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Greenwich Business Club: Third Meeting

GMT2000. 11 September 1996

The transportation infrastructure in Greenwich

The third meeting of the Greenwich Business Club on Wednesday 11 September 1996 attracted over 120 to the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.

The main speaker, Malcolm Buchanan of transport specialists Colin Buchanan & Partners, laid the blame for the failure to meet the transport needs of residents and business squarely at the door of the Government. "Their message appears to be 'Don't do anything controversial' and 'Don't spend any money'".

The way forward, he advanced, had been shown by a small village in Norway called Bergen, which found a loophole enabling them to raise tolls to finance a much-needed by-pass. Within 18 months, Oslo had followed suit. He urged Boroughs to seek similar powers to raise money through tolls to spend on the infrastructure.

He confirmed that the company being formed to run and manage the Millennium site--Millennium Central Ltd--will be run by Chris Peckham, on secondment from British Airways, under the Chairmanship of BA's Chairman, Robert Ayling He also stated that he had found the designs for the exhibition 'stunning'.

The Millennium site itself was uniquely complicated, he said--largely due to the fact that it was almost an island. A key element in transporting the 12 million visitors expected during the Millennium Year (a figure he avowed could easily be increased, depending on one's assumptions) was the Jubilee Line. This would prove convenient for most Londoners--who were expected to comprise half of total visitors during the year of celebrations. Other transportation elements included the Blackwall Tunnel--albeit prone to congestion, and the North Kent Line, which needed improvement.

Given the anticipated preponderance of London visitors, local access was vital--particularly between historic West Greenwich and the Peninsula. Use of the river--through two planned piers--were an essential part of the overall strategy. He announced that there would be a conference held with the participation of all boat operators: this afforded an excellent opportunity to put in place a positive Millennium legacy for the future.

Cars were a highly controversial issue, he said. Access to the site by car simply could not be allowed. The most obvious interception point was Stratford, and he hoped that it would be possible to persuade people of the need for peripheral car parks. Possible sites for these were down-river at Beckton and Thamesmead and south of the site in Catford--places far away enough to avoid traffic congestion in the immediate site area, yet near enough to make the journey a pleasant one.

Coaches were an interesting option--but brought their own problems, which needed careful study: he instanced a coach-load of elderly ladies from Stockton deposited at Beckton for a day at the Millennium site with instructions to rejoin their coach at 5pm: "The trade press is still debating the best way of getting to Disneyland, however," he said, "so the coach industry will have to get this right straight away."

The main danger in terms of traffic remained the "driver from Croydon" who, feeling familiar with Greenwich, would head his car there in the hope that he could find parking somehwere: controls would be needed to avoid this happening. "Tourists unfamiliar with a given area tend to respond to instructions--and so clear motorway directions would help."

R. Chaplin, representing Thamesmead Town, gave an excellent and witty report from the floor of the state of play regarding the multi-nodal bridge planned for Thamesmead, which would provide a north-south link and public transport. As an extension to the Docklands Light Railway, it would see 70% of passengers connecting to the City and as a guided bus link, 70% of passengers would probably connect with Stratford and Barking.

The project would help create an estimated 22,000 jobs within a mile both north and south of the river and at a cost of 354 million, it made a viable PFI with 85% debt and 15% equity and offered very attractive IRR's. He said he was keen that both the Woolwich metro and Blackwall III be built--as the only way to keep people in the area was to provide good transport. He said that a differential toll was planned to make it cheaper for local people as opposed to through traffic.

In answer to a question, Mr. Chaplin confirmed that the bridge would be tall enough to let tall ships through and that, thanks to a dedicated cycle track, cyclists would be able to admire their passing as they crossed over.

Tony Evans of Greenwich Waterfront Scheme reported on progress with the Millennium site itself. 300 acres of the land owned by Port Greenwich Ltd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of British Gas) has outline planning and an application for detailed planning was expected in late October 1996. British Gas had awarded a contract to a consortium of companies to carry out the necessary "remediation" work--a six-month contract which started in July 1996.

Meanwhile, Sir Peter Levene continued to negotiate with businesses to secure funding and the London Borough of Greenwich (LBG) had expressed in principle (18 July) its agreement to contribute matching funding to ensure a presence within the exhibition.

He drew the audience's attention to the publication of LBG's discussion document "Once in a 1,000 Years" which sought to set out what the Council was trying to achieve as we move into the next Millennium--and the actions required to ensure success.

Next meeting: The Trafalgar Tavern. 6 November 1996. 12:00 for 12:30.

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