Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It Just Isn't Working; Congestion at Trafalgar Square Has Road Experts Calling for a Rethink

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It Just Isn't Working; Congestion at Trafalgar Square Has Road Experts Calling for a Rethink

Article excerpt


IT was hailed as the elegant centrepiece of a new, congestion free London.

Trafalgar Square underwent a [pounds sterling]25million redevelopment and it was claimed the new layout would cope with the thousands of vehicles crossing the junction.

But now experts say that far from improving traffic flow, the new-look square threatens the very benefits claimed for congestion charging.

The RAC Foundation says the redesign is "wrong" and that it traps "many thousands" of vehicles in delays of up to 30 minutes a day.

The effects are being felt more than half a mile away and the problem is getting worse, it claims.

And a senior engineering consultant on the project admits it was wrong to reduce the traffic capacity of Trafalgar Square by up to 60 per cent. The man wants to remain anonymous but feels so strongly he has spoken to the Standard. He says the scheme could not work with such a dramatic reduction, given the square's strategic importance at the centre of the capital.

The ambitious redevelopment began in November 2001 when Transport for London engineers began digging up pavements and roads as part of the World Squares For All project.

Throughout 2002 motorists faced huge delays as three lanes in front of the National Gallery were closed to create a pedestrianised area. A roundabout was created to the south of the square while pavements were widened and new pedestrian crossings installed. One-way Cockspur Street became two-way.

But TfL insiders say Derek Turner, then chief traffic adviser to the Mayor, wanted the scheme delayed to let congestion charging bed in. He was overruled.

Today leading figures called for the redevelopment to be investigated. John Biggs, Labour chairman of the London Assembly transport committee, said the redesign should be independently reviewed to see if there is a "lasting problem", and added: "We should keep the new environment but possibly-traffic lights and bus lanes could be altered."

Angie Bray, Conservative Assembly spokeswoman on the congest ion charge, said of the redevelopment: "It is clearly not working and is badly affecting traffic across central London. It must be called in for review."

The RAC Foundation said the scheme required an urgent redesign, and claimed the knock-on effects are choking roads as far away as Waterloo Bridge, Piccadilly, Cambridge Circus and The Mall - and seriously undermining the [pounds sterling]5 congestion charge. …

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