By Pauline Gaunt of Friends of Vauxhall Bus Station
We believe that Lambeth Council’s desire to improve the area for everyone’s benefit has led them down the wrong path in pursuit of a new ‘town centre’, with a pedestrianized shopping mall, or ‘High Street’ and ‘Civic Square’ to replace the bus station.
It is TfL’s legal responsibility to ensure that transport is managed with the maximum benefit for commuters and local residents. The Vauxhall hub is the second biggest interchange in London. The construction of the bus station only nine years ago (at a cost of £4 million) brought all the previously scattered bus stops under one roof, adjacent to the tube and trains and ensured the widest choice of bus routes and a swift change under cover and without crossing any roads. It is widely described locally as the best thing to happen in Lambeth for decades.
The bus station could no doubt be improved, including through better signage and bus routings, but there is no way in which any journey could be improved by demolishing the bus station and returning all the stops to the outer periphery of the Vauxhall gyratory. We feel this should be the starting point for discussion on any changes.
Lambeth disagree. They think the loss of this vital facility is a price worth paying for what they call ‘public realm improvements’. We do not believe that aesthetic improvements, increased shopping opportunities or even the introduction of community events should be put before the function of the hub, and they can, in any case, all be addressed in other ways.
There is a lot of support locally for improvements to the area – but not for the loss of the bus station. Commuters have not so far been consulted and local consultation has not been wide enough or the implications of changes explained fully enough.
We are trying very hard to communicate and work with Lambeth and TfL on this issue. TfL are listening carefully but Lambeth have not talked to us and seem committed to outcomes on which there has been no effective consultation.
People have been asked if they would like Vauxhall to have a ‘heart’ and they say yes. Tell them that the heart would still be surrounded by busy roads and that the price is the loss of the bus station and they might think differently.
People have been asked if they would like to get rid of the gyratory system, with an implied traffic reduction, and they have said yes. Tell them it would mean years of disruption for the same amount of traffic, but going in two direction instead of one, and they might feel it’s not worth it.
Aggressive grandstanding is not our way, but giving residents and commuters an opportunity to show Lambeth how strongly they feel is.