Monday 6 August 2018

Mile End Junction is the worst in Tower Hamlets for Road Safety

Photo of the HEMS helicopter taking off from Mile End Junction following a traffic accident.

On Monday, representatives from MEOTRA, together with locals from Mile End Ward, met with Unmesh Desai, London Assembly member for the City of London and East London; Councillors from Bow West and Mile End wards and three representatives from TfL. The meeting was primarily to discuss the no right turns at Mile End Junction, but MEOTRA and others also emphasised a large number of issues that have subsequently arisen.

It was useful to have the meeting onsite, with issues literally appearing in front of us one after the other as if it was a carefully rehearsed stage production (Up The Junction?).

TfL stated that Mile End Junction is the worst in Tower Hamlets for road safety  (yes even AFTER all the safety measures of CS2U).

Here's a summary of the issues discussed:

Removing the ban on No Right Turns. Residents detailed the significant inconvenience this causes to locals. Although residents make an effort to walk or use bikes/public transport, there are times (the weekly shop for instance) when many feel they have no option but to drive and reluctantly make U-turns on busy roads. They are aware this leads to extra pollution and congestion, but why should locals suffer all the inconvenience and not "through traffic"? The response from The London Mayor's office to the petition which sparked this meeting makes for interesting reading on the whole "no right turns" issue and states:
" the north-south alignment through this junction forms part of a new proposed cycle route between Hackney and the Isle of Dogs (see below). As part of the development of this new route, TfL will review this junction in detail and consider whether any changes are required as part of this process".
Pedestrians have difficulty crossing Mile End Road safety. Cllr Val Whitehead detailed how, as through traffic is prioritised by the CS2U works, pedestrians now have to wait an excessively long time to cross by Mile End Station. Similarly at the Junction itself. TfL indicated that there has been an increase in collisions in the Mile End vicinity involving pedestrians since the upgrade and that this spot had the worst road safety record in Tower Hamlets. TfL are looking at how to increase road safety here as a priority. MEOTRA emphasised how difficult the Mile End Junction is to "read" since the upgrade works. MEOTRA have asked to see the detailed accident figures. Aware that TfL are decreasing the speed on some of their roads, locals present asked that Mile End Road be reduced to 20mph. 

National Express/ Terravision/ Easybus Coaches. The TfL reps themselves noted that coaches pulling up either side of Mile End Road by the station really block the roads up. They witnessed eastbound traffic backing up right across the junction and are aware coaches use Grove Road frequently if Whitechapel has traffic issues. TfL is considering moving these stops (a little) so they are separate to the regular [red] bus stops.

Number 25 bus terminating at Mile End Station. TfL observed first-hand the large numbers doing this and how they fill the Grove Road bus stand up, cause extra congestion as they make multiple crossings of the junction with multiple lane changes. They were told about how once the stand is full, buses park up along Grove Road having driven up to Victoria Park to turn around. This results in unnecessary traffic and pollution.

Vehicles passing across the junction twice. Large numbers of 25 busses terminating at Mile End, together with the phenomena of vehicles achieving right turns via a sequence of left and U-turns, has led to an increase in vehicles crossing the junction TWICE. This obviously causes unnecessary pollution and traffic.

D7 Bus offloading in Burdett Road.  The senselessness of northbound D7 buses terminating in Burdett Road, kicking everyone off and then driving empty over the junction to the bus stand was highlighted. MEOTRA asked that the D7 bus terminate at the bus stand so passengers can easily switch to connecting services (e.g. 425 and 339). TfL will look at this.

Vehicles doing U-turns in Mile End Road and Grove Road. The serious danger and disruption this causes was highlighted.

Hackney to Isle of Dogs Cycle Superhighway. Proposals for this new route are likely to go out for consultation early in the New Year. All the locals present (including the councillors) emphasised how vital it is that this scheme doesn't repeat and compound the problems of the existing CS2U route: Rat runs; U-turns, increased pollution; increased traffic etc.

MEOTRA stated that residents felt they had been duped in the previous consultation: Questions had asked responders to gauge their level of support on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "oppose" and 5 being "support". TfL had counted any responses ticking "2", "3" or "4" as being supportive too, which is frankly deceitful. MEOTRA and Mile End Ward residents both stated that following the use of such clandestine methods, TfL now had considerable work to do to gain the trust of residents.

Pollution monitoring. No measurements of pollution levels before or after the CS2 upgrade works were made. MEOTRA insisted [and TfL agreed] that pollution changes have to be measured when the new superhighway is rolled out. MEOTRA stated that our own preliminary pollution measurements [over three months] show pollution levels near the junction to be more than twice the EU limit.

Low Emission Bus Zones. Mayor Khan has announced a number of Low Emission Bus Zones which will see the exclusive use of buses with top-of-the-range engines and exhaust systems that meet or exceed the highest Euro VI emissions standards. One of these zones, covering the stretch Mile End to Romford, is due to be completed by 2019 and applies to routes 425 and 25. Whilst this is good news, MEOTRA highlighted that according to the published map this zone stops short of Mile End Junction and so buses on routes D6, D7, 277, 323 and 339 will not have to meet these standards. Unmesh Desai asked that TfL consider MEOTRA's suggestion to extend the zone to include Mile End Junction.

Rat Running. Since CS2U there has been an increase in rat running. This also corresponds to the growth in the use of Apps such as Waze to help drivers unfamiliar with an area (aka through traffic) avoid traffic jams in real time. TfL acknowledged this and said they had had a meeting with LBTH about this issue on the 24th July. TfL/LBTH are going to work together to see if they can resolve/minimise this issue.

Overall it was a very productive meeting and had a much better atmosphere to the one MEOTRA had with TfL during the upgrade works Both of us representing MEOTRA left feeling that TfL will work with us to try and overcome these numerous issues.

No more long articles for a while. I promise!

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