For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.
The road less travelled (31.03.09)
It has now become the norm for local authorities to close roads for weeks, months and even years on end to allow private developers to get rich quick (well in the current economic climate not quite so quick) to the detriment of council taxpayers and just about everyone else.
This trend was started by Westminster City Council when a few years ago they closed off the south side of Berkley Square and then followed with their piece de resistance, the closure of Edinburgh Gate, along with large swathes of public highway around Scotch House..
If you were thinking that we had reached the limit of audacity that even the property developers and local councillors thought they could get away with, then you would be wrong. There cannot be a cab driver in London who has not, at some time in the last few months, been stuck in the catastrophe that was until recently the Aldgate gyratory system.
This is by far the single worse traffic scheme to be imposed on London since some idiot decided it would be a good idea, to allow a few backpackers and economy tourists to eat their packed lunches in the road outside the National Gallery, closing off the entire north side of Trafalgar Square.
At Aldgate the surrounding areas of Whitechapel and Spitalfields are now gridlocked for virtually the entire day and the queue of stationery traffic spreads throughout all the small residential streets around this area.
The Aldgate East gyratory was built in the Seventies but has been criticised ever since for creating a “racetrack” mentality among motorists, terrifying pedestrians and cyclists. The word racetrack in this context is a euphemism for no traffic jams, and about the only road left in London where you can travel at 30mph.
Under an £8 million engineering scheme due to take the rest of the year, Whitechapel High Street will be returned to two-way traffic.
Braham Street, which runs parallel with Whitechapel High Street to the South will be transformed next year. Pavements will be widened and a new entrance to Aldgate East Tube station will be created.
The project, overseen by Transport for London, is being funded by developer Tishman Speyer, which plans to build a commercial development at the eastern end of Braham Street. In return, the company will be given the parcel of land, currently the highway, free.
This commercial development, which will no doubt remain empty just like the dozens of others within a few hundred yards, is being built on what was a public highway. Even after The Great Fire of London much to the annoyance of Sir Christopher Wren, people rebuilt their houses on the same footprint so the road layouts remained untouched.
But now quite how somebody “buys” a four lane stretch of public highway has yet to be explained, but it’s happened. What next? Why not close the Victoria Embankment under the guise of making it more pedestrian friendly and then sell it off to build a mile long block of luxury flats with river views?