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Bonkers Blog October 2015

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23 October (Part 3) - Crossing swords

BridgeI try to avoid subjects which may prove too divisive on the grounds that there is no point in alienating half the readership.

Because of that Bonkers tends to steer clear of the traditional no-go areas of religion, feminism, immigration etc. A natural Conservative putting the boot into Bexley’s Tory leadership can be tricky at times but not it seems as perilous as writing in favour of river crossings.

The blog nailed its colours to that particular mast six years ago and the Photoshopped image shown here first appeared in April 2013. As a regular Blackwall Tunnel user since 1984 it was the one contentious subject where sitting on the fence didn’t feel like an honest option.

The photo shows Gareth Bacon and Teresa O’Neill OBE (O’Neill’s Brampton Exclusivity) patiently waiting for a lorry to pass to illustrate their politically motivated campaign to keep traffic out of O’Neill’s Brampton ward. Look carefully and you will see it is a Cooperative van running between their branch in McLeod Road at the foot of Knee Hill to the store a quarter of a mile south of the photo site. It will run bridge or no bridge.

A river crossing is undoubtedly divisive. I am inclined to think that one group believes that East London can do without any new road crossings and thrive and if such people truly believe a city can get away with that for the next fifty years, then fair enough, campaign for the status quo. The other group thinks that improved North South vehicle access is bound to come sooner or later, so we may as well have it now.

The No To Silvertown Tunnel people have put forward reasons why a Blackwall relief bore may be extra capacity in the wrong place. They say that traffic heading south will further congest the A102 and in the other direction congestion will be spread over an even wider area to the north.

I’m not sure why two lanes of 30 m.p.h. traffic comes through Blackwall in the evening rush hour and promptly gums up a three lane 50 m.p.h. dual carriageway, but it often does. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that adding two more southbound lanes under the river can only make the A102 even busier. It may be easier to get into a tunnel but far harder to get away from it.

Whatever one’s views of the No To Silvertown campaign it would be difficult to deny that there is a certain amount of logic to it and I find it increasingly persuasive.

Moving a few miles to the east and risking controversy, I took issue last weekend with the new campaign group, Bexley Against Road Crossings (BARC). They are advocating a new crossing but it must be rail and bike only. I can see no logic in that. The extension of the Overground from Barking Riverside to Thamesmead or Abbey Wood is a realistic officially recognised possibility so why not campaign for that? The Overground carries bikes outside the rush hour, all day if they can be folded up. Everything to make BARC happy.

I doubt there are any precedents for a bridge or a tunnel which takes trains and bikes only and I posed the question, who will pay for it? Cyclists would expect to pay no more than fifty pence and their number would likely be few.

Warming to the theme I added “I suspect that tolling the occasional train will not produce enough money” in a deliberately scornful tone. I really couldn’t see any sense in BARC’s trains and bikes proposal. It’s totally impractical.

StreetlifeI half expected that failing to condemn all crossings out of hand might start an argument but I was surprised that it was largely based on my use of the word ‘occasional’. Apparently that makes me entirely unaware of the popularity of the DLR from Woolwich Arsenal. If my own two, sometimes four, DLR return trips to West Ham each week has not demonstrated its popularity then The Murky Depths blog certainly has.

The word occasional was a deliberate piece of sarcasm, a put down if you like.

The BARC campaign says “Rail and cycle crossings are more effective. As alternatives to road crossings they will be less divisive”. Even the slogan doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

If BARC is not going to campaign for the Overground extension to Abbey Wood but favour a rail crossing further east a bridge would require an incredible incline and even more blighted land space than a steeper road bridge.

So a tunnel must be the preferred way. For cyclists too remember.

Somewhere in the Erith area the North Kent railway line would have to turn north and connect with the line that runs through Dagenham Dock. Even if the third rail 750 volt DC to overhead 25kV AC complication is ignored there is the protection of the Crossrail to Ebbsfleet route on the northern side of the North Kent line to consider.

It is known from the experience at Plumstead that Crossrail does not allow the two routes to cross each other on the level so North Kent trains would have to turn south to get across the river. Dissection of the BARC scheme is now drifting back to the ridicule that got me into trouble in the first place so best to leave it there. Can anyone see how their proposal could be implemented?

It appears to be totally impractical or as I simplistically put it last week, “madness”. BARCing madness.

As for the possible traffic congestion, it’s undoubtedly a problem and to use Bexley council’s phrase, it needs to be mitigated.

One of the worst locations I see is the end of Bronze Age Way near the fish roundabout; frequently clogged with HGVs. Where I live, further west, there is little evidence of such heavy traffic on either the A206 or B213 through Belvedere or the A2016 through Thamesmead, which suggests an awful lot of trucks must come from the Belvedere Industrial Area. Presumably heading for Dartford. It can’t do any harm to give them the option of heading north from close to their own base.

The author of the criticism featured above went on to say that it’s a pity I cannot be bothered to make arguments in a rational manner. I don’t know about not being bothered, some of these blogs take many hours to write, but If he regards the BARC railway/cycle tunnel proposal as rational maybe it is me who should be laughing, not him.


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