Ahead of 2016 GLA Assembly election we arranged for the Norwood Forum Chair, Noshir Patel, and Labour GLA candidate for Lambeth & Southwark, Flo Eshalomi, to conduct a walking tour of Lancaster Avenue and Thurlow Park Road with the bridge strike issue and subsequent road diversion the main topic of discussion.

As many of you may know, the bridge on Thurlow Park Road is the most hit in the country and the impact has been of growing significance to residents and business alike. The economic cost of delayed train and car journeys, the negative effect on air pollution, the impact on road safety, the actual damage to the bridge, and the cost to train operating companies.

As a reminder, we met with TfL and LARA residents last December 2015 and discussed a rage of short and long term strategies to help residents better cope with the ongoing issue. In the short term we had hoped to see better signage being installed. These would be “smart”, triggered only by oversized vehicles which should mean they are more effective. Otherwise, we had also hoped to see CCTV being installed to monitor and measure impact.

In the longer term we understood that TfL would be developing a business case for lowering the road as a way to prevent bridge strikes and to remove the need to divert any traffic down Lancaster Avenue. This will take some time because it is a complicated engineering challenge thanks to bridge foundations and the sewer. It will also have a huge impact on the road, as it would have to be closed for the works to be completed.

Florence was diligent in her questions and understood the need for something to be done as quickly as possible. She was keen to help and said that she would raise the matter, if elected, during Mayor’s question time.

South Circular crash: Lidl lorry overturns at Tulse Hill gyratory

Yesterday an HGV overturned at the junction of Norwood Road and Christchurch Road, outside the Coop. The Lidl lorry crashed at about 11am and it took most of the day to move it and get traffic flowing again. The driver is apparently fine, suffering only minor injuries.

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As your local councillors, we have consistently campaigned for better safety at the Tulse Hill gyratory. vehicles travel too fast around the one way system and the busy roads break up the town centre. Before our election, prompted by an incident of a speeding car coming off the road and into the front room of a house, we worked with council colleagues and the community to organise a petition calling on the Mayor of London to invest in improving the space. We were successful in getting a commitment of £5million to redesign the space, and a further £2million to continue improvements the length of Norwood Road going south.

The project has been a community led effort, and a huge amount of time, skills and imagination have been contributed to coming up with a design. At monthly co-design sessions, 50 plus residents have been taking part in detailed design conversations, and with our estates, schools, youth groups and community organisations we have mobilised hundreds of you to have your say and get involved in training, local procurement, walkabouts and creative projects. 

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The consultation for the Norwood Road design will begin after the Mayoral elections in May, and work should begin by the summer. The Tulse Hill gyratory is a bigger project and will be completed by 2020. We are excited that we will soon have a safer, more pleasant town centre, and that it will reflect the ideas and aspirations of local residents.

If you want to get involved, contact hello@streetworks.london

South Circular crash: Lidl lorry overturns at Tulse Hill gyratory

Bridge over Troubled Traffic*

A big thank you to residents and David McKenna from TfL for yesterday’s meeting about bridge strikes on the railway over the South Circular. 

It was a very productive meeting looking at – 

  • Bridge strike statistics – Thurlow Park has the most bridge strikes in the country
  • Impact on the local area of bridge strikes – economic cost of delayed journeys, effect on air pollution, impact on Lancaster Avenue when it is used to divert traffic, road safety, damage to bridge, cost to train operating companies
  • Long term strategy – David and his team are developing the business case for lowering the road as a way to prevent bridge strikes and to remove the need to divert any traffic down Lancaster Avenue. This will take some time because it is a complicated engineering challenge thanks to bridge foundations and the sewer. It will also have a huge impact on the road, as it would have to be closed for the works to be completed.
  • Short term strategy – David is installing better signage within the next 4 months. These will be “smart”, triggered only by oversized vehicles which should mean they are more effective. CCTV will be installed to monitor and measure impact

Our next steps as a community are to – 

  1. The community will write to the mayoral and GLA candidates requesting that they all prioritise this issue.
  2. David will feedback based on questions raised by attendees, including about whether lorry drivers and their companies can be prosecuted or fined when they hit the bridge, more data, maps showing locations of signs and how the community can support his business case. 
  3. The signs will be installed within the next 4 months.
  4. Feasibility studies will be developed, beginning now. This may include some drill holes and radars to identify services underground. These will be ongoing for the next few months.
  5. Once a new London Mayor and GLA member are in post, we will organise a meeting to request that this is high on their agenda.
  6. We will organise a progress meeting in approx. 6 months where David can share how he’s getting on. We can invite Network Rail and Thames Water, as appropriate. 

Thank you LARA for organising the meeting and Rosemead for hosting. If you would like to be involved in this project but weren’t aware of or able to attend the meeting, please get in touch on abirley@lambeth.gov.uk

*excuse the pun, borrowed from Richard Alford on Lancaster Avenue!

Another bridge strike on Thurlow Park Road

This morning another bridge strike involving a large lorry disrupted commuter trains and traffic. This bridge is the worst in London for strikes and the disruption has a huge impact and cost.

As we shared a couple of months ago, we have raised this issue with TfL and action is being taken as a result. Senior officers are looking to invest in better signage to replace the existing temporary signs before the Spring. These should provide a short term improvement – and signs can be reused so if and when they are no longer needed in Thurlow Park, we can ensure they are reinstalled elsewhere to make best use of resources.

To tackle the problem in the long term, a business case for the large amount of funding it would take to lower the road is being put together. This would also be a significant engineering challenge – there is a sewer below the south circular and the side roads like St Faith’s would need to be examined to work out how to accommodate lower junctions.

Senior TfL officers have offered to meet with Lancaster Avenue residents this month as their road is currently the diversion route for oversized vehicles. We will be discussing new signage, improving 20mph signage to reduce speeding, and the long term plans for the bridge.

Bridge strikes on the South Circular

In the last few weeks, the problems of lorries driving into the railway bridge over Thurlow Park Road near Tulse Hill have resurfaced with two recent strikes which delayed trains into London and closed off the South Circular. 

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We have been talking to local residents about the problem of this low bridge – not only is it hugely disruptive to local people, drivers and passengers, it also means most large vehicles are rerouted down Lancaster Avenue, a residential street with speed bumps and a 20mph limit. 

Cllr Anna Birley has had a number of discussions with Transport for London regarding the bridge. They have acknowledged that it is in the top ten railway bridges in the country for strikes by vehicles and that this causes huge cost and disruption to their strategic network. They have agreed that this should be a priority to fix.

However, there is no quick solution. In the short term, TfL hope to improve signage to prevent large vehicles travelling under the bridge at all. This will prevent strikes and delays but will not solve the problem of large vehicles travelling along Lancaster Avenue. We have asked that any new signage includes clear reminders of the 20mph speed limit to try to mitigate the impact of the lorries.

Anna has also ensured that officers only see this as a short term approach, and that it is essential in the longer term to either raise the bridge or lower the road so that larger vehicles can fit under the bridge without needing to divert along Lancaster Avenue. 

Officers have agreed to look at how this could be funded but are keen to stress that it would be a very difficult and expensive project. TfL have conducted an initial report into the situation and have spoken to Network Rail. They have agreed to try and conduct some tests in the road and pavement below the bridge to identify the location and depth of utilities, and we hope this can be completed over the next 6-12 months. This should help to identify viable options and will support the work we are doing to find funding.