As many of us in our ward will be aware, we’ve been experiencing some serious traffic congestion of late, mostly as a result of the westbound closure of Newgate Street to facilitate on-going works by National Grid Gas (NGG).
Following a question to the Chairman of the Planning & Transportation Committee, Chris Hayward, at the meeting of the Court of Common Council on 23rd June, the Chairman provided an update and additional information by email. This included confirmation that the ‘yellow box’ previously present at Ludgate Circus, would be reinstated.
The text from this email is is shown below and we will of course, continue to monitor the situation:
As members will recall, NGG are replacing their gas main network in Newgate St as part of a major upgrade programme lasting several years across the City. The Newgate St section has been subject to several major gas leaks in recent years, and is now considered to be ‘high risk’ by NGG and in need of urgent replacement.
At the last Court I indicated that I had pressed TfL to install a yellow box junction at Ludgate Circus to help keep the junction clear. I’m pleased to say that TfL not only agreed to that request, but with some encouragement from the City, brought forward its installation to last weekend. It is now in place, and will no doubt help improve safety and traffic flows by discouraging drivers from blocking the junction.
I also requested officers to undertake an urgent review of arrangements for the works themselves with TfL and NGG. As a result:
- TfL have undertaken a full scale review of bus operations in the area, curtailing or diverting up to 50 buses an hour away from the Ludgate Hill corridor and into Queen Victoria St. This has reduced journey time disruption for TfL Buses, as well as added capacity back into Ludgate Hill for other vehicles. A series of parking bay suspensions are also being considered in Queen Victoria St if even more network capacity is required.
- TfL have adjusted traffic signal timings at Ludgate Circus to allow more run time for east / west traffic. However, given the capacity change resulting from the introduction of the cycle super highway, TfL’s ability to flex the signal times further without affecting public safety or significantly impacting the north/south route to Blackfriars is somewhat limited.
- In the longer term, TfL are now considering the installation of the SCOOT system for Ludgate Circus to enable the signals to adapt automatically and in real time to changes in traffic flows and congestion.
- The City’s parking enforcement contractor (Indigo) are paying special attention to Fleet St, particularly in the AM peak period, as parked vehicles in that location have been seen to cause congestion. As a result, several vehicles have been ticketed and/or moved on.
- A dedicated City congestion monitoring officer is also paying the works close attention every day via CCTV and out on-street. When they spot issues that are adding to congestion, they inform either Indigo, our own highway officers or TfL’s Traffic Enforcement Officers to trouble-shoot those issues in real time.
- Officers continue to help NGG overcome the challenges of moving the work forward as quickly as safely possible, including agreeing alternative working methods to avoid impacting the New Gate scheduled monument that the excavation uncovered. NGG are also working extended hours, as agreed with the City’s Environmental Health team, although 24/7 working is not possible due to the Health & Safety issues related to working on gas mains at night, as well as recognising the impact this would have on local residents.
- Two other utilities (EU Networks and Thames Water) are already undertaking work within the NGG worksite, saving disruption to the network at a later date, and more are expected to follow. In the meantime, both the City and TfL are keeping the rest of the network clear of other activity.
- NGG have set up a suite of information signage to explain the importance of these works, and to explain to passers-by why they may not see activity at all the excavations at the same time.
- Officers continue to provide information to City stakeholders, responding to questions about the work itself, the diversions and access to premises, particularly to the City’s 2,800 Twitter followers (@SquareHighways).
Although the combined impact of all these measures has been positive I recognise that there are still on-going congestion challenges so I will ensure the City continues to work with TfL, NGG and our partners to actively monitor traffic in the area and pursue all reasonable measures to mitigate the impact of the works. I will also of course continue to keep the Court fully appraised of our actions.
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