David Waddell writes: “The considerable traffic dangers at the Battersea Bridge/Cheyne Walk junction have been a major concern of the Chelsea Society and Cheyne Walk Trust for may years. After two fatalities and some 70 accidents over 5 years (2017 to 2021) highlighted in a major public petition, TFL eventually installed a first controlled pedestrian crossing at the northern end of the bridge.
A major TFL consultation thereafter, reporting in June 2023, prompted significant unified input from RBKC and Chelsea’s amenity associations. TFL ignored demands for a 3 Phase option to make safe the 3 unsafe arms of the junction with a subsequent review of road use to ensure optimum and equable traffic arrangements for the whole riverside route from Chelsea Bridge to Cremorne Road, and access to Chelsea.
Responding to the TFL Consultation Report, The Council for RBKC together with Chelsea amenity associations, supported by Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea & Fulham, welcomed TFL’s commitment to improve the 3 unsafe arms of the junction by installing controlled crossings, and to review the banned left turn southbound at Chelsea Bridge, but expressed serious concerns over TFL’s Cycle Superhighway plans for:
- A left turn ban at Beaufort St for vehicles approaching the junction from the west, creating renewed pressure on other roads north into Chelsea including Oakley St, Royal Hospital Rd and Tite St. and the heavily used Kings Rd.
- New sections of traffic-constricting westbound and eastbound bus lanes on the Embankment from Chelsea Bridge to Battersea Bridge. This would just provide lanes for the infrequent 170 bus, even though TfL have cut the frequency of this service by reducing it from every 7 minutes to every 10 minutes.
The Chelsea Society, Cheyne Walk Trust and residents’ associations are working closely with RBKC to ensure that Chelsea’s interests in securing safety at the Battersea Bridge junction is achieved without unacceptable and unnecessary detriment to traffic flows for those who live in Chelsea.
The Council of RBKC, The Chelsea Society, Cheyne Walk Trust and Lots Road Neighbourhood
Forum together with many Chelsea Residents’ Associations urge Chairs and/or Secretaries of all
Chelsea Associations to respond to the TFL Battersea Bridge consultation on behalf of their
Association and also to ask their members individually to respond also as described below, in
order ensure that the Battersea Bridge/Cheyne Walk junction is made safe whilst avoiding new and
additional traffic problems in Chelsea.
RESPOND BEFORE 24 JANUARY 2023.
Following two fatalities and numerous accidents in 5 years, much public pressure, including Rob
McGibbon’s effective petition, has secured an initial safety improvement at Battersea Bridge. After
many years of delay, TFL has completed in late 2021 a Phase 1 task of installing a light controlled
pedestrian crossing at the Cheyne Walk junction with the northern end of Battersea Bridge. In 2022,
TFL notified pre consultation survey plans for Phase 2 safety enhancements for the remaining three
arms of the Chelsea/Battersea Bridge junction that remain unsafe without improvement.
Together with the Council of RBKC, the Chelsea Society and many other local societies
welcome this initial work and the intention to introduce further essential enhancements in 2023
after formal consultation due to close on 24 January 2023.
There are significant concerns on consultation and potential problems that will arise if the scheme is
not modified. The initial TFL plans appear to be an extrapolation of older plans essentially based on
the introduction of Cycle Superhighway 8 (CS8) along the north bank of the Thames from
Westminster to Hammersmith.
Hence, rather than simply addressing urgently required and vital
safety improvements at the Chelsea/Battersea Bridge junction, the scheme proposes measures that
will adversely impact access and movement for many Chelsea residents and others passing through
Chelsea with significant new traffic queueing and congestion through central Chelsea and its main
local access roads.
Briefly: there has been no pre-consultation survey advice in south east Chelsea; the plan proposes to
ban left turns for eastbound traffic north into Beaufort St, increasing overloading of already
constricted north bound traffic in Oakley Street as well as on The King’s Road. New traffic-
constricting bus lanes are proposed along Chelsea Embankment and Cheyne Walk. At the same time
Chelsea riverside including Battersea Bridge is under fresh traffic pressure following the closure,
without consultation, of northbound and southbound junctions to east/west traffic at Chelsea
Significantly, the scheme fails to consider the Battersea Bridge junction in the context of the
whole Chelsea Embankment/Cheyne Walk route and the impact on Chelsea’s main roads and access.
Councillor Cem Kemahli for RBKC in formal submission to TFL has raised significant objections and
proposed a widely supported 3 Phase CHELSEA OPTION that will Make Battersea Bridge Safe as a
priority and evaluate the remaining TFL proposals on their merits. See Cllr Kemahli’s RBKC letter to
Members are asked to respond directly to TFL to support the Chelsea Option and the 6 specific bullet points below:
Welcome essential plans to introduce light controlled pedestrian crossings on the
remaining 3 arms of the junction
Support the 3 phase CHELSEA OPTION proposed by the Council of RBKC for immediate
action to make safe the three unsafe arms of the Battersea Bridge Cheyne Walk junction
Consider it vital that the Phase 2 safety measures at the BB junction are decoupled from the
wider TFL plans based on CS8 Chelsea Embankment/Cheyne Walk and that those TFL
plans be fully evaluated in a 3rd Phase
Insist that the banned north and south turns at Chelsea Bridge be reinstated to avoid
excessive traffic being funnelled to the constricted and weight-limited Albert Bridge and,
in particular, the extremely dangerous Battersea Bridge junction, and generating
excessive queueing on Chelsea Embankment/Cheyne Walk
Object to banning the left turn north into Beaufort St for traffic travelling east as
impractical, unnecessary and hugely disruptive for residents in SW Chelsea (Cremorne
Rd, Blantyre St, Cheyne Walk, Cremorne Estate, Beaufort St etc.) who will not be able
to access their homes without traffic-generating detours west of Beaufort St via Oakley St
(already subject to massive tailbacks), Flood Street or Royal Hospital Rd and The King’s Rd
Consider Improvements/changes at Battersea Bridge as part of wider traffic patterns
and problems at all three bridge junctions on Chelsea riverside, namely Chelsea
Bridge, Albert Bridge and Battersea Bridge, and Insist that Phase 3 evaluation must include
and/or assess the impact on all access roads to and from RBKC, including Chelsea Bridge
Rd, Tite St; Royal Hospital Rd, Oakley Street, Beaufort St and Cremorne Rd., and
consequent traffic flows along The Kings Rd and north and south across Chelsea
Please submit response directly to TFL using links below before 24 January 2023
https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/batterseabridge or email@example.com or
FREEPOST TFL HAVE YOUR SAY (no stamp needed)
You may also wish to support the very effective petition below:
Change.org Make Battersea Bridge Safe: https://www.change.org/p/transport-for-london-make-
Letter from Cllr. Cem Kemahli, RBKC
TFL PROPOSALS FOR BATTERSEA BRIDGE/CHELSEA EMBANKMENT
As the proposals that TfL has put out to formal consultation are virtually unchanged from those that you shared with the Council and others in the summer, I am tempted simply to resend my letter of 19 August. As you know that letter welcomed the fact that this junction’s unacceptable collision record was being addressed through new safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists. In particular, I supported the provision of pedestrian crossings on the three arms that still do not have them today.
However, the proposed safety improvements at the junction include some changes which in our opinion have little to do with safety at the bridge. Long term changes to traffic management need a separate strategic approach looking at the whole of the Chelsea Embankment traffic flows from the Chelsea Bridge to Battersea Bridge. These should not be conflated with the need for improved safety at the Battersea Bridge junction.
We made clear our objection to these changes in our previous response but for the record we repeat them here in summary form with detailed arguments on each point in the balance of this letter:
- Banned left turn to Beaufort Street
Makes resident access more difficult and pushes more traffic onto the already congested Oakley Street.
- Westbound bus lane from Royal Hospital Road to Battersea Bridge
Will add significantly to queuing and spread consequent pollution in all the streets of east Chelsea north of the Embankment through to the Kings Road.
- Chelsea Bridge banned left turn
Installed as an emergency measure in 2020, and TfL has not yet published analysis of the impacts on the Albert Bridge and Battersea Bridge junctions. After over two years, why has TfL not applied the Battersea Bridge left turn solution to Chelsea Bridge?
I will now address the detailed reasoning behind each of the above:
Banned left turn to Beaufort Street
I said in August that we did not support yet another banned turn into Chelsea from the TfL Road Network, at Beaufort Street. Coupled with the existing right-turn ban, this change will make residents’ access to Beaufort Street more difficult and push additional traffic onto Oakley Street. Given the volume of correspondence about that road, which is still a TfL-funded Quietway, I need hardly tell you that we would not wish TfL to add more traffic to that road. The answer from some residents is for TfL to ban the turns into that road too, but the Council remains of the view that it is unfair to load all traffic onto just one road – in this case Royal Hospital Road. The published TfL view is that because relatively few vehicles make the left turn at present, the increase in traffic on other north-south roads will be “negligible”.
Several months on, TfL has not demonstrated to our residents in any detail why it would be so harmful to implement a safety scheme that retained the ability of drivers to turn left into Beaufort Street. The simple explanation remains that it would result in unacceptably long eastbound queues:
“We have proposed to ban this turn to reduce the number of movements at the junction, and to protect bus and traffic journey times over the wider area”.
The website goes on to say that options that retained the left turn to Beaufort Street were modelled and that in each case there would be more congestion, with eastbound queues reaching back to King’s Road. We think this is because eastbound traffic would have to pass through the junction in a single lane. This is of course what westbound traffic will have because the nearside westbound lane will be for left-turning traffic only.
The TfL website summarises the predicted traffic impacts in terms of journey times, for buses and for general traffic. It does not provide any information on queue lengths. Previous discussions between officers suggests that the scheme proposed by TfL will have westbound queues stretching far beyond the Royal Hospital Road junction in the busiest peak (evening). This is three times the forecast length of the eastbound queue in the busiest (morning) peak, stretching towards King’s Road.
As we understand it, the reason that TfL will not retain the left turn to Beaufort Street is that doing so would increase that morning peak queue by around 150 per cent, and risk affecting the performance of the King’s Road/Beaufort Street junction. Presumably, the equivalent risk at the Albert Bridge/Chelsea Embankment junction has been accepted by TfL because of the significant demand to turn left onto Battersea Bridge.
The Council agrees that the left turn south onto Battersea Bridge must be retained, and that this will have consequences for traffic flow. The Council is not yet persuaded that TfL has exhausted all possible design options that would retain the left turn north into Beaufort Street. For example, we understand that TfL has not assessed or modelled the impact of a design that would add early release signals for cyclists to the current eastbound layout, (a short left turn lane, which may be used by straight-on cyclists, and two straight-on lanes). Is that the case?
Has TfL examined whether left-turning traffic could be held at its own signal, to allow the pedestrian crossing on the north arm to run at the same time as the crossing on the bridge arm (while the main straight-on eastbound and westbound traffic flows have a green light)?
I had hoped that by this stage TfL would have been able to show that it had carried out further work since August to look at all possible options for retaining the left-turn – even if some of these had to be discounted for one or more reasons.
It is also worth noting that in basing its design decisions on traffic modelling, TfL has ignored the potentially substantial traffic impacts of LB Hammersmith and Fulham’s recent decision to introduce new traffic restrictions on non-residents in roads west of Wandsworth Bridge. It appears these changes came as a surprise to TfL as much as they did to us. We sincerely hope that if these LBHF traffic restrictions place additional traffic on Chelsea roads, then TfL will act to ensure that the LBHF scheme is not allowed to compromise much-needed safety improvements at Battersea Bridge.
Westbound bus lane from Royal Hospital Road to Battersea Bridge
The other main concern that I raised in August – the long westbound bus lane – remains an objectionable feature of the design. Your officers have confirmed to mine that without that bus lane, the traffic queues would be roughly half as long – this makes sense, as it would allow traffic to queue side by side rather than in single file. I note that this queue would still stretch beyond the Albert Bridge junction at the busiest times, though presumably for shorter periods and therefore with less risk to the operation of that sensitive junction.
Your engineers have said that while the bus lane doubles the length of the queue, it would have no impact on the time taken for westbound traffic to clear the junction – this is because the bus lane would give way to two traffic lanes on the approach to the junction such as to maximise the number of vehicles that would clear the junction in each signal cycle from the two traffic lanes. However, TfL has not published modelled journey times for an option without any bus lane, making it impossible to isolate, in terms of congestion impacts, the effect of the bus lane from the effect of the junction changes themselves.
With only one fairly low-frequency bus route able to use that bus lane, the number of bus passengers to benefit from that bus lane will be low – has TfL carried out a benefit: cost ratio analysis? Moreover, it is noted that the bus journey time case for adding a bus lane is even weaker in the afternoon peak, when the journey time impacts of the safety scheme are, by TfL’s figures, expected to be less than a minute.
As with the banned turn, the TfL webpage attempts to provide a justification based on cyclist safety and, in addition, on encouraging compliance with the 20mph speed limit. It is arguable that if there is room for a bus lane in one direction on this stretch of Chelsea Embankment, it would have greater safety and speed-reducing benefits in the eastbound direction, away from the Battersea Bridge junction, where traffic speeds are likely to be much higher than those in the westbound direction.
Shared space section of footway
At the start of this letter, I said that the proposals were virtually unchanged from those we saw in the summer. One change that has been made since then is the proposal to open up the footway in the north-west corner of the junction to cyclists, in order – I understand – to exempt them from the left-turn ban. Even with a slight extension of the footway, it will not be a large space. Allowing people to ride across this space introduces a risk of conflict, undermining the safety objectives of the scheme. Of course, if the left turn for traffic were retained, with an early release signal for cyclists, cyclists would safely be able to turn left on the carriageway.
The proposal to use signals to protect cyclists from vehicles turning left onto Battersea Bridge demonstrates that improving cyclist safety at junctions does not have to mean banning vehicle turning movements. This Council continues to call on TfL to apply its engineers’ ingenuity to the Chelsea Bridge junction, such that traffic would be able to turn left onto that bridge without compromising cyclists’ safety.
I note that the current consultation does not ask people whether they support the scheme, either in part or in full. This would have seemed a more obvious question to put to people, than asking them what impact they expect the proposed changes would have on levels of walking, cycling, bus use and driving. It does provide an opportunity for people to make comments in a free-text box – I hope that the report of the consultation analysis will be able properly to capture the main themes of any comments that people make.
The Council has been consistent over the past couple of years in wanting to see safety improved at this junction and in asking TfL to find ways to do this without adding to the list of banned turns. More recently, when the idea of a 600 metre stretch of bus lane emerged, I questioned the justification for it. Both features have been presented as mitigation measures to reduce the forecast negative consequences of reducing the junction’s traffic capacity. When I wrote to you in August, I proposed that TfL should deliver the safety improvements that we all want, and then monitor the scheme for a period to see whether, in fact, the forecast traffic impacts materialise and require mitigation.
I continue to hold the view that this would be the best way to proceed – in effect, it would continue the phased approach that TfL has already taken at this junction, with Phase 1 having been built already, Phase 2 being the three remaining pedestrian crossings and the protected lane for westbound cyclists, and Phase 3, only if found necessary, being the bus lane and the removal of the left turn to Beaufort Street. I know that this would mean some minor design changes, particularly to the extent of the kerbs on the north-west corner, in Phase 2. By all means have a plan to mitigate unacceptable delays, but let’s not assume that we will have to use them if doing so has other negative consequences.
We have come so far on the basis of a strong local consensus that this junction must be made safer for people, even if this results in less capacity for vehicles. It would be wonderful if we could find agreement on how best to do this.
Cllr. Cem Kemahli,
Lead Member for Planning, Place and Environment