No evidence that Boris’s flyover will improve traffic flow

Croydon and Sutton residents whose Croydon Road and Duppas Hill homes, businesses and public park could be under threat from Boris Johnson’s multi-million-pound proposal to build a flyover to the Croydon Flyover may struggle to get any support from their local politicians.

And a former local authority official with years of experience of major transport engineering schemes in and around Croydon has warned that efforts to ease traffic flow into the new Hammersfield development are doomed to fail.

A TfL proposal about to be put out for consultation could include a flyover built from the A232 across an old goods yard to Duppas Hill Road

A TfL proposal about to be put out for consultation could include a flyover built from the A232 across an old goods yard to Duppas Hill Road

The “flyover to the flyover” scheme is part of £100 million-worth of public money on road schemes expected to be proposed by Boris’s Transport for London at the behest of Tory Party donors Westfield, all to make it “easier” for shoppers to drive their cars into central Croydon.

The Green Party has already described the scheme as something designed “to send Croydon hurtling back to a 1970s vision of a car-dominated future”. But from Croydon’s Labour-run council or the local Waddon ward’s councillors, we have so far heard nothing.

Croydon Labour’s Tony Newman and his front-bench team at the Town Hall has already shown itself in thrall to the £1 billion Hammersfield redevelopment of central Croydon, where much of the Whitgift Centre shopping mall is owned by the Whitgift Foundation. Two of Croydon Labour’s cabinet members, plus the deputy leader of Croydon Tories and his councillor wife, a local MP and the mothers of another Labour councillor and a prospective Labour MP, all sit on the board of the Whitgift Foundation.

The blurring of red and blue party lines on private developments, and on public road-building policy, was also in evidence at Westminster this week, when the Conservative-led government’s Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, announced £30 billion-worth of new roads as some kind of panacea to his failure to control the deficit. Labour’s only criticism of the roads announcement was that Osborne should be tarmac-ing over even more of the country.

“If ministers were as good at upgrading roads as they are at making announcements about upgrading roads, life would be considerably easier for Britain’s hard-pressed motorists,”  was the reaction of MP Michael Dugher.

“Hard-pressed motorists”? Dugher is a Labour MP, allegedly.

As Adam Bienkov highlighted in an excellent article on, building more roads rarely, if ever, reduced congestion. Indeed, government studies over several decades have consistently shown that the more roads are built, the more traffic is created. Anyone who has sat in a traffic jam on the Purley Way or on one of the six-lane urban motorways which blight central Croydon will realise that they are statistics which support this.

And yet, Osborne, together with his Tory party leadership rival Boris Johnson and, probably – since we haven’t heard a peep from them about the £100 million for local road schemes – Croydon Labour are happy to spend money that otherwise they tell us we haven’t got.

“In these times of austerity, we’re constantly told that there isn’t enough money to pay hospital staff a decent wage or to build enough schools to educate our kids,” Bienkov points out, “but when it comes to laying hundreds of miles of new tarmac, money appears to be no object.”

The Waddon Tavern might be one of a number of local businesses whose future is blighted by TfL's road schemes for the Purley Way

The Waddon Tavern might be one of a number of local businesses whose future is blighted by TfL’s road schemes for the Purley Way

The road-building lobby has cast its greedy eyes before on Duppas Hill Road, the A232 that links Sutton through to the centre of Croydon.

Then, concerted opposition from local Labour politicians blocked a scheme which wanted to make the a dual carriageway by building over a strip of the local park. But at that time, Croydon Labour had not become devoted worshippers at the £1 billion altar of Hammersfield.

Yet elsewhere on the left, serious questions about this mis-use of vast amounts of public money on ill-considered road schemes have been raised. The Left Foot Forward website this week described the Osborne road initiatives nationally as, “one of the most counterproductive policy decisions for a generation… Badly flawed feasibility studies have been used to justify damaging road building schemes right across the country”.

Andrew Allen’s article continues: “The government claims the investment will be transformational, creating jobs and reducing journey times. But this is wishful thinking, ignoring the inconvenient truth that new roads create new traffic while dogmatically clinging to the assertion that road building is good for the economy.

“We have known for more than 60 years that predict-and-provide road building is little more than short-term tail-chasing.”

Closer to home, the extent of the impact of any flyover on the A232, to take east-bound traffic across the A23 and Waddon railway station, could be vast, warns Inside Croydon reader David Wickens.

The former local authority official points out that, “To give adequate clearance over the A23 and railway, ramps will needs to be more than 100 metres long.

“They will have a massive visual impact, be challenging to construct and I anticipate that many properties (especially to the west of the A23) will be at risk,” Wickens said in a comment to this site.

And Wickens offered a dire warning about the multi-million-pound road-building scheme and proposals to build a new Tramlink loop in the town centre: “If the scheme(s) are to improve access to Westfield, then they will fail.”

The plans for the road schemes along the A23, including the troublesome Fiveways junction, are expected to be included in a public consultation to be revealed by TfL and Croydon Council this month. Wickens is keen to see whether any lessons from previous, failed efforts to disentangled Croydon’s urban motorways.

“The Park Lane gyratory and Wellesley Road will remain ‘pinch points’,” he said. “Croydon Council has repeatedly promoted schemes on them that reduce capacity for vehicles, even to the extent of proposing closure of the underpass.

Option 1 for the Tramlink loop will compromise the underpass so there needs to be some joined-up thinking. Also, if Westfield does plan for an opening in 2019, time is very short as such a major grade separated junction, involving railway possessions, utility diversions, compulsory land purchase will take all of that time to deliver.”

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6 Responses to No evidence that Boris’s flyover will improve traffic flow

  1. Plus ca change……for help in supporting the proposed Purley Way link from one bottleneck to another see the highly successful efforts made, at great expense, in Coulsdon and in the Central Croydon Underpass.

  2. Rod Davies says:

    In my opinion we need thousands of actually affordable homes long before we need more roads. If Boris wanted to make a real difference he might look at extending the tram lines into Sutton, to Biggin Hill / Bromley and Crystal Palace.
    Bringing in more cars just means more pollution, more traffic jams.
    And is the Hammersfield development actually going to happen?
    How many times have developers said they are going to do something and then we wait for years for action?

  3. Nick Davies says:

    Improving the west-east route at Fiveways would only serve any purpose if you gave the traffic somewhere to go when it gets to Croydon. Dumping it in a queue for a shopping precinct car-park isn’t very useful, though those using it for that purpose might feel a bit better for missing a few sets of lights. It would have some logic if you improved the road east towards West Wickham at the same time, making the A232 a more useful alternative to the M25. That idea has been had before and thankfully dismissed. Ringway 2 anyone?

    If the object is to free up the junction at Fiveways sticking the A23 in a tunnel from the Airport Hotel to somewhere near Sainsbury’s would be the obvious, if frighteningly expensive, option.

    Doing either of these things would of course do nothing for those wishing to visit Croydon; I doubt the Hammersfield developers would be enthusiastic.

  4. arnorab says:

    Rod is totally right. The answer is not to facilitate traffic but to improve and enlarge the public transport system. The way Croydon is placed there is no way that additional traffic schemes can mean anything more than impending gridlock. Hammersfield will happen: big bucks have their own unstoppable momentum but it will be a failure. It will come on stream just as people tire of malls and change their shopping behaviour totally. No one will come, anyhow, if they have to fight traffic and pay fortunes to park. They may come if there is quick, easy, convenient cheap public transport. What our local politicians, and most of our national ones too, do so well is just not to learn from the past. Its a true art.

  5. Pingback: No evidence that Boris's flyover will improve traffic flow | Gaia Gazette

  6. Politicians love building new roads because their focus groups tell them they’re popular with voters – you and me.

    Polling done for established shopping malls across the country suggests that 30 per cent of us prefer to shop by car.

    Put the two findings together and you have the major reason why an opportunist Mayor of London and would-be Prime Minister is keen to build a new road to a new shopping centre.

    Will it work? Within a decade it will be as congested as the present east/west access to central Croydon, all the research says so. But in the short term the new road will encourage enough shoppers to change their shopping habits sufficiently to make Westfield Croydon a commercial success.

    Despite the fact that we’re broke, I can’t believe this will be the only road-building that Westfield Croydon generates. It can only be a matter of time before the political pigs’ breakfast that is the Coulsdon by-pass is widened to dual carriageway, along with the rest of the A23, from Streatham to the M23.

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