Val Shawcross and the TfL line

From Pauline & Helen (Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign)

“The new road layout does not cross the footstep of the bus station, as was admitted to Kate Hoey and ourselves at a meeting with Leon Daniels in January this year.  The real spur to demolishing the bus station is to introduce commercial development on the site.” (Pauline & Helen)

Val Shawcross is the Deputy Mayor of London for Transport and was from 2000 – 2016 a London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, where she gave unconditional support to Lambeth and TfL’s plans to demolish the Bus Station. Here is her response to a letter we recently wrote asking for a new look at TfL’s plans under a new Mayor, and the opportunity to put our case for the retention of the bus station directly to Sadiq Khan. Below it is our response.

Please add your voices to ours by emailing them to show support.

 email: Sadiq Khan mayor@london.gov.uk;

email: Val Shawcross  val.shawcross@london.gov.uk

On 25 Oct 2016, at 6:00 pm, Valerie Shawcross <Val.Shawcross@london.gov.uk> wrote:Dear Helen & Pauline

Thank you for your letter of 29 October to the Mayor about the proposed changes to Vauxhall Cross and for your support on changing the gyratory to a two-way operation. I have been asked to respond on the Mayor’s behalf.

Both the Mayor and I were delighted to see the high level of public support received through the two public consultations for the gyratory removal and the scheme as a whole. Just like the public, Transport for London (TfL) and Lambeth Council, we share the same view that the Vauxhall Gyratory needs to change from a heavily polluted and trafficked road network to a healthy street environment for all users. Through the proposed Vauxhall Cross scheme, combined with the proposed introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019 – a year ahead of schedule – we have a real opportunity to achieve this.

TfL has been reviewing feedback to the consultation, exploring design enhancements and engaging with neighbouring land owners to ensure that it can deliver the very best scheme for Vauxhall and the travelling public. As with any major infrastructure project there are challenges, and in order to best meet stakeholder aspiration, TfL has to balance conflicting views.  The report in response to issues raised in the detailed consultation will be released later this year.

I understand that TfL reviewed the Our Vauxhall proposals last year and met with members of the group to discuss its consultation response. The comments and local knowledge received from the group in these meetings has been valuable and helped to improve the scheme to address local concerns.

At this time, TfL cannot support the full or part closure of South Lambeth Road or the implementation of two-way traffic on Kennington Lane and Harleyford Road. I will however ask TfL to ensure that the changes made as a result of the Vauxhall Cross scheme do not impede them from making further changes in the future.

I share your views on the importance of the bus network and good public interchange to Vauxhall. It is a hub for passengers travelling throughout London and it is vital that this function is maintained in the final scheme.  In order for the gyratory to be removed it is necessary to change the bus station, as the current layout cannot work with the amended bus access, egress and circulation. I will ensure though that the new bus station will be of the highest standard, and proposals be progressed with the customer at the heart of the design; to ensure safety and optimise accessibility, centrally located bus stops and a sense of place.

The recently-opened West Croydon bus station highlights the capability of TfL to provide a new, safe and accessible bus station which has a positive contribution to both the immediate environment and the wider area and I expect the same for Vauxhall.

In conjunction with a planning application coming forward for the new bus station there will be an opportunity for further engagement so that the public can examine the proposals in detail and provide comments to help refine the design.

Thank you again for your letter and your keen interest in the future changes in Lambeth.

Yours sincerely,

Val

 Valerie Shawcross CBE

Deputy Mayor for Transport

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Here’s our  response:

Dear Val Shawcross

You replied on 25 October to our letter to the Mayor about Vauxhall Bus Station.  Although our letter was almost entirely about the bus station, about which we have been campaigning for over three years, most of your response covered the broader plans for the Vauxhall interchange.  You state that Vauxhall “is a hub for passengers travelling throughout London and it is vital that this function is maintained in the final scheme [for Vauxhall]”.  We agree, but you then say, “In order for the gyratory to be removed it is necessary to change the bus station, as the current layout cannot work with amended bus access, egress and circulation”.

This is not correct.  The new road layout does not cross the footstep of the bus station, as was admitted to Kate Hoey and ourselves at a meeting with Leon Daniels in January this year.  The real spur to demolishing the bus station is to introduce commercial development on the site.  The net effect of TfL’s plans would be to reduce the convenience and safety for passengers changing buses or between transport modes.  TfL engineers could design a scheme which, while modifying some entrances or exits, retained the current bus station, at the same time as making traffic flows two-way.  Please ask TfL to draw up plans which do not threaten the interests of the most vulnerable of TfL’s clients, bus users.

Your letter suggested the new West Croydon bus station provided a model for “a new, safe, accessible bus station which has a positive contribution to both the immediate environment and the wider area”.  We visited West Croydon last week.  Frankly, it is insulting to suggest its facilities are in any way capable of providing the services we have at Vauxhall.  It is pretty enough, and the wooden seats are nice.  But its canopies (unlike those at Vauxhall) are too low, and do not cover the waiting area, so passengers will get wet moving from pavement to bus.  It has no direction boards and, perhaps most tellingly, it is not connected to other local passenger services.  The tram is there, across the road, but there is no pedestrian crossing.  There is no direct route from the rail station to the bus station, not any signs indicating how to get from one to the other.  And a number of other stops or stands appear to be located away from the very small bus station.  Please do not attempt to persuade us that West Croydon has lessons for the vastly bigger interchange at Vauxhall.

How long did the relatively minor work at West Croydon take to carry out?  What was the effect on bus services and passengers’ experiences during the works?  Work at Victoria on remodelling the underground and bus station has meant passengers being farmed out to bus stops so far from the rail station many do not know how to find it.  It is not necessary to remove Vauxhall bus station in order to improve traffic flows.  At the very least, TfL should decide to postpone any decisions on or plans for the removal of the bus station until after changes to the road network have been made.

Turning to the wider points in your letter, Helen Monger, Chair of KOV Forum, has already set out some of the reasons why TfL’s plans for the gyratory are not good enough, emphasising particularly how they will have no impact on the horrifyingly high levels of pollution along the roads, which pass several local schools.  There is no evidence that the plans for the removal of the gyratory will contribute to what your letter describes as “a healthy street environment for all users”.

Your letter claims wide public support for the removal of the gyratory, but it is not correct to claim also that there is wide public support for the scheme put forward by TfL.  Public consultations have not asked if we support their road layout plans, but local pubic meetings have demonstrated strong local support for the Our Vauxhall plan – as well as for the bus station as it is – and Our Vauxhall’s scheme deserves further consideration.

Your letter talks of TfL “engaging with neighbouring landowners…” about its plans. Ask those who are already committed to the area – such as the developers of the impressive Vauxhall Square plan – if they are prepared to put up with years of costly disruption.  Keep passenger services working for the benefit of all Londoners.  TfL must remember its prime responsibility:  to provide transport services for the people of London.  The area round the Vauxhall stations is, and will continue to be, first and foremost, a transport hub.  It provides what Londoners need.  Some immediate improvements would make it even better: ticket machines at ground level, more information boards, better signposting the lifts and so forth.  We are very happy to engage with TfL and Vauxhall One with ideas about how to improve passengers’ experience.

We reiterate our request for a meeting with the Mayor and yourself to discuss the importance of retaining Vauxhall Bus Station.  Kate Hoey, MP, who has supported our campaign throughout, would also like to take part in the meeting.  Ideally a site visit would be best.

We look forward to your reply.

Helen Irwin

Pauline Gaunt

Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign
Please add your voices to ours by emailing them to show support.

email: Sadiq Khan mayor@london.gov.uk;

Email: Val Shawcross  val.shawcross@london.gov.uk

Thank you all again.

Pauline  and Helen

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