford Street is though still very much a tourist destination and the mayor and TfL’s plan to pedestrianise this area, will be to our expense.
GMB officers have looked long and hard at some of consultation proposals and our view is that it makes for a horror story for all road users and the elderly and disabled, as well as residents of this quarter.
Whilst we appreciate that the air quality on Oxford Street has to improve and the businesses have to thrive, shoppers and visitors to the area also need to get in and out. But these new proposals only allow for limited options as the only convenient transport will be the underground and Crossrail, once it has been completed.
Our members and others will have clients that expect to be taken to major stores and collected from them. This closure will, in our view, create a restriction of trade since most retails outlets will not be accessible.
Both private hire vehicles and taxis are initially mentioned as an important part of London’s Transport System. But minicabs will be banned from accessing roads that hackney carriages will be allowed to use. This is not reasonable. The need for North/South access at a number of points for all segments of the transport system is critical to the correct function of the whole area.
We do not see why it is not reasonable to ban private vehicles or restrict goods delivery to so called anti-social hours. But to prevent forms of passenger transport from functioning is irrational and counter-productive.
In the interests of equality, and to adequately service Oxford Street, pick up/drop off areas need to be provided for private hire vehicles in adjacent streets. Black cabs have ranks, buses have bus stops, trains and the underground have stations. So collection and set down points for PHVs is not unreasonable.
It is almost as if TfL want to make life as difficult as possible for the private hire trade by providing no reasonable assistance to enable drivers to do their job. But in the process they are damaging the lives of people and businesses who rely on the service. James Street and St Christopher Place are full of restaurants. But will they survive if punters can’t get to and from them?
The GMB is also greatly concerned at the effects the restrictions could have on traffic flow in roads connected to Margaret Street. You need look no further than the scheme at Tavistock Place – which was supposedly a six month trail – for indications how such sweeping changes can affect vehicle mobility, causing a build-up of traffic (at times gridlocked) on Marylebone Road and, no doubt, a reduction in air quality for those who live and work in the area.
We know Tavistock is not as important as Oxford Street, but restrictions connected to Margaret Street will only increase the problem since any traffic serving the Fitzrovia/Holborn area will now have to travel north to get to the west.
So, the question is, will the Tavistock trial ever end so at least this transport corridor is open? Don’t forget there are two cycle lanes along its length. So maybe some of that cycle traffic can be pushed south to take advantage of the wonderful open space soon to be created on Oxford Street.