Wellesley Road scheme offers traffic chaos for years to come

According to a survey published recently, Wellesley Road in central Croydon is the eighth most congested road in the capital.

Croydon's urban motorway: TfL and the council's latest plans could make things even worse

Croydon’s urban motorway: TfL and the council’s latest plans could make things even worse

Not satisfied with that, Croydon Council’s cabinet of senior councillors, together with Transport for London, seem intent on getting Wellesley Road to the No1 spot.

Their vision of a “greener” road involves the following :

  • Several extra pedestrian crossings, which will inevitably stop trams, buses and other vehicles, causing tailbacks at every junction.
  • Removing of one lane of traffic to create a central reservation
  • Lansdowne Road to be closed to exiting traffic. All vehicles from the area east of Wellesley Road wanting to go south, including from the new 50-storey high-rise buildings, will be forced to come out of Sydenham Road instead, resulting in considerably more traffic on Wellesley Road having to stop for two new pedestrian crossings at the junction with Lansdowne Road.
  • The possibility of north-bound buses from East Croydon Station being re-routed into Dingwall Road, crossing two tram lanes, a bus and vehicle lane, and the heavily used pedestrian crossing on Dingwall Road from George Street to the station.
  • Worst of all is the proposed new car entrance and exit to the Whitgift Centre just north of the underpass exit, south of Lansdowne Road. Cars from the underpass going into the car park would stop buses and other vehicles coming from the George Street junction, causing a serious queues to, and possibly over, the nearby junction.

From the people who brought us the recipe for traffic congestion that is the tram and bus stop log-jam outside East Croydon Station, they have truly surpassed themselves this time.

On Wellesley Road, buses and other vehicles going north from this junction would stop the traffic from underpass wanting to go into the car park. In the weeks before Christmas, this area has always been subject to congestion, but these proposals seem certain to make a bad situation far worse.

All traffic on the surface and from the underpass on the west side, and all vehicles going south on the east side to the underpass would have to stop to enable cars coming out of the car park to cross to the east side of the road to go south.

As if that was not enough, the geniuses at the council and TfL want to amalgamate the two lanes of traffic from the underpass as they re-emerge at street level to enable the central reservation to be constructed.

All of this, of course, will cost millions of pound of public money, while creating considerable disruption for commuters, shoppers and residents months on end. To what end? The planners claim that they want to “simplify” and “improve” vehicle movement. In all likelihood, as buses and cars sit in traffic jams and tail-backs caused by the revised junctions and new crossings, all that will appear will be the smog of pollution caused by idling engines – right in the centre of an area where Croydon Council aspires to home thousands of new residents.

A reputation for bad traffic congestion is hardly likely to attract out-of-area shoppers to Croydon’s hoped-for £1 billion shopping centre; how the Wellesley Road traffic pipe dreams will fit with the finalised plans for the “Hammersfield” mega-mall from Hammersons and Westfield on the site of the Whitgift Centre remains to be seen.

Another contender for London’s Top 10 most congested roads will be the Cherry Orchard junction with Addiscombe Road.

Landmark building: but soon to be even more cut-off by traffic schemes?

Landmark building: but soon to be even more cut-off by traffic schemes?

According to the East Croydon Masterplan, a dedicated drop-off point on Cherry Orchard Road in a lay-by just north of the junction with Addiscombe Road is to be used for taxi drop-offs  – sited there instead of on Billington Hill – which “will improve the effectiveness” of the present facility.

As only about four spaces seem to be provided, the rush hour queue for dropping off/picking up from all these vehicles will cause congestion tailing back to the junction and tram track, and in the nearby junctions.

As for “increasing accessibility” for pedestrians… a long walk for those with heavy luggage, with limited mobility or in the pouring rain, from Cherry Orchard Road, or half way up Billinton Hill to get a taxi is what awaits pedestrians under these plans. Of course, they might always use the new £22 million bridge. Except, of course, the developers on that side of the railways tracks have refused to honour their development benefit agreement and allow an entrance to the bridge to be built.

With another 50-storey block for 240 flats (and providing just 40 parking spaces – where will the other 200 car-owning flat-dwellers park their vehicles?) planned for the Royal Mail building on the corner of Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Road, and the Menta Tower a short distance away including with “substantial retail” in its scheme, the various vehicles for these inevitably will add to an already congested area.

The East Croydon Masterplan also offers another new pedestrian crossing, from No1 Croydon to the south side of George Street, with the subway removed to put in more bus stands. Pedestrians crossing from No1 will hold up the buses from those very bus stands.

Does any of this truly “green” Croydon? Who are the real beneficiaries of all this public expenditure? Might these traffic schemes have more to do with fulfilling the desires of  developers, who seek some cosmetic improvements to the public realm to assist with the sale of their “luxury apartments”?

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4 Responses to Wellesley Road scheme offers traffic chaos for years to come

  1. We have to come up with an integrated plan for the whole Borough that calms the roads. Calming the roads will in itself solve so many other social issues. Children can play in their roads; senior citizens can stay mobile for longer and access shops and community activities – we can meet the goal of being a “Dementia Friendly” community. We can expand calm social spaces where people can eat, drink and be entertained – give a more European feel to the town.

    Poor traffic control is an aggressive disruption to too many streets. Our streets are simply not designed for modern traffic flows. There are many streets of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian houses throughout Croydon that are just lost in the rush of traffic.

    We all need to go to other towns and see how they do it better to make an environment for a civilised society, and get away from the brutalism that scars Croydon each day.

  2. In 2007 Croydon Council brought in top architect Will Allsop to inspire us with a fresh vision of the town centre. He conducted a series of consultations with local people: part of a year-long study that resulted in a report called Third City.

    Ignore all the ’city’ twaddle (I blame the toadying council employee who briefed our Will in terms that would please grandiloquent councillors). And set aside some of the more outlandish building ideas (architects, oy vey!).

    I believe the report has some interesting things to say. In particular, it identifies four major barriers to pedestrian circulation in central Croydon and some novel ways to neutralise them. From west to east they are:

    • Roman Way: put the traffic in an underpass rather than the people and create a pedestrian walk and green chain to link Croydon Minster to Wandle Park
    • Croydon Flyover: remove the access and egress ramps in the town centre and give pedestrians new spaces to enjoy beneath the elevated road.
    • Wellesley Road/Park Lane: fill in the underpass; reduce the width of the carriageway to two lanes in each direction; create separate public transport lanes for trams and buses; plant lots of trees and shrubs; use the remaining recovered space for open air cafes and informal performance spaces.
    • The London Brighton Main Line: bridge the railway extensively between East Croydon station and Barclay Road, creating commercial developments and a green chain link with Park Hill Recreation Ground.

    So why is the council apparently jettisoning the novel ideas for Wellesley Road in favour of a dog’s breakfast dreamed up, presumably, by its inappropriately named “planning” department?

    I suspect there are three main reasons:
    • The council doesn’t have the money and has been unable to find the necessary sponsors.
    • It is concerned about upsetting motorists, who are also electors and might show their dislike of a narrower carriageway by voting for someone else.
    • The Whitgift Foundation (Hammerson and Westfield) think such radical ideas might interfere with their yet-to-be-published plans for a shoppers’ paradise.

    The decision about Wellesley Road is too big to be taken by a small-minded, short-sighted borough council that has shown itself unable to act in the best interests of Croydon people for many years. Yes, I am talking about both major political parties.

    Croydon is not a city – in waiting; in all but name; or in anything else.

    But it is a busy, important and potentially highly successful south London regional centre.
    And it needs the breadth of a regional vision to make it work properly.

  3. More pedestrian crossings is a good thing. They’re obviously needed – Wellesley Road as it is right now is virtually impossible to cross, by design. It’s not pedestrians causing the jams – it’s that there’s simply too much traffic! I don’t much care for the idea that pedestrians “hold up” buses or traffic.. they want to go somewhere, just as much as the drivers and bus passengers; yet if they can’t cross, they /get held up/ by having to walk a big detour.

    That said, I don’t see the point in a central reservation at all. Who/what is it for? If the traffic models say they can afford to lose a lane, put in a two-way cycle route along the length of the road to give at least some people an alternative to taking the car. That would do much more to make the place “greener” than a strip of shrubbery that will no doubt die of neglect next time there’s a round of budget cuts.

    Getting southbound traffic off Lansdowne Road is a smart move too. Will make it a much nicer place to be, along with the other streetscape improvements they’ve got planned for Lansdowne & Dingwall roads.

    The arrangements for the Whitgift do sound like a bit of a dog’s breakfast although I’m not sure they’re that much worse than current arrangements. Perhaps part of the problem is one of perception – the road looks like a motorway, it’s natural to feel like you ought to be able to do 50mph down it without getting held up. But the actual reason it has so many lanes is more to do with being a very busy access road to all sorts of areas within the town centre, as well as carrying a certain amount of through traffic.

  4. Something needs to be done about pedestrian movements on Wellesley Road – these ideas seem to be a watered down way to deal with it, which is better than nothing. More crossings will help pedestrians, which is to be applauded. All this talk of traffic jams is a bit of a non-starter: Croydon has great transport links which means that many of the cars don’t really need to be there! A mixture of traffic flow improvements on other roads and slight restrictions on Wellesley Road may help to divert unnecessary traffic away and persuade local travelers to use local public transport instead – including the trams and buses on these roads.
    Also, the article moans about northbound buses being diverted along Dingwall Road – sound/east bound buses via ECR already take this route, so if the traffic lights are timed and the layout created so that both movements can occur at the same time, then there should be no additional hold-ups to pedestrians (trams take priority at this junction anyway)…

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