Greenwich Council ignore TfL design guidance in Woolwich at a cost of thousands

Recent changes in Woolwich Town Centre have been undertaken which ignore TfL guidance on improving streets for pedestrians in another blow for Greenwich Council’s beleaguered Highways Department.

Thousands have been spent (in a time of cuts) on installing more unnecessary street furniture in the form of railings. TfL guidance is to not do this, as shown here in an example of street improvements from their street design manual:

Greenwich Council’s Highways could do with having a read, as they recently ripped out landscaping and put railings in along the A206 in Woolwich Town Centre. As can be seen, pedestrians now walk in the central reservation or road to find a spot to cross:

Wide central reservation, guardrail, no cycle lane yet cars on paving and double yellows to right

TfL realised that pedestrians usually take the easiest path. It’s one core reason the grade separation and streets in the sky concept from post-war estates often failed.

Putting obstacles in pedestrians way is not good design. Whilst there I saw pedestrians crossing despite the new additions. It can’t even be said railings stop crossing at this point as there’s gaps along the railings, so what’s the point in spending so much? But even if there wasn’t gaps, people will jump over. Instead of denying facts make it easier to cross.

There’s no cycle lanes along here at all. Removing the central reservation entirely and simply having double white lines would free up space to install them.

The changes are straight out of a 1980s Highways handbook. Greenwich Highways are far behind the times, and wasting thousands to boot.

The previous error

Before the Highways Department did this they installed landscaping along the central reserve, just as similar landscaping was being replaced directly to the east as it was strewn with rubbish and safety rules often prevented staff access to clear it.

Despite this experience to the east on Plumstead Road they ploughed ahead here and it’s obvious what happened to the newly installed planting:

It became a mess and the landscaping became a mix of litter, weeds and overgrown bushes.

Messy and littered – as predicted before it was installed

And so to compound one previous mistake – that was always going to happen – they’ve now done another. Tens of thousands gone whilst cuts are in place. Highways always seem to have money to blow however. The random wooden bollards that pop up everywhere at random intervals spring to mind, as a cost of £130,000 over the past couple of years.

Yet when street improvements are badly needed, at say the new retail park in Charlton, none can be found. There’s terribly placed crossings, obstacles pushing pedestrians on convoluted walks and the most basic attention to new-build access isn’t being paid.

Highways should be asking about pedestrian and cycle access when applications are made. When planning applications are made departments are asked to input comments. The lack of responses from Highways on access is often seen.

Someone needs to shake up the Highways Department and ask serious questions of how they spend money and why such dated practices are in evidence.

Currently it seems to be another badly failing department to add to the Parking Department, the Planning Department and the Housing Department. Officers oversee Departments failing basic tasks which cannot be blamed on cuts, as is the reflex reaction when asked.

Many local Labour politicians seem more concerned with backing them up rather than fighting for residents and asking questions of practices and waste.


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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

    10 thoughts on “Greenwich Council ignore TfL design guidance in Woolwich at a cost of thousands

    • As it is now that road purely adds to the impression of a town divided.

      • Precisely. Millions spent trying to connect the two, hundreds of man hours developing Spray Street plans and push that forward and Highways turn up and something so simple increases the divide.

    • So agree. But who is responsible? Is it incompetent heads of departments or is it that the Councillors fail to hod em to account? How much power do individual Councillors have over the permanent officials? It’s hard to know quite how the system works.

    • I think it is intentional to separate ‘poor’ Woolwich from the ‘affluent’ Royal Arsenal, is it any wonder M&S and even Barclays have relocated. Once Crossrail comes with its own entrance on the Royal Arsenal side the dichotomy will be complete

    • This Labour group must be one of the most Tory in London. Rich one side and let the rest rot in Woolwich. We know they allow people to do what they want one side of the divide to keep the town down so people avoid Woolwich like the plague.

      If they weren’t Torys in hiding they’d be removing these barriers asap and asking what the hell council Dept’s are doing putting them up.

      They won’t though. Time and again we see it.

      • I resent the tories in hiding comment. Regardless of political colour these are just bad local govt officials doing a poor job. Let’s take the “class war” out of the conversation comrade!

    • The new railings are an improvement on the old central reservation that was there before. Sure, there is the odd pedestrian who walks along the new railing and even jumps over but I don’t see what the big deal is. You’ll never stop people doing this and if you really want to stop this then we need some kind of J-walking law. The railings are consistent with what is further east towards Plumstead high street.

      • I don’t mind if people cross where they want. The issue is why spend tens of thousands putting up railings that do nothing. Shouldn’t have wasted this money – same with the miles just east. Waste of money and effort – not to mention not very attractive and railings are shown in tests to speed up cars due to psychological effects where drivers feel a greater separation from pedestrians. TfL then ripped out many whilst Greenwich Highways live in the past and stick them in anywhere they can. Most developed nations use them sparingly.

        • Couldn’t disagree more. Unlike what was there before it far less unsightly, doesn’t accumulate rubbish, would be cheaper to maintain and is consistent with the rest of the dual carriageway. How much more costly would it be to implement what TFL dictates with the added disruption of road works?

          Speeding up cars doesn’t make sense as the railings are in the central reservation so drivers won’t feel any more separate from the pavement than they always have. Plus the road has speed cameras.

          I don’t see the council sticking railings anywhere they can versus the other areas of London I visit. There are far worse things to complain about in the borough.

    • My biggest concern pre railings was the numbers of people dragging toddlers, whole families and children in buggies across the dual carriageway. That was , frankly an accident waiting to happen. Driving daily along this section became hazardous .
      Yes of course people find the nearest place to cross but it was the right thing to create a hard barrier in the interests of safety. Now I do still see the occasional adult jump the rails to cross but no more young children being endangered , which can only be a good thing.


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