Buses take two hours to travel three miles in low-traffic neighbourhood

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Buses take two hours to travel three miles in low-traffic neighbourhood - The Times
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Department of Transport data also shows that three quarters of the buses on another route diverted around the LTN during rush hour while another service forged a new path straight through it.

The scale of the congestion raises questions about the claims made by LTN advocates that traffic “evaporates” after the schemes are introduced, even on their boundary roads.

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Hundreds of LTNs have been introduced across the country since 2020 amid growing controversy over the impact of the schemes. Last summer, Rishi Sunak ordered a review into LTNs although the Department of Transport has yet to publish any findings or guidance.

Lambeth council expected the new LTN to hugely increase traffic on its boundary roads but went ahead with the scheme anyway. In a risk assessment before the LTN was introduced, officials noted that it was “very likely” that the scheme would have a “significant impact” on traffic levels on nearby roads. Yet despite this assessment, the same officials concluded that local buses were “unlikely” to be affected. Bus operators say they were not consulted about the plans.

So far the Labour councillors responsible for the scheme have refused to apologise or admit the LTN is responsible for the traffic chaos. They insist the 18-month trial must continue and are planning another LTN just a few hundred metres away.

In the first three months of the new LTN’s operation, it has generated £320,000 in fines for the council.

When The Times first reported on the congestion in December, the council blamed “emergency roadworks” and said it expected conditions to improve as road users became used to the new scheme. This week, four months after the LTN was introduced, it blamed “ongoing roadworks by utilities and recent rail strikes”.

However, Transport for London’s bus operations team has concluded that the LTN is causing the problems. The Times has learnt that its Operations’ Network Management Control Centre recently raised an “incident”, saying the LTN was causing “serious” delays in the area.

Tom Cunnington, Transport for London’s head of buses, said: “We are sorry passengers continue to experience delays to services in Streatham — this is not in line with the level of service we aim to provide.”

However, the transport authority still supports LTNs. It pointed to “independent” research by the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy that shows LTNs reduce traffic within the zones and only marginally increase traffic on their boundary roads. The academy is led by a former trustee of the London Cycling Campaign, which has been one of the most vociferous advocates for LTNs.

Cunnington said: “New infrastructure, including well-planned LTNs, play a vital role in keeping everyone safe and making it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle.”

Stephen Hall, who runs the Streatham Stuff website, said: “It’s four months into the scheme and buses on the High Road are still regularly getting stuck for an hour in the congestion. Lambeth Council seems to have hugely underestimated the amount of damage and disruption the LTN would cause.”

Meanwhile, residents of nearby West Dulwich say they are “outraged” that the council is pressing ahead with a new LTN in their area.

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Jonathan Fowles, of the West Dulwich Action Group, warned that Lambeth is ignoring “glaring evidence” that the scheme will increase the risk of accidents in the area.

He said: “The council’s apparent disregard for published collision data, favouring ideological pursuits over public safety, has left the community feeling ignored and endangered.”

Lambeth said that it is introducing the scheme as part of a package of measures following complaints from residents that streets were being used as shortcuts.

It added: “In previous LTNs, traffic fell across the neighbourhood and boundary roads by the end of the trial.”