Constant congestion cannot be solved by more road schemes

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Responding to Charlotte Davies’s column yesterday on the borough’s secret parking tax, ARFUR TOWCRATE, the Sage of Waddon, offers his view

“For a town that has built itself around the demands of the motor car, parking the vehicles is an ever-growing problem”.  The two are inextricably related.

traffic congestionThe Croydon paradigm/fallacy is that cars are essential to the well-being of the borough and that there is no alternative.  In the 1960s and 1970s, this notion was given free rein. Public money was spent in making it easier to drive around, on Roman Way, the Flyover, the Underpass and the urban motorway that is Wellesley Road.  Pedestrians were relegated to subways and cyclists simply ignored.

Consequently, and unsurprisingly, loads of people took to the roads in their cars. Congestion resulted and so the short-term gains were lost.  Something had to be done.

In the 1990s, there were plans to build more flyovers, at Purley Cross and Fiveways.  Duppas Hill Road was going to be turned into a dual carriageway to connect with a flyover taking it to Croydon Road by going over Waddon railway station.  Thankfully, such ideas bit the dust, due in part to public concerns at the threat posed by the extreme motorist agenda set out in the South London Assessment Studies, and perhaps more significantly, a lack of money.  

Then along came Tramlink, with the strapline of “cutting through congestion”, a ray of public transport sunshine for the new century.  Or so it seemed. Rather than embrace the findings of Parliament’s Standing Advisory Commitee on Trunk Road Assessment, that you can’t build your way out of motor-traffic congestion, and that the converse of traffic induction is its evaporation – “don’t build it so they won’t come” – Chepstow Road was widened to accommodate the cars the council thought would be displaced by the trams.

Thirteen years after Tramlink opened, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the lessons of the past had never been given, let alone heeded.  

Customers driving to the newly opened Morrisons supermarket on the Purley Way are complaining that the Fiveways junction cannot cope with demand and want something be done about it.  They fail to realise they are the cause of the problem they moan about.

Westfield want to make it easier to drive all the way from the M25 into their revamp of the Whitgift centre, something that Croydon and Sutton’s London Assembly Member, Steve O’Connell, described to Boris at Mayor’s Question Time on July 22 as the “wallet-share” of the well-off from north Surrey.  That means “sorting out” Purley Cross and Fiveways – and you can bet that those monstrous plans from the 1990s will be dusted off and put into place, largely at our expense, financial and otherwise.

For many years, central Croydon’s air quality indicators for nitrogen dioxide have failed to comply with EU safety levels.  Such trivialities are glossed over by the planners – their stance is that because things are already bad, yet more traffic won’t make it worse than it already is.

Unhealthy living: Who would want to live in flats on the site of Taberner House, at the junction of the Croydon Flyover?

Unhealthy living: Who would want to live in flats on the site of Taberner House, at the junction of the Croydon Flyover?

There’s a terrible irony that Croydon Council, who now have both the responsibility and the authority to promote public health, seem determined to rush headlong into bringing more traffic, congestion and thus noxious fumes into the town centre.

This is at the same time that they are authorising plans to see many more people move into the town centre, in their own redundant skyscraper, Taberner House, the former Nestlé tower and the new residential blocks atop the Westfield development (not to mention the Menta monolith near East Croydon).  In an ideal world, it would hardly help the estate agents flog off these new boxes, in what will be a smelly, unhealthy and gridlocked Croydon of the 2020s – but there’s nowt stranger than folk.

“For a town that has built itself around the demands of the motor car, parking the vehicles is an ever-growing problem”.  We therefore need to change.

It’s time that Croydon was built around the demands for sustainable development and public health and well-being.  If we planned primarily for the needs of local people, locally owned businesses and the local economy, rather than those of transnational property development corporations and long-distance car-borne customers, parking vehicles would be a decreasing problem – and there’d be a host of other benefits too.

Don’t hold your breath.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in "Hammersfield", Commuting, Croydon Council, Croydon Greens, Cycling, Environment, Health, Housing, Menta Tower, Parking, Planning, Property, Purley Way, Steve O'Connell, Taberner House, Tramlink, Transport and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Constant congestion cannot be solved by more road schemes

  1. Eventually we will face the alternatives of gridlock; more road-building; or road-pricing at a level that makes motorists ask themselves whether taking the car is really necessary.
    It will be a brave politician who introduces it, so that lets out any of the present administration, as it does their Labour counterparts.
    Ken Livingstone’s congestion charge initially made a significant difference to the volume of traffic in central London, but as the charge has declined relative to inflation the effect has lessened.
    In future we will need to set a high charge for driving on congested roads and keep it at that level relative to the cost of living.
    It would be better if all politicians agreed, so the charge didn’t become a party issue, but that would require a degree of maturity that doesn’t appear to be present in British politics.

  2. mraemiller says:

    You dont need to pay the congestion charge at all under boris if you have a low CO2 vehicle
    A huge volume of CO2 emissions can be saved simply by people changing to more fuel efficient cars
    Goods vehicles already face the emissions zone.

    It will always be a party issue since most Conservative supporters live outside London and most Labour supporters live inside London. That’s just how it is.

    Arfur Towcrate’s vision of Croydon as the new Royston Vasey – built entirely to serve the needs of local people – may have limitations. Isn’t there a link between disposable income and how far people commute?

    There are other issues than just more road building – HS2 and BML2. BML2 was planned to have a raid flyover through Addiscombe at one point but it never seems to happen

    The demolition of the Whitgift Centre in order to build a shopping centre may be a great oportunity to redesign the road and tram network … but it’ll never happen. Nothing ever happens.

  3. Talking of the large residential developments in the town centre – these should not add greatly to the traffic congestion here. These residential blocks will be well located for those living there to walk to local amenities and indeed, to access public transport for their daily commute if they do not work in Croydon. No-one in their right mind would live in a town centre apartment block and drive a daily commute away from that area. If they do own cars, I would imagine they would mainly be used for leisure activities if you live in such a location….

    • Ahhh, wouldn’t that be nice?

      Realistically, though, how many of the new residents in the tower blocks really will opt to live without a car?

      And how much money are the developers saving by not being forced through planning demands by our council to provide adequate parking spaces within their developments?

      Instead, the local roads and residents’ parking zones will be expected to take up the slack of the parked cars – whether they are used for the madness of a commute or simply left by their owners until next needed for their leisure activities.

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