How not to upgrade a street? Is £10 million Abbey Wood & Thamesmead upgrade repeating same mistakes at Woolwich?

Upgrades to the main road linking Thamesmead to Abbey Wood station are continuing with road surfaces and paving now being laid.

The scheme is running late, but when complete will bring a dedicated bus lane on Harrow Manorway in each direction alongside segregated cycle lanes.

Courtesy Bexley is Bonkers

However, could recent mistakes in street design be made all over again?

Setts are being laid as the road surface, as seen in Woolwich around five years ago and now being replaced. It couldn’t cope with heavy traffic and buses.

Patches of tarmac

This picture below was taken in 2015. Tarmac was already being overlaid.

A couple of years later and tarmac patches were appearing all over the place

They’ve now given up and relaid the surface on Beresford Street:

Despite the work at Harrow Manorway straddling the Greenwich and Bexley borough boundaries, Bexley are in charge of the project.The new road will certainly look better than tarmac, but for how long? As soon as utilities turn up it could all change, if authorities aren’t pressing them to replace like-for-like.

And even if they do that, the weight of buses and heavy traffic could soon render money spent wasted.

Next up we’ll see if they install landscaping in the central reservation. That also happened at Woolwich, and more money wasted as it become rubbish strewn and abandoned after a couple of years.



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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.

6 thoughts on “How not to upgrade a street? Is £10 million Abbey Wood & Thamesmead upgrade repeating same mistakes at Woolwich?

  • How embarrassing! Surely the contractors know how much traffic their surfaces can withstand. And your point about the utilities is so true – the council never make them put roads back to their original condition.

    • GreenwichRes, ‘

      Yes I am 100% certain that the contractors are aware of how much traffic is likely to run along that road. They are also aware of the most appropriate road surface to use for such heavy traffic. It will have been part of their tendering documents. However, there is no incentive for the contractor to act on this knowledge as they are going to get repeat business from the council regardless of standard of work completed to date.

      We cannot look to the contractor to lay the most appropriate road surface, they are driven by profit. Note, contractors are not held accountable for ensuring that RBG obtains value for money. That is something that should be the focus of RBG themselves.

      We need to look to the council workers who are tasked with monitoring the work. Remember this situation was proposed, planned, and will be signed off, on completion, by a RBG employee.

      Further to my earlier posts I am now convinced that the council does not have the right skilled employees to deliver the day to day services let alone manage improvements to the borough.

  • I was only just discussing this with my dad the other day saying surely they not doing same as woolwich. What a waste of money. Especially with current levels of traffic let alone the added levels once all finished what a joke

  • We need to be clear whose roads these are – and I suspect both are both TfL roads rather than RBG roads. If this is the case, the error in specifying this paving may come from the Blackfriars Road rather than Wellington Street.

    Chinese granite is now almost as cheap as pre cast concrete – and a strong material. The road bases are also structurally strong. The weakness is in the bedding for the blocks and the grouting – both of which need to be equally as strong as the road bases and the stone. There are one or two products about such as ‘Steintec’ that claim to do the job, but they are costly and subject to onsite quality variations. Even when used properly, the small granite blocks are effectively all stuck together – losing all the advantages of small element paving laid on sand, which can be ‘unzipped’ and ‘zipped up’ again by the utilities. It’s possible to diamond-saw the joints on big rectangular slabs, but practically impossible to do so on herringbone pattern blocks.

    Also, this paving is only good for axle loads of up to 8,000kg on lightly trafficked areas. For major roads, or areas in which heavy vehicle tyres turning on them acts to ‘twist’ the blocks in their beds, they are completely unsuitable.

    TfL have got away with some monstrous design blunders in recent years – in part I suspect because most people wrongly blame the local Highways Authority.

    • It’s not TfL managed. Greenwich have managed Harrow Manorway under a joint agreement since the 1970s with Bexley Council, though Bexley have taken the lead on this project.

      TfL control very few roads in Greenwich borough. The red routes / south circular and A2/A102 is about it.

  • When I saw this happening I had the same thoughts. Plus some of the turns look a bit narrower now. It is nice that buses are being given preference but I suspect there will be fun tailbacks in the morning and evening rush hour so we can all look forward to that.


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