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November 2018

Embankment blockage damaging East London’s competitiveness, new study finds

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Congestion on the Embankment is causing serious economic harm to East London, according to a damning new study by transport economists Volterra Partners.

The study was commissioned by Unblock the Embankment, a group representing road users that rely on the A3211, the road between Westminster Bridge and Tower Hill that includes the Victoria Embankment as well as Upper and Lower Thames Streets.

The study reveals that the removal of a traffic lane on this major east-west artery has made London significantly less connected, impacting tens of thousands of businesses in the eastern boroughs.

Because of the historic role played by the Thames, London east of Tower Bridge is poorly served for roads. As a result, the area is heavily dependent on the A3211, which has become the main road link between Central London and a number of crucial economic centres, including the City, Bethnal Green, Old Street, the Isle of Dogs, South Poplar and Silvertown.

Despite the economic importance of the A3211, in 2016 one of its two eastbound traffic lanes was removed to make way for the controversial £47 million East-West cycle superhighway, significantly increasing journey times for motor vehicles.

Volterra calculate that the consequent delay in journey times has left 15,000 East London businesses out of reach of a 30 minute drive from Westminster during the morning rush hour.

In the evening peak, this figure rises to 18,000 businesses.

Being out of the 30 minute catchment limits hiring options, is off-putting to investors, and increases costs for businesses that rely on deliveries. The areas affected include Europe’s two biggest financial centres, its biggest tech cluster, the Excel Centre and London City Airport, along with many thousands of small businesses.

Although the justification for a cycle superhighway on this route was to improve cyclist safety, there is limited evidence that the new infrastructure has cut the rate of accidents.

Commenting on the study, Unblock the Embankment spokesman Tony Halmos said:

“This study provides clear evidence that this ill-thought through scheme is causing real economic damage to London. With Brexit looming, we need to improve traffic flow on this vital arterial road. Yet the City of London Corporation’s draft Transport Strategy, which will significantly reduce the number of vehicles in the Square Mile, will cause even more congestion on the Embankment.

There’s a chance to limit the damage and turn the City of London’s transport plans into a positive for the Embankment, by finding an alternative route for CS3 and rerouting it up into the City.”

“The City’s strategy will cause further economic damage to London, especially in East London, unless the proposed new cycle lanes provide a replacement for the existing route for CS3 along the Embankment. With this change, the City’s plans will be a positive benefit for London”.

Notes to editors

Unblock the Embankment is a coalition of London road users and businesses who depend on the A3211 for their jobs and livelihoods.

Volterra Partners is a niche consultancy specialising in the economics of transport. Their consultants apply cutting edge economic, behavioural and scientific analysis to forge a new perspective on business and public issues. Their case studies include Crossrail, High Speed One, High Speed Two – Eastern Leg, Northern Line Extension, Core Cities, Heathrow 3rd Runway and Stansted 2nd Runway.