Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witness (Questions 420 - 439)

WEDNESDAY 7 MARCH 2001

MR DEREK TURNER

Mr Brake

  420. Just moving to a square much closer to where we are, Whitehall and Parliament Square, what plans do you have for Parliament Square?—which currently is rather a sterile environment.
  (Mr Turner) This, the Trafalgar Square Scheme, is the first phase of World Squares for All. The Mayor is committed to see the whole of the World Squares for All programme introduced, in principle, but, again, he is not highway authority for the roads. The next phase is that we would be looking to see, in the first instance, Westminster City Council take them forward. But the Mayor has, in principle, a commitment to the policy of the World Squares for All programme.

  421. What would be the timetable for Whitehall and Parliament Square?
  (Mr Turner) We do not have a detailed timetable yet because it would follow on from these proposals. We are starting to consider the next phases, but obviously works will not start in detail until after 2003.

  422. So you do not have preliminary designs or ...
  (Mr Turner) The World Squares for All project has outline designs and they would include great improvement in the pedestrian facilities down Whitehall and pedestrianisation of Parliament Square between St Margaret's and the square centre, in a similar sort of way, very broadly, to what we are proposing in Trafalgar Square.

Mr Donohoe

  423. Could I go back to Trafalgar Square. Can you tell me where all the traffic is going to go?
  (Mr Turner) We have done extensive computer modelling of the whole of this area. It is our view that we will be able to manage the traffic signals to pull the traffic back. This is one of the areas where Westminster has had concerns: Westminster's view was that it was not happy for the scheme to proceed unless there was some restraint mechanism in central London. The restraint mechanism in central London which the Mayor is keen to proceed with is in terms of congestion charging. With congestion charging, the reduction in central London trips of about 10 to 15 per cent will mean that this scheme could be introduced relatively easily, compared to what would happen if we had to deal with the current levels of traffic in this area. The main emphasis is actually to hold and queue traffic outside the area and to manage the traffic signal arrangements. Because the traffic going through Trafalgar Square is actually coming from quite long distances, the diversionary patterns are quite wide and far, it is not as concentrated as you would expect. Just because of the nature of the network, a lot of traffic does come from, effectively, the inner ring road, cutting through central London, and we do not want that to occur.

  424. The top end that you are talking about, what is the present traffic movement through that street? To me it looks as though it is one of the heaviest in London at present.
  (Mr Turner) It is not one of the heaviest in London. I do not have the figures to hand, but I could provide them in a written response[1].

  425. It would be useful if you could.
  (Mr Turner) And the traffic pattern: the issue is not so much how we are managing that particular area; the critical position is down at King Charles statue, south of the Square, where we are having a signalised roundabout. If you look at the way the current system operates at this moment, there is a series of traffic signal junctions through Trafalgar Square, and there is a lot of, what we would call, lost time, where traffic is actually stopping at various junctions. By concentrating the movement at one particular location, we can make a more efficient arrangement in terms of the way the signals operate.

  426. But you are going to continue to have it as one-way traffic?
  (Mr Turner) No. There is no traffic at the North Terrace. There is two-way traffic coming down St Martin's Place. Originally the plans were for one-way traffic, but that did produce quite a lot of diversionary routes, which Westminster found quite unacceptable. The steering group modified the proposals in such a way that we limit the amount of traffic coming down the east side without actually prohibiting the amount of traffic coming down St Martin's Place, and there are consequences with queue management further up Charing Cross Road. We believe that we can make the signal controlled roundabout arrangement work at the southern end.

Mr Benn

  427. You said in your submission that it can take, in the worst case, up to nine minutes to get from one side of Trafalgar Square to the other. To what will this plan cut that figure for the most difficult journey?
  (Mr Turner) Again, I do not have the details to hand, but I would imagine that we are talking in terms of about four minutes. It would be a much more pleasant environment. The most difficult route is effectively from Northumberland Avenue to the National Gallery (Sainsbury Wing). Obviously, once you have crossed Northumberland Avenue to the centre (which is expected to be two cycles of the signals) you are into a pedestrian environment. Previously you had to cross a number of crossings through the Strand, come through St Martin's Place and then cross up here twice, to get over to the extension to the National Gallery.

Chairman

  428. Will it actually improve the safety of the square for events as well? One of the arguments has been that the back wall will stop people using the square to the maximum for events.
  (Mr Turner) We believe that this will make a much more integrated approach and make it a genuine square in terms of a pedestrian realm. Because the Mayor has management of the square (under the Greater London Authority Act) he will be able to introduce a management environment which ensures that for events there is a greater control. Certainly the police are happy with these proposals. I have been involved in consultation with them on the wider public order security arrangements for the square.

Mr Donohoe

  429. You say that that scheme is going to cost £25 million. How much did it cost to change the system at Buckingham Palace?
  (Mr Turner) I did not carry that work out but I can try to find out from the Royal Parks Agency who did.

  430. Is that £25 million going to be spent in Trafalgar Square itself.
  (Mr Turner) The £25 million is for the coloured arrangements that you can see here (referring to plan) plus also changes to—

  431. Are you trying to compete with Portcullis House as to how much each tree is going to cost?
  (Mr Turner) It also covers the bus priority measures. One of the requirements for the steering group was that we should not adversely affect any of the bus services going through there—this is a major bus node on the bus network. The arrangements are such that we do not, but, to do that, we have to carry out traffic management measures on the approaches to the scheme over quite a wide area in terms of bus priority. That is part of the £25 million. The other thing is that this is really right at the heart of London and we are looking at the highest quality materials. That is one of the reasons why we are putting in for the Heritage Lottery Fund bid. If we do not get a Heritage Lottery Fund application, we will have to review the quality of the materials used. One of the things, for instance, is that we are anxious, once we have carried out the extensive quality paving through here, that we do not actually get it dug up straight away by statutory undertakers. We are in discussions with statutory undertakers and we are making an allowance in the £25 million for them to carry out any works that they have in their programme in this area in advance, so that we can limit it being dug up again. We are also looking at the possibility of putting the utilities into tunnels.

  432. It sounds to me as though Dick Whittington came to London too early. They are now going to have the pavements paved with gold.
  (Mr Turner) Not quite gold; probably granite.

  433. Could I move on from there. When will the Mayor's Transport Strategy be completed?
  (Mr Turner) The Mayor is consulting on the Draft Transport Strategy and that consultation ends at the end of March. The proposal and the programme is that he will review the results of the consultation and publish the formal document in July.

  434. So when will it be approved?
  (Mr Turner) In July.

  435. How will "connected, safe, convenient and attractive walking routes" be created?
  (Mr Turner) What we are trying to do is to enter into partnerships with the local boroughs to ensure that they have the facilities to provide those sort of routes. We are looking at a number of pilot routes, in terms of an east/west and north/south route, which are travelling over a large length of the capital, going from, in the north, Hampstead and Highgate, down to the south at Waterloo, and from London Bridge through to Shepherd's Bush and beyond. Again, they are centring on Trafalgar Square and passing through Trafalgar Square, so this sort of heart of the pedestrian realm for central London is what we are intending to create.

  436. What will be the main features of those routes?
  (Mr Turner) They would be signed routes and they would be liveried, but we would also be ensuring that there are proper pedestrian crossing facilities along those routes.

  437. What do you expect is the timetable for establishing them?
  (Mr Turner) That is going to be set out in the detailed final version of the Transport Strategy once we have established that it is an acceptable proposal.

  438. These proposals have a dreadful habit of slippage. Given what you have said, are you guaranteeing delivery on the dates that you are going to set, or is there going to be slippage, as is usual?
  (Mr Turner) I would like to be able to guarantee those dates, but you will appreciate that unless the money is provided by Central Government I cannot guarantee them. Certainly the Mayor is convinced that walking is a mode of transport which he wishes to promote, as my memorandum has indicated. It is a sustainable mode and I do not see any reason why the Mayor will not be pushing the local authorities through various statutory processes that are available to ensure that those two routes are actually built.

Mr Benn

  439. You have said in your submission that you have set a target for a 40 per cent reduction in the number of fatalities and injuries by 2010. Can you tell us what proportion of the current fatalities and injuries occur on the roads for which you have responsibility as opposed to the boroughs.
  (Mr Turner) Just to give you some idea, the Mayor has responsibility for five per cent of the network and it carries 33 per cent of the traffic. The local authorities have the remainder up to 100 per cent. In accident terms, they have 75 per cent of the accidents. Therefore, we have about 25 per cent of the accidents on our five per cent of the roads—a higher proportion of accidents, but, bearing in mind the exposure, they are safer than the local authority roads.


1   Note by witness: 2,500-3,000 vehicles per hour throughout much of the day along the North Terrace Back


 
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