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Greenwich Council and TfL in talks over Greenwich to Thamesmead bus rapid transit scheme

Woolwich ferry roundabout traffic

Greenwich Council  and TfL are in talks about creating a bus rapid transit link between Thamesmead and Greenwich according to an answer given in a council meeting last night.

GWT map from the early 2000s before being scrapped.

If it does move forward it would bring back to life a 20+ year old project that was scrapped by Boris Johnson within days of becoming Mayor of London. I covered the history of the scheme last year.

Answer given yesterday – 29th January 2020

What is a bus rapid transit you may ask? Well, it’s a bit like a tram on the cheap and previous examples in Bristol and Cambridge have gained controversy for going way over budget. A bus usually runs on a segregated route comprising existing bus lanes and new sections. In places it is self-driving.

Cambridge bus rapid transit

This is where cost overruns have often occurred and to be honest, in Bristol and over places it seems a bit of a gimmick. Buses slow down so much to enter the brief automatic sections that time advantage is lost. The upside is less land is needed as buses run within “tracks”. Hopefully any example in Greenwich borough is carefully considered to avoid pitfalls seen elsewhere, as if this project is to take scarce funds any over-engineering and associated high cost will see other priorities lose funding.

Cambridge BRT followed former rail line route.

It’s no big secret Greenwich Council are keen on the project and talking to TfL about it is nothing particularly new, though the advent of Charlton Riverside masterplan and a large number of developments now in planning give added impetus. Other developments just outside the masterplan area are well on the way to completion such as 330 homes on Victoria Way, which I covered last month.

Victoria Way in Charlton

Hoardings are also now rising around Morris Walk estate in Woolwich. That’s another site near the planned route that will see many new homes in coming years.

New towers planned in Woolwich Dockyard

I expect this is where Greenwich Council will seek to spend large amounts of section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy income in coming years. One huge issue will be just how over or under-engineered any project would be.

Courtesy TfL. Trolley bus plans in early 2000s scheme was droped

The previously scrapped scheme started as a tram, then a trolley bus, then downgraded so much it was simply a rebranded 472 bus with no frequency increase (the bus would have been axed) with pointlessly complicated new sections in areas it really wasn’t needed such as along Thamesmead’s usually free flowing dual carriageways. I recall seeing a leaflet which flagged up opening windows as a benefit and it was around then I knew the scheme was grasping for life.

West Thamesmead Gateway plans

How the gyratory around Plumstead bus garage changes as part of a future Peabody and Berkeley Homes development will be key to how any new scheme runs from Thamesmead to Woolwich.

New homes by Plumstead gyratory long on the drawing board

Cycle Highway works

The recently announced cycle lane between Woolwich and Greenwich could also help or hinder the scheme. In places the proposals seek to reduce general traffic lanes from two to one – which would mean any bus scheme running with general traffic.

Lane removed west bound after ferry. Highlighted in red (click to enlarge)

After this stretch it would head into the new Charlton Masterplan area.

Charlton Riverside masterplan – red dot indicates new bus route

The early 2000s project also saw the route head along Bugsby’s Way. It probably would do again after exiting the masterplan zone. Greenwich Council have long sought to downgrade Woolwich Road and send more traffic to Bugsby’s Way – which is hardly traffic free as it is. If they do, buses along Bugsby’s Way – possibly including a new bus transit – will then meet that congestion. So a bus lane along the entire road?

Bugsbys Way traffic.

There’s many potential changes to streets in the near (ish) future and one hopes that the new cycle lane project is carefully considering futureproofing the route for any bus transit scheme.

Funding

Greenwich Council couldn’t fund this alone, and TfL are all but broke, so it’d take changes within central Government policy for much to happen. Despite tens of thousands of homes planned along the route alone, central Government seem to prefer keeping the overall English infrastructure budget at a small level, and instead of increasing spending in the north towards levels in London (which are still insufficient given growth) it appears content to cut levels in London even with mass growth in population.

God forbid a developed nation invests in more than one area. But something will have to give. The numbers of new homes coming are simply too great to do nothing.

10 Comments

  1. Graham

    Good news to hear that the Royal Borough of Greenwich and TFL are in talks again about a rapid bus trainst system between Thamesmead and Greenwich via Woolwich and Lower Charlton. However, Route 472 would need to be retained to provide a bus service between Abbey Wood and North Greenwich Station.

    A high frequency bus route using buses that have maxium seating capciry and USB and wiFi points may be sufficient and more cost effectice for both the Royal Borough of Greenwich and TFL to introduce,

    Any engineering works could then be for the much needed extension of the DLR to Thamesmead,

    The public transport infrastructure is in urgent need of improving to meet the increase in current and future demand as more people move in to the area,

  2. Greenwich Park Fan

    It looks great but what happens once people arrive at North Greenwich? The tube is already past full on the commute. If the rapid bus could continue on to Canary Wharf then THAT would be amazing.

  3. CDT

    A rapid bus between Thamesmead to Canarry Wharf via Woolwich would be amazing. I have always said that we needed a bus serviice from the Borough to Canary Wharf which is a major employment hub.

    The new rapid bus service could use electiric and or hydrogen single decker buses which are now available with out the need to have to install over head cables or tracks on certain sections. Which means the rapid bus service could be introduced sooner.

    The rapaid bus service just needs to be very frequent and use bus lanes wherever possible.and also will also serve the new developments in the Borough as part of its route

    I agree any major engeering and construction work should be for the extension of the DLR to Thamesmead at some point..

    • Investment Banker

      I concur with a lot of the above ideas.
      The only questions I have are:

      Is a transit from Woolwich to Canary Wharf going to be considered with the impending Elizabeth line which will cut that journey to about 8 mins.

      Where is the road/ designated road space going to be given. The dartford/ medway schemes do provide a benchmark should this be given the “go ahead” (no pun intended), but I just hope there’s enough space, especially around Charlton to serve this scheme, with the impending Cycle lane changes. I just wished Greenwich had a 1 time regeneration transport strategy rather than filling up holes when they are newly discovered.

      All in all, a good plan. It’ll be interesting to see the execution and funding arrangements.

  4. CDT

    Investment Banker You are right I do believe that the Elizabeth Line would serve Canary Wharf from Woolwich in around 8 minutes as stated.

    However, Investment Banker it is always great to have an alternative bus service for when there are problems with the service or if industrial action is taking place for example.

    So i do agree with Greenwich Park Fan a bus service to Canary Wharf would be a very good idea. It would also benefit the residents in Greenwich,

    Sadly one problem the Borough of Greenwich still has. There is still no bus services from the Borough of Greenwich to London Bridge or the City areas. So if there are problems with other public transport systems (trains, Underground and the DLR) due to bad weather, staffing issues, serious incidents where stations may be closed or again industrial action taking place for examples.

    Then the services that are operating struggle to cope with the extra demand.So residents working in the City and around London Bridge face having to get two or three buses home or pay for expensive taxi’s,

    The Jubilee Line through North Greenwich is always full to capacity. and standing roon only.
    So the option of an alternative bus service is an excellent idea and always very welcome.

    I may be wrong here. However, my understanding was when this was mentioned before that the new rapid bus service may be routed to serve some new roads as part of the route that are created as part of future developments at the Charlton Riverside Master Plan in Charlton and other new developments as they try to reduce car usage in the Borough and bring bus services closer to peoples homes.

    I still think using new electric or hydogen buses that are now available on this new bus service would help to reduce construction cost and make it more cost effective to introduce. As dedicated tracks and over head cables would not be required.

    • .

      I think a more appealing idea would be a North Greenwich to Canary Wharf foot and cycle bridge.

  5. Wayne

    I believe that with the Silver Town Tunnel commencing now, there is talk of a bus service traversing this stretch, therefore a possibility this could extend to London Bridge

  6. Hugh Ness

    Idiotic scheme which will go millions over budget. Another example of RBG wasting their council tax payers money as usual on vanity projects.
    There’s a river of opportunity for improving transport links Greenwich East to Dartford. It’s called the Thames. Just use it.

  7. CDT

    I do agree that the River Thames could be used more for the transportation of goods to take more heavy vehicles off the roads of London. It would also help to create much needed jobs along the length of the River Thames.

    However we would still need deliveries by road to shops hotels schools hospitals etc. which could possibly be completed over night or at less busy times.
    .
    A foot and cycling Bridge a cross the River Thames is another good suggestion and would also be another good option for crossing the river but would still cost millions to construct.

    With or with out a rapid bus transit system public infrastructure in the Borough does need to be improved imcluding new bus routes a cross the Borough to meet an ever growing demand and increased local population.

    Electric and hydogen buses can help to acheive this using normal roads with out the need for guided bus ways, tracks or over head cables so should reduce cost and be more cost effective and provide new bus links to more areas,

  8. Kevin

    I agree CDT with a range of hydrogen and electric single and double decker buses on the market now. A transit bus service could be set up using these buses as you mention in your post above.

    I think the transit system could consits of a couple of routes out of Thamesmead.

    Thamesmead to Greenwich Town Centre as originally planned. Also another route from Thamesmead to Canary Wharf and or London City Airport to serve the Docklands areas. Running via Woolwich, Lower Charlton and Greenwich Peninsula to serve new dvelopments here.

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