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.

New campaign group calls for total vehicle BAN on the Embankment at weekends

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A new campaign group called Open Embankment is calling for a complete ban on vehicles on the Embankment at weekends. This would of course spell complete chaos for drivers.

The A3211, which runs along the Victoria Embankment, is a vital east-west through route, relied upon by taxi drivers, freight vehicles and tradespeople trying to cross London. The loss of a lane on the eastbound route has already significantly increased journey times, which even TfL admits. Shutting it down completely at weekends would make a bad situation much worse.

It’s also completely unnecessary. Open Embankment say their aim for the Embankment to be “London’s best new public space for pedestrians and cyclists to breathe and explore”. But cyclists already have the advantage of the £47 million East-West Cycle superhighway, which is fully segregated along the Embankment (hence the loss of the eastbound traffic lane). Pedestrians wanting to get out of the central London melee have access to the picturesque Whitehall Gardens or Victoria Embankment Gardens.

Unblock the Embankment fully accepts that many parts of London need to make more provision for pedestrians and cyclists. But this clearly is not one of them. On your bike Open Embankment!

Bus boss blames bikes for blockages

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John Trayner, boss of London bus operator Go Ahead, has given a rare interview, slamming “white, male, middle-class” cyclists for riding roughshod over the needs of other road users.

Trayner told journalist Dave Hill that the cycle superhighways have led to intense competition for limited road space, undermining a bus network that the poorest Londoners rely on to get from A to B.

TfL figures show that some buses now crawl along at just 4.6mph during the morning rush hour, meaning it can almost be quicker to walk.

Rebutting the claim that cyclists are the most efficient users of road space, he pointed out that a double-decker, which can carry 80 people in a ten metre by three metre block, is even more space efficient than a bike.

“If someone else takes that road space, whether it’s a cycle superhighway or for pedestrian movement or taking out road space because you want to calm traffic, it makes a difference.”

Speaking about London’s influential cycling lobby, Trayner said: “You challenge them at your peril. They are powerful and they will put a good argument together.

“If I try look at it dispassionately, in the peak travel periods – two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening – I get their argument. At those times it is like the Tour de France ten times over. All those lanes are being used. But if you go to one at 11:00 in the morning, it’s an empty space.

He added: “That for me is a waste of public network that could otherwise benefit more people.”

City of London’s new transport plans will make Embankment congestion even worse

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The City of London Corporation has just unveiled its new draft transport strategy. And it’s bad news for Embankment road users.

Over the next few years the City plans to ban cars from half its roads, impose a 15 mph speed limit and build a 2-metre wide cycle superhighway all over the City.

This will put more pressure on roads around the City – including the Embankment – as traffic is displaced off City streets and forced to take alternative routes. It will mean worse congestion and more exposure to pollution from drivers struck in traffic.

And will put further strain on the bus network, with the boss of bus operator Go-Ahead London, warning that passenger numbers are falling because of delays caused by London’s endless traffic schemes. That means less revenue for TfL and ultimately fewer buses.

There has to be a sensible balance between the needs of all road users and the City’s plans do not strike that balance. Something’s got to give. We strongly urge the Corporation to reconsider their strategy.

Embankment cycle lane “really added to traffic” says Tory mayoral hopeful

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Wannabe Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey this morning said that the cycle super highway on the Embankment hasn’t worked and really increased congestion.
The current member of the Greater London Assembly was answering questions on Nick Ferrari’s LBC breakfast radio show alongside fellow tory candidate hopefuls Andrew Boff and Joy Morrissey.
Bailey went on to say that he wasn’t sure if he would have put the cycle lane in place and raised concerns about the road space it takes up.
He rightly added that protecting cyclists was a must, but the effect cycle lane routes have on London should be looked at.