Three mile bus journeys take two hours in low-traffic neighbourhoods with TfL blaming 'serious' delays on scheme

26 February 2024, 08:01

Bus operators said they were not consulted about the plans and laid the blame on the delays firmly on the LTN
Bus operators said they were not consulted about the plans and laid the blame on the delays firmly on the LTN. Picture: Twitter
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A new low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) is causing such bad congestion that buses running along its boundary are taking up to two hours to travel less than three miles.

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In South London's Streatham Wells, a newly implemented low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) has sparked significant congestion issues, causing severe delays for buses travelling along its perimeter.

During peak hours, the traffic chaos within and around the LTN has forced buses to either divert around the area or navigate through it, resulting in journeys taking up to two hours to cover less than three miles.

Recent data from Transport for London highlights the severity of the problem.

Last week, along the A23, a major route bordering the western side of the LTN, a bus journey that should have taken 29 minutes stretched to a staggering 121 minutes for a mere 2.9 miles.

The situation has reached a point where walking would have been twice as fast for bus passengers.

The traffic issues have also led to long queues of cars forming within the LTN as residents attempt to exit onto the main road.

Read more: Carmageddon in Streatham: Botched Low Traffic Neighbourhood leaves locals fuming, including me!

Department of Transport statistics show that a significant portion of bus services has been diverted away from the affected routes during rush hour, while others have been forced to drive through the LTN.

The increase in LTNs across the country since 2020 has sparked controversy regarding their efficacy and impact.

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.

Labour councillors overseeing the scheme have thus far declined to acknowledge responsibility or offer apologies for the ensuing chaos. They remain committed to the 18-month trial period and are even considering implementing another LTN nearby.

However, the council has already accrued £320,000 in fines within the first three months of the LTN's operation.

As we reported yesterday, Labour-run Lambeth rakes in up to £50m in fines since introducing controversial low-traffic neighbourhoods

Initially, the council attributed the congestion to "emergency roadworks," anticipating improvement over time as road users acclimatized to the new setup.

However, Transport for London has identified the LTN as the primary cause of the delays. The Times reported its Operations’ Network Management Control Centre recently raised an “incident”, saying the LTN was causing “serious” delays in the area.

Despite this, the transport authority maintains its support for LTNs, citing research indicating reduced traffic within the zones and only marginal increases on boundary roads.

Local residents rally with placards on Streatham High Road in South London as part of the Lambeth LTN Watch protest group against the area becoming a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN)
Local residents rally with placards on Streatham High Road in South London as part of the Lambeth LTN Watch protest group against the area becoming a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN). Picture: Alamy

Residents and local groups, such as Lambeth LTN Watch and the West Dulwich Action Group, have expressed frustration and concern over the council's approach.

They argue that Lambeth's implementation of LTNs disregards evidence and poses risks to public safety, particularly regarding increased accident rates.

Lambeth Council defends its decision, citing resident complaints about streets being used as shortcuts. They assert that previous LTNs have successfully reduced traffic within neighbourhoods and on boundary roads by the conclusion of the trial period.

Data from Transport for London shows that last week the A23, which runs along the western side of the LTN and is one of the main routes out of south London, became so overwhelmed that one bus took 121 minutes to travel 2.9 miles. The route was scheduled to last only 29 minutes. It would have been twice as quick for passengers to walk.

Long queues of cars are also appearing within the LTN as residents try to exit the area to turn on to the main road.

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.

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