Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the London Borough of Barnet

  The London Borough of Barnet welcomes the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee. This memorandum highlights a specific issue the Council wishes to draw the Committee's attention to and should be read in conjunction with the evidence submitted by the North London Strategic Alliance of which Barnet is a member.

  The Council's primary concern relates to the A406 North Circular Road which, between Wembley and the A12, is intended to form part of the Olympic Route Network. The A406 forms a key strategic orbital route through North London from the A4 in the West to the A13 in the East. The A406 is the only major orbital route between the inner ring road and the M25.

  The A406 has been the subject of numerous studies and improvement plans from the 1970s which aimed to improve it to a consistent standard throughout its length. During the 1990s major schemes were implemented on much of the route to the north and east to achieve a consistent standard of dual 3-lane carriageway or dual 2-lane with link roads with full grade separation of all junctions. From the A13 to just west of the A10, the A406 now meets this standard. This standard is also maintained from the A10 to the junction with the M1 Motorway with the exception of three locations.

  These are:

    —  A502 Golders Green Road junction

    —  A406/A1/A598 Regents Park Road junction (Henlys Corner)

    —  Bounds Green to Green Lanes

  The first two locations are wholly within the London Borough of Barnet, with the third partly located in the borough and the adjoining borough of Enfield.

  During the late 1980s and early 1990s, schemes (the major improvements) were developed for these locations by the Department for Transport and, for the Golders Green Road and Henlys Corner schemes, the proposals were progressed through public inquiries and pre-construction works to the point of letting design and build contracts.

  Following the review of the national roads programme, the A406 improvement schemes were put on hold pending the formation of the Greater London Authority (GLA) who were set to take over responsibility for Trunk Roads in London. To assist the GLA in deciding the future role of the A406 and the improvement schemes, the Government Office for London commissioned a report, published in February 2000, investigating the problems and potential solutions for this key route.

  Having taken over responsibility for the A406, Transport for London gave consideration to the planned major improvements and decided to abandon them in favour of small scale schemes. Transport for London also indicated an intention to dispose of property purchased to allow construction of the major improvements. The Council is dissatisfied by the way in which this decision was made and this has been the subject of legal correspondence between the Council and TfL.

  In 2002, Transport for London consulted on their newly developed revised schemes which were generally described as environmental and safety improvements. The Council responded to TfL's consultation indicating that the proposals were inadequate to deal with the issue of endemic congestion at these sites and indeed, the proposals were likely to worsen rather than reduce that congestion.

  To date, the implementation of TfL's revised schemes in Barnet has not taken place, we understand due to difficulties of achieving a satisfactory scheme without grade-separation of the junctions. An assessment of the latest version of the revised schemes showed that they had a very large negative economic benefit ratio due to large increases in delays to vehicular traffic.

  The A406 problem is one of great concern to the Council and Barnet will be delivering a significant element of the new homes and jobs proposed for London by 2016 as set out in the Mayor's London Plan. Barnet has a number of major development sites and current proposals will see growth far exceeding the levels set out in the London Plan.

  Much of the regeneration in the borough will be delivered through a scheme providing a new town centre with 10,000 new homes and 20,000 new jobs at Cricklewood/Brent Cross/West Hendon. The regeneration area straddles the A406 between its junctions with the A5, M1 and A41. The eastern boundary of the regeneration area is immediately adjacent to the start of the Golders Green Road major improvement scheme. This regeneration scheme is currently progressing through the planning process and is anticipated to deliver 3,000-4,000 new homes by 2012.

  In addition to the growth arising from the regeneration schemes, the Mayor's Transport Strategy recognises that traffic levels in North London will increase as a result of development and through background growth in car ownership. The Council is concerned that the predictions and assessments in the Transport Strategy, London Plan and Olympic Transport plans, do not take into account the higher levels of growth in the borough we have been discussing with TfL.

  The major A406 improvement schemes, which were approved following the public inquiries, were developed to address concerns over congestion which was at that time predicted to occur if nothing was done. The work carried out by the Department for Transport predicted that congestion would reach unacceptable levels long before 2012, unless the major schemes were implemented. The Henlys Corner scheme is located at the intersection of three of North London's major strategic routes.

  No improvements have been made since the public inquiries and the current situation is widely regarded as unacceptable. In addition to the congestion, pollution and accidents which occur on the A406 itself, adjacent borough roads are plagued by rat-running traffic using parallel routes to avoid the worst sections of the A406.

  The Council understands that TfL intend to install dedicated lanes on the A406 to allow Olympic traffic to bypass any congestion. We are concerned that this will not only exacerbate the existing problem, but by 2012, the growth in traffic may make this option impracticable, especially as in some sections, the A406 would be reduced to a single lane for general traffic.

  We also understand that much of TfL's work is based on the timing of the Olympics falling in the summer months when the transport networks are less well used. Although this may be the case for much of the Olympic Route Network, our initial assessment of flows on the A406 suggests that summertime traffic flows are not significantly reduced compared to the radial routes. We believe that this effect may be caused in part by traffic which normally diverts onto parallel routes remaining on the A406 instead. However, this effect requires further investigation and an assessment of how changes in traffic conditions by 2012 will actually affect flows on the A406 during the summer months. The Council believes that TfL's modelling of the A406 as an Olympic Route needs to be scrutinised to ensure that the predicted levels of traffic in 2012 take into account all relevant growth.

  The Council has grave concerns regarding the practicability of installing and enforcing the proposed dedicated lanes on the A406 especially as the improvement schemes have become a very emotive issue for the local community. Since the lanes form a key part of the movement strategy for athletes and officials, we feel further investigation is needed into the consequences if, for example, there is widespread abuse of the lanes by general traffic.

  As with many of the Olympic Transport schemes, the A406 major improvements are needed in their own right, not just to cater for Olympic traffic. The Council was disappointed that following lobbying by the North London Strategic Alliance and the affected boroughs, the outcome of the 2004 Spending Review did not include funding for the major A406 schemes and instead schemes more closely linked to the Olympics, such as the East London Line, were given priority. The Council is concerned that funding for the A406 major schemes may be made less likely if priority is given to the Olympic transport plans and if costs on these schemes start to exceed current estimates.

  As stated above, the two major A406 improvement schemes in Barnet have completed all statutory processes and only need funding to be made available for them to progress almost immediately.

  A window of opportunity exists prior to the Olympics to carry out these schemes, providing benefits to the Olympics and to North London as a whole. If this opportunity is not taken, the Council fears that to avoid disruption to the Olympics it would effectively become impossible for the major schemes to proceed until after 2012, by which time the situation on the North Circular Road will have deteriorated further. Of critical importance is the risk that once traffic flows reach a certain level, constructing the improvements will become difficult and even impossible without major disruption.

  The Council is also aware that the Department for Transport are considering widening of the M25 along the Northern section which runs parallel to the A406. Whilst this may provide some relief to the A406 in the medium term, it will not resolve the long-term congestion problem. It also adds the complication that work on the M25 and A406 needs to be closely co-ordinated to avoid major disruption, particularly during the Olympic construction phase. Although TfL's plans envisage spectators using public transport to travel to the Olympic venues, during the construction phase, materials, plant and workers are more likely to use the road network including the A406.

  The Council looks forward to London being able to host a successful and efficiently run Olympic Games, but as outlined above, we have serious concerns about the ability of the A406 to operate as a key route without the completion of the major improvement schemes. By 2012, it will be 20 years since the Department for Transport successfully demonstrated to an independent Planning Inspector that these major improvements were vital for efficient traffic movement and the economic wellbeing of North London. If the schemes have not been implemented by then, it will be a case, not of "Going for gold", but instead "disqualified for false starts".

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