Residents have voiced concerns over Olympic route proposals unveiled last night by Transport for London.
The initial Olympic Route Network (ORN) proposal for the borough, which primarily affects the A1203 Highway, would remove six bus stops, suspend all right-turns along The Highway from East Smithfield to the Limehouse Link Tunnel, and close a pedestrian crossing at the busy intersection with Vaughan Way.
TfL intend to construct a temporary ‘games lane’ along the road in order for athletes, officials, and sponsors to have easy access to Olympic venues in 2012. Of the four lanes along this stretch of the A1203, the middle two lanes would be used for Olympic traffic only between 6.00am and midnight. The remaining nearside lanes would be used for all other traffic. The proposals would come into effect from late June 2012 to mid September 2012, although some measures may be relaxed during the Paralympic Games.
“From one look at that map it seems it’s going to be very difficult for us to get out to go East,” said David Leonard of St. Katherine’s Docks, after viewing TfL’s visual aid. He added: “It’s fine in theory and on paper, but those of us who live here and drive around a lot know that turning right isn’t easy even today […] the roads are very narrow and congested, and with all the other traffic trying to do the same thing you’re going to have huge congestion.”
Above: David Leonard speaking to East London Lines at Monday’s consultation meeting.
Other residents took issue with the removal of bus stops and altered routes, which are yet to be finalised by TfL. Two of Wapping’s bus routes, the 100 and the D3, would be redirected in order to avoid the Olympic games lane. “They’re an actual lifeline to the pensioners,” said a female pensioner, who preferred to remain anonymous. “It allows them out so that they’re not prisoners in their own home. They can get out a little bit and do their shopping independently,” she added. Her friend agreed: “My surgery is just across the road here, I won’t be able to get down to it.” They both refuted the idea that Tower Hamlets Council would alter plans after the consultation: “They haven’t considered the people living in Tower Hamlets at all.”
Some attendees, however, contested the claim that residents are not being listened to. “It’s not set in stone, and they [TfL] have sort of taken everything into account,” said Paula of Chatman House, Wapping. She went on to assert that some local residents were not able to see the bigger picture: “This is supposed to be the Olympics for London and all they’re worried about is their shopping bags.” Another resident at the drop-in consultation raised her voice in agreement: “It’s only once every 50 years.”
Transport for London appeared to take a similar line: ‘People may need to think about changing their travel habits during the Games,’ read the printed text that greeted residents inside Wapping Community Group’s building. A spokesperson for the company clarified the plans, and stressed that the impact to the local community would be minimal: “The Olympic Route Network is a route that goes between venue to venue, and will be used by all Londoners. Games lanes are small parts of the road. There will be regular access for normal Londoners.”
While TfL continue to assert that residents and businesses will not be hugely affected by the changes, what locals may experience is the increase of surveillance in the area as police ensure there is no illegal parking and driving in the games lanes. According to the London 2012 website, there will be more CCTV cameras, patrols by ‘mobile enforcement teams’, and fines of up to £200 for illegal use of the lanes. The TfL spokesperson said that “it’s not about enforcement as much as compliance. The whole idea is not to crack down on people, that’s why we’re letting them know now.”
Residents left the consultation with mixed feelings. Some, such as those who rely on the buses, will find themselves struggling during the Olympic Route Network’s enforcement through the borough next summer. Others, such as Paula, dismiss the potential disruption as a by-product of a great event, made worse by the complaining of some residents: “They’re a fiesty lot in Wapping,” she said. “It’s like a little village, and they don’t like being meddled with.”
TfL will continue the public consultation process until 6th June 2011, after which it will finalise its plans for the ORN. The times and venues for the drop-in sessions this week are as follows:
- HolidayInn Express, 469 – 475 The Highway E1W 3HN. Tuesday 24 May between 4.30pm and 7.30pm.
- Aberfeldy Neighbourhood Centre, Aberfeldy Street E14 0NU. Thursday 26 May between 4.30pm and 7.30pm.
- Asda Supermarket, Isle of Dogs Store 151 East Ferry Road E14 3BT. Friday 27 May between 5.30pm and 8pm.
Above: Phillip Brown runs through TfL’s proposed changes.
For a full overview of London 2012’s Olympic Route Network, visit the London 2012 website.
Written by Steve Howe with Photos and additional reporting by Phillip Brown.