Stormy meeting held on new bus route

Deadline looms for decision on Brook Green bus plan

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Local residents met with a representative of Transport to London (TfL) to discuss the controversial extension of the C1 bus route through the Brook Green area. The meeting, which was called and chaired by local MP Greg Hands, and attended by over 150 local residents to discuss the plans to extend the C1's route from Kensington High Street to Shepherd's Bush. The meeting took place at St. Matthews Church, Masbro Road, on Monday 20 March.

Richard Shirley of TfL addressed the meeting saying that his role was primarily to hear local residents' views and relay the to decision makers at TfL. In answer to some written questions from local residents he explained that TfL's aim was to increase the penetration of bus services within local communities. Their guideline was that there should be a bus service within 400 metres of every Londoner's home. When the C1 route was first proposed 4,000 leaflets were sent to local homes.

By going into a new area, he explained, bus services such as the one proposed generate new trips, hence the necessity of a cost-benefits analysis. In this case, the benefits are not just a new link between Kensington High St/Hammersmith Road and Shepherd’s Bush, but also enhanced public transport facilities for local residents. If speed were the crucial factor in determining the route, he said, the C1 bus would not run through the Brook Green Triangle, but alongside Holland Road. He added that the Brook Green Triangle had a low ratio of cars per household (0.59), which had been a factor in choosing the route. TfL estimates that 1,000 extra trips will be made (per day) in the Brook Green Triangle (the area delimitated by Blythe Rd, Shepherd’s Bush Road, West London Railway Line & Hammersmith Road), ie one trip a day for 1,000 households, to which should be added 400 trips in the Shepherd’s Bush area.

Olivier Barbé (spokesperson for the Blythe Rd Action Group) said that his group opposed the route but welcomed the opportunity for dialogue. Residents were given the opportunity to question TfL's representatives. They raised concerns about pollution and safety issues and the audience expressed scepticism that the 'Hopper' buses that TfL planned to use on the route could easily navigate local streets. The TfL spokesman said that the buses will have some of the cleanest engines in existence.

Trevor McNevin (who supervises all marshalling and traffic related to the Olympia venue) told the meeting, "150 events a year are held at the Olympia, this means that for 35 to 40 days per year, when the shows are set up and dismantled, the roads in the vicinity of the venue are effectively gridlocked. Traffic comes to a standstill. Introducing a bus service which would use those streets [which would be the case if the C1 bus route extension were to come into effect], namely Hazlitt, Sinclair, Maclise and Beaconsfield would add to an already impossible situation. Olympia is all for improved public transport, but this doesn’t make any sense. We’d soon have four or five buses stacked between each other, for 2 to 3 hours at a time."

LBHF Council transport specialist Chris Bainbridge told the audience that TfL was wrong to claim that they had written to the Council and that only informal soundings had been made. He added, "The area in question is already better served than average in terms of access to public transport, and most of it actually falls in the most desirable category in this regard. No letter was ever received from TfL; and there has been no demand from the local community. This is why council officers do not consider the C1 bus route extension to be a priority."

Cllr Siobhan Coughlan (Addison Ward, Lab) said that Councillors had written to TfL expressing opposition to the plan but had received no reply.

The TfL spokesperson told the meeting that they had received letters of support over the proposal and that one local residents' group had given it their backing but he was unable to name them when pressed. One member of the audience did speak in support of the proposal saying that, as he suffered from severe mobility problems, the route would be a life-line.

The meeting was concluded by a short speech by GLA member for H&F Angie Bray, in which she stated that the ‘real problem’ was that TfL didn’t have a very good record for consultations, mentioning the Congestion Charge extension consultation as an example. She called for a petition to be drawn, which she would personally present to Mayor Ken Livingstone.

The final decision as to whether the proposal would go ahead or not lay with TfL, he said. The first port of call for appeals would be the Mayor, followed by London Travelwatch (www.londontravelwatch.org.uk), the statutory watchdog for transport in the capital. Representations will have to be made to TfL before 28 April. Representations by mail, phone or email would be just as valid as the forms provided by TfL (60 of which were available on the evening). Should the extension be approved, it would take affect as of February 2007. TfL should take its decision in June or July of this year.

April 3, 2006