The council’s transport spokesman is calling for firm and unambiguous reassurances from the Mayor and TfL that they are serious about carrying out the long-awaited and much-needed redesign of the Wandsworth one-way system.
Cllr Jonathan Cook said that unless there were strong commitments the project would suffer no further delays it could begin to affect private sector investment plans in the town centre.
The current scheme – which would remove all through traffic from Wandsworth High Street, significantly improving the town centre’s main shopping areas for pedestrians and cyclists - was first unveiled about a decade ago.
The scheme would remove vehicle traffic from the high street apart from buses
Removing through traffic from the one-way system has been a long term strategic aim of the council, but the works can only be approved and carried out by TfL. The council has set aside more than £27milllion to help fund the scheme.
Work was originally scheduled to commence in 2017 but TfL recently confirmed that this would not now happen until 2021 at the earliest.
This delay has been outlined at the same time as TfL is reporting severe ongoing budget issues that have already led to transport improvement schemes across London being either scaled back or shelved.
Cllr Cook said: “Everyone knows that TfL is experiencing serious financial pressures for a number of reasons, but this scheme is way too important to be subject to any kind of uncertainty.
“The scheme has been on the drawing board for a decade now and work was due to commence last year. The start date has now been put back another four years and that could easily have a knock-on effect on plans by businesses to invest in the town centre.
How the junction of East Hill and Huguenot Place could look
“What also concerns me is the fact that the £27.5m we have sitting in the bank waiting to be invested in this scheme will inevitably cover less of the cost the longer these delays go on. The old adage about time costing money is not wrong and what worries me is that the passage of time will almost inevitably see the cost of the project rise.
“What we need to see now is a firm and unambiguous commitment from the Mayor that this scheme is actually going to happen in 2021 and that there will be no further delays. Without these assurances it could seriously affect the resilience and vibrancy of the town centre.”
Under the current set of agreed proposals cars and lorries would be diverted away from the main shopping and commercial parts of Wandsworth town centre and the area made much more cycle and pedestrian friendly.
Traffic would be re-routed away from Wandsworth High Street onto Armoury Way, which would become two-way.
Wandsworth High Street without the through traffic
The changes would result in a significant reduction in traffic between Huguenot Place and Putney Bridge Road and provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists, while still allowing buses to service the area.
The aim is to end the dominance of cars and lorries in the town centre, leaving it free for buses, bicycles and pedestrians. Many footpaths could be widened substantially and be improved through extensive tree planting and landscaping, along with other environmental improvements.
The works would represent a major boost to local businesses and the local economy with the town centre transformed into a much more attractive and vibrant shopping and leisure destination.
Removing so much traffic from the town centre would also dramatically improve local air quality levels.
The £27.5m ring-fenced by the council to help pay for the scheme has been levied from housing developers in the area to fund local infrastructure improvements. The lion’s share of this cash came from the developers of the Ram Brewery site.
Last month council leader Ravi Govindia said: “Redesigning the one way system and removing the traffic that has such a negative effect on the town centre has been a key aim of the council for many years.
“This crucial scheme has the potential to really transform and revitalise the town centre’s fortunes. It really should have got underway in earnest by now, so we do need TfL and the Mayor to roll their sleeves up and get things moving.
“We have £27.5m sitting in our bank account that is earmarked for this scheme so the funding is there from our side. Now we need TfL and Mayor to fulfil their part of the deal.”
Measures to cope with its budget pressures outlined by TfL for this financial year and next include:
- Repairs to potholes and carriageway defects on major arterial roads (red routes) in Wandsworth not being carried out until they are “safety critical”.
- Funding this year and next for routine maintenance on the borough’s red routes cut to zero.
- Funding from TfL to support the council’s routine maintenance of main roads in the borough that are not red routes also cut to zero in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
- Cuts in funding allocated by TfL for local transport schemes worth around £350,000 a year are expected from 2019/20 and beyond.
- Plans to provide modernised trains on the Northern Line deferred to an as yet undeclared date.