This letter from a concerned Taxi driver was sent to Peter John of Southwark Council, CC’ed in were; AM Valerie Shorcross, AM Caroline Pidgeon and AM Jenny Jones.
Dear Mr John
I’m emailing you with regard to the curren traffic situation at St Thomas Street and the Shard. I’m a London Taxi Driver and use the Shard regularly to acquire work and also to drop off customers. The current situation in regards to exiting St Thomas St is becoming nothing short of embarrassing.
For one of Europe’s biggest landmarks and one of London’s most popular social locations, the access to and from is nothing short of third world due to the incompetence of whoever is in charge of the traffic management orders in and out of St Thomas St.
On exiting St Thomas St the current traffic management order (TMO), is a very short phase, only allowing 2 to 3 vehicles out at a time. The light phase is also a forced left only. This means all vehicles exiting are forced left down Borough High St. Any vehicle needing to travel north has to turn left, then make a u-turn in very heavy traffic to be able to travel north.
At the junction of St Thomas St, Borough high St and Bedale St, it would make perfect sense to implement a longer phase, have the ability to exit St Thomas St left (south bound), forward (west bound), and right (north bound), and finally to implement a yellow box junction to stop traffic travelling south bound along Borough High St from blocking the access to and from St Thomas St.
Cars are allowed to park on a red route in bays that are given designated parking times. The trouble with this is that large vehicles such as buses (of which there are a large number that use Borough High St), are unable to move freely north and south. One lot of traffic has to give way to the other.
Over a short space of time this causes the traffic to back up and become congested all the way back to Borough Station in the south and up to the south side of London Bridge itself in the north (this traffic stops of the exit of St Thomas St.
There desperately needs to be some severe enforcement of the cars parked on Borough High St. Removing the bays and/or changing the times allowed to park there and also enforcing the area with wardens would keep traffic flowing freely, congestion to be reduced and pollution levels to drop.
The other issue we have as Taxi Drivers is that it’s not uncommon for a large fare to be accrued before I’ve exited St Thomas St.
Some nights the queue to exit is all the way back to the Shard itself. I find myself having to explain to customers that it will take time and money to even begin their journey. It’s embarrassing and unnecessary. Just last night (28/03/15), I had £7.20 on the meter before I managed to exit St Thomas St.
This is unacceptable to my customers.
The flag fall when i start the meter is £2.40.
If traffic was free flowing, I’d expect no more than £3.00 on the meter by the time I exited St Thomas St. I have heard of cabbies having £13+ before when it’s really bad.
There are also stories of customers getting out of cabs when queuing to exit. Again this is unacceptable to the cabbie when he or she has ranked for a long time only to then be left in static traffic with no fare on board.
Lastly, the Private Hire Vehicles (minicabs) that park along Borough High St at the bottle neck, are acting illegally and touting for work. This needs enforcing too. TfL have just allegedly acquired more members of their Compliance Officers team. Is it possible to liaise with TfL in order to address this problem. This does affect the Shard too when minicabs rank illegally for work outside. I know Addison Lee has an account at the Shard, I’m talking about any other PHV.
I appreciate you reading about these issues. Unfortunately they affect every vehicle that accesses the Shard. Europe’s tallest building built on a dead end road with atrocious access. Not a very good advertisement. The guests are shown London traffic at it’s worst.
I’m not so sure this gives a very good impression? Transport for London are responsible mainly for these matters. Unfortunately, they hide in their Ivory tower on Blackfriars Road and won’t be held accountable for their wholly inadequate way in which they run London’s roads. This is why I’m contacting you all in a slim hope that someone can help.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your responses and some action.
Response from Peter John (Southwark Council)
Thanks for your email Peter. I have taken it up with our transport team and will see what progress we can make. I know that this is an issue which will (and has already) caused concern for the owners of the Shard.
I will get back to you as soon as I have any further information.
The letter was also forwarded on by the GLA members to TfL as St Thomas Street is a Red Rout and comes under the authority of TfL’s Red Rout Network.
Response From: Hatch Andrew [mailto:AndrewHatch@tfl.gov.uk]
Sent: 14 April 2015 14:05
To: Valerie Shawcross
Cc: Members Correspondence; Keane Kate; Johnson Esther (Correspondence) Subject: REPLY: St Thomas Street and traffic management issues.
Thank you for your email.
As you may know, to accommodate the redevelopment at London Bridge station, St Thomas Street is currently closed in one direction at its junction with Borough High Street until 2018.
The traffic signal timings at this junction have been set to give priority to traffic travelling north and southbound along Borough High Street and work in conjunction with surrounding signalised junctions to keep this key route flowing. The signal timings also have to be programmed to ensure that the bus services, which carry a significant number of people throughout the day, can run as effectively as possible.
That said, we have reviewed the signal timings at the junction and have been able to increase the green time available to traffic exiting St Thomas Street very slightly (in the late evening period after 20:30) to accommodate the number of taxis dropping off and picking up customers from The Shard. Please be assured that due to the high number of works and developments, and associated changes to the road network (both temporary and permanent), our traffic engineers keep all the signal junctions in the London Bridge area under close review.
Mr Crane suggests implementing an option for a right turn and straight ahead movement out of St Thomas Street. Unfortunately, this is not possible. To include this additional stage in the traffic signal cycle would require an increase in the cycle time. This would result in all traffic and pedestrian movements having to wait longer for their respective green signal, and creating significant delays on the north and southbound movements along Borough High Street.
We have a scheme proposed to improve facilities for the high numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using this junction. A diagonal crossing across Borough High Street, and advanced stop lines for cyclists are expected to be introduced in the coming year. It would not be possible to install a yellow box junction alongside these improvements, but “Keep Clear” road markings may be possible and we have committed to look at this possibility within the scheme’s scope.
Mr Crane also refers to stopping and parking along Borough High Street. I can confirm that disabled parking and loading bays operate Monday to Saturday 13:00 to 16:00 (northbound) and 10:00 to 13:00 (southbound). CCTV enforces illegal parking between Queens Head Yard and Southwark Cathedral, and Marshalsea Road and Mermaid Court. These restrictions are actively enforced to minimise instances of illegal use, but as this on-street parking is used by local businesses and their customers, any amendments including removal or amendments to timings or positions would require public consultation and the revision of the Traffic Regulation Order. We have committed to considering increased on-street enforcement in due course.
Finally, in terms of the matter raised about Private Hire vehicles in the area, we are aware of the touting and our Compliance Team will address this issue. We are also considering a change from single red lines to double red lines to attempt to address this issue. Please note however that this is subject to further investigation, public consultation and the making of a Traffic Regulation Order.
I hope this is helpful.
Correspondence Officer Managing Director’s Office
Transport for London – Surface Transport
11F – Zone R3 – Palestra – 197 Blackfriars Road – London – SE1 8NJ.