The “missing link” on the Thames Path between Charlton and Woolwich opened on Wednesday – with Greenwich Council pledging to finish the job by trying to open it 24 hours a day.
After 15 years of lobbying by Greenwich Cyclists, the £1.5m route from the Thames Barrier in Charlton to King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich was officially launched by London cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman and Greenwich Council cabinet member Denise Scott-McDonald.
Scott-McDonald, the cabinet member for public realm, told guests that while the connection – which passes through an industrial estate – would “initially” open from 6am to 9pm seven days a week, “our ambition is for it to open 24 hours a day, for everyone”.
37 Bowater Road is the building on the right of the new “missing link” cycle route
The link uses a ramp to pass from the Thames Barrier site into the Westminster Industrial Estate – the old Siemens factory, which dominated the area before closing in 1968 – before passing Thames-Side Studios and the Arts Cafe. A second ramp at the end of Warspite Road then takes walkers and cyclists above the riverside before rejoining the existing Thames Path at King Henry’s Wharf.
Closures by developers aside, the completion of the “missing link” now means near-uninterrupted access to the Thames right through Greenwich borough from Deptford to Thamesmead and beyond, as well as improving cycle access to both North Greenwich tube and the forthcoming Woolwich Crossrail station.
Will Norman, who wheeled a bike through the link as part of the opening ceremony, said: “This really sits at the heart of what the mayor and his team are trying to do: to enable more people to be more active, to get out of their cars and actually enjoy exploring the city and finding new spots. Far more people can access this and use it as part of their daily lives.”
New signage indicates that the link will eventually be joined to Quietway 14, a cycling route which currently runs from Blackfriars Road to Canada Water station.
A Greenwich Council spokesperson told The Charlton Champion that signs directing users to “Greenwich Peninsular” would be corrected.
While the new route will be welcomed, actually getting to the Thames Path can be a challenge for cyclists – particularly crossing the Woolwich Road, which has seen plans for a segregated cycle lane – Cycle Superhighway 4 – dropped. Cyclist Edgaras Cepura was recently killed at the Woolwich Road roundabout in east Greenwich – nine years after Adrianna Skrzypiec died on her bike at the same spot.
He said: “CS4 was separated out under the previous administration into chunks, and the section from Greenwich to Woolwich was downgraded as part of that decision.
“We recently have been looking at the Liveable Neighbourhood programme, and working with the borough to address concerns around the [Greenwich] gyratory and making that safe, which as you know has millions of people coming to visit the Unesco world heritage site.
“Then clearly the next section is to work with the borough on the next part of the route, with borough officers and politicans and coming up with the best way to tackle that.” (See more at our sister site 853.)
Fixing the missing link was one of the ambitions of campaigner Barry Mason, the former co-ordinator of Greenwich Cyclists and neighbouring Southwark Cyclists, who died in 2011.
Mason was well-known for leading a “midsummer madness” ride on 21 June each year, which would start from the Cutty Sark at 2am and arrive at Primrose Hill to see the sun rise on the longest day of the year.
After years as a council pipedream, then a much-delayed period of planning and construction, the Thames Path’s “missing link” between the Thames Barrier in Charlton and King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich will finally open next week.
Greenwich Council cabinet member Denise Scott-McDonald and City Hall walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman will open a link between the two sections of path on Wednesday 20 June at 3.30pm. (Want to go? Sign up here, and thanks to Greenwich Council for letting us know.)
The pathway – which includes a ramp from the Thames Barrier site into the adjacent industrial estate, and an elevated path at Warspite Road on the Woolwich side – will end years of aggravation for walkers and cyclists who have had to divert onto the unpleasant Woolwich Road when travelling along the Thames.
It also removes one of the few significant blockages of south-east London’s stretch of Thames Path – including an almost-interrupted riverside pathway (save for one or two blocks) through Greenwich borough from Deptford Green to Thamesmead – and makes it easier for people to cycle from riverside parts of Woolwich and Thamesmead to North Greenwich station.
However, signs on the route indicate it will only be available from 6am to 9pm. Signs also eventually indicate it will be added to Quietway 14, a cycling route from Blackfriars Road to Canada Water station.
Although someone may need to change the spelling mistake on the signs before it opens…
Not long til new elevated cycle and walking route opens up next to Thames Barrier to avoid Woolwich Road detour. Signs for Q14 route been Woolwich & Peninsular [sic] are up. pic.twitter.com/HTYpOWVZ6R
TheCharlton Champion welcomes submissions of councillors’ reports from Charlton and the surrounding wards. Cllr John Fahy of Woolwich Riverside ward writes:
Woolwich Riverside Ward Report:
Please find an update on my activities over the period since the last newsletter. Meeting attendance has been limited due to a knee replacement in August.
Meeting the needs of Greenwich Residents
There was a time when August was regarded as a period of recess but lots of activity has been happening in the Town Hall. Top of the agenda and the most discussed policy issues relate to the decisions of the Planning Board and the impact these have on the lives of residents facing major housing needs.
I am pleased to see that this debate is now out in the open and a change of policy is required. It cannot be right that the shortage of housing based on a social rent is not being maximised in the Borough. Councillor responsibility is to the needs of our residents rather than the aspiration of developers to maximise their profit margin and develop housing for overseas speculators.
A number of planning applications are in the pipeline that must be regarded as not meeting community aspirations.
Meyer Homes have now submitted their planning application for Woolwich Central Phases 3 and 4. The proposals include three new buildings (each between 9 and 16 Storeys in height). The proposals also include a twenty seven storey Tower Block in Love Lane directly in front of the Tesco Store. The Tower Block does not include any social housing. None at social rent. The proposal includes 20% of units in the new phases which is suggested as being affordable. Of course they will not be.
In addition the Island Site has received planning permission with proposals for housing, retail and a cinema. The amount of social housing is derisory. More importantly, in my view, a significant level of social housing is far more important than a cinema. Indeed a cinema is included in the Spray Street proposals.
The Herringham Road development is the other worrying proposal. The proposals for a 20 Storey Tower Block contrary to the Charlton Riverside Masterplan. Again the lack of social housing is self evident. It was encouraging to see how those attending the Public Exhibition spoke out in clear terms about the proposals.
There are challenging times ahead but the steps taken by Mayor Khan will help to influence a change of direction for the greater good of Londoners.
Council Officers have been working for some time to find solutions to resolve. Solutions have now been found and work will late October. There will be two phases to complete the work and the missing link will open in the Spring of 2018.
All films are entirely free to watch – just turn up at the venue. The festival, which runs from 8-16 September, is entirely run by volunteers and is one of a network of free film festivals across south-east London.
Danny Boyle’s Sunshine will be playing on Saturday 9 September at The Stables – next door to Charlton House – with Flamsteed Astronomy Society on hand to bring you a solar observing session. That evening will see thriller The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, screened in the eerie surroundings of Charlton House after dark.
The Stables also plays host to Dirty Dancing – with bonus salsa class – on Wednesday 13 September – and Rising From Ashes – about the first Rwandan cycling team – on Saturday 16 September.
Documentary Ha’way The Lads – about legendary Charlton Athletic manager Jimmy Seed’s determination to break away from the North East’s coalfields and play football – plays at the Swan on Monday 11 September, with a short talk from Seed’s grandson James Dutton. This night is hosted by the independent, volunteer-run Charlton Athletic Museum.
Other highlights include Suffragette at Greenwich Rugby Football Club, Plumstead Common on Sunday 10 September, Trading Places at the Woolwich Equitable pub on Monday 11 September, Salma Hayek in acclaimed biopic Frida at Artfix in Woolwich on Wednesday 13 September and Battle of Britain at St George’s Garrison Church off Woolwich Common on Friday 15 September, featuring a guided walk from local historian Steve Hunnisett.
Transport for London is planning to halve the bus service between Greenwich town centre and Charlton as part of changes set to be brought in for the launch of Crossrail services at Woolwich and Abbey Wood.
Route 180, which links Charlton with Greenwich and Lewisham, will be diverted at the Woolwich Road flyover to run to North Greenwich station, with small cuts to be made to the frequency of the 472, which will continue to run to North Greenwich. The 129 service, which runs from North Greenwich to Greenwich town centre, will be extended to Lewisham as part-compensation.
TfL says 770 passengers will have to change buses each day as a result of the changes – and with no plans outlined to boost the frequency of the 177, the number of buses between Greenwich town centre and Charlton will drop from 12 buses per hour to six.
Both the 180 and 472 will also see changes at the other ends of their routes: the 180 will run to the Quarry development in Erith rather than the Belvedere industrial estates, while the 472 will run via Western Way in Thamesmead to terminate at Abbey Wood station, instead of its current route via Nathan Way.
Other changes will see route 178, which serves Shooters Hill Road, return to using double-decker buses to cater for expected extra demand for travel to Woolwich. Double-deckers will also return to routes 244 and 291, which run to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
A new service, the 301, will run from Woolwich to Bexleyheath via Nathan Way (replacing the 472) and Abbey Wood. There are other service changes affecting the Erith and Belvedere areas, which can be seen on the TfL website.
There are no changes to buses along Charlton Road, or the 380 or 486 services.
The change to the 180 will make it harder to reach Greenwich from Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead and Abbey Wood.
What does this mean if I want to travel from Charlton to North Greenwich?
If you live east of Charlton station, there will be more buses to North Greenwich (20 rather than 16 per hour in peak times), but you’ll be more likely to get a slower service. There will be fewer buses on the faster 472 service via Bugsby’s Way – eight per hour instead of the current 10. More buses will run on the slower route via the Woolwich Road flyover – 12 per hour on the combined 161 and 180, compared with six on the 161 now.
From Charlton station, there will be no change to the 486. But from the stop in Anchor and Hope Lane next to Makro, there will now be 16 buses per hour rather than 18 (not including the morning-only extra services from here on the 472, which will continue). Or you could cross to the stop by the Antigallican, where 12 buses per hour will run on the slower route via Woolwich Road flyover, shared between the 161 and 180 (compared with six now on the 161).
Local transport campaigners have long complained about the “dance of death” where services from Charlton station to North Greenwich are split across the three stops serving the Woolwich Road/Anchor & Hope Lane junction. These changes bring more buses across these stops (28 rather than 24), but will mean more people will have to do that “dance of death” at a junction Greenwich Council says is the borough’s most dangerous.
From west of Charlton station, it’s a straightforward increase – from six 161 buses per hour to 12 on the combined 161 and 180 service. If you travel to/from the Greenwich Ikea site, however, you’ll see the overall level of service up the Greenwich Peninsula is hardly changing – it’ll increase from 44 to 45 buses per hour in the rush hour.
From Charlton Village – no change. Nothing is planned for the 422 or 486.
Current peak service
Proposed peak service
472 N G’wich: 10
161 N G’wich: 6
180 Greenwich: 6
177 Greenwich: 6
472 N G’wich: 8
161/180 N G’wich: 12
177 Greenwich: 6
Anchor & Hope Lane
472 N G’wich 10*
486 N G’wich: 8
472 N G’wich: 8*
486 N G’wich: 8
Rose of Denmark
161 N G’wich: 6
180 Greenwich: 6
177 Greenwich: 6
161/180 N G’wich: 12
177 Greenwich: 6
Greenwich Ikea site
All buses: 44*
All buses: 45*
*Does not include the extra buses on the 472 between Charlton and North Greenwich, which run mornings only and are due to continue.
I want to travel from Charlton to Greenwich town centre – what do I do?
You’ll have to wait longer if you want to travel from Charlton to Greenwich – you’ll only have the six buses per hour on the already-busy 177 to rely on in future. A possible – but more expensive – alternative will be the National Rail service from Woolwich Dockyard, Charlton or Westcombe Park stations to Maze Hill or Greenwich.
Or you could change buses at Greenwich Ikea, although the proposed 129 service from there to Greenwich and Lewisham will be cut to a bus every 12 minutes – less frequent than the current 180.
The cut to the 472’s frequencies mean there will be slightly fewer buses to Woolwich from Anchor & Hope Lane – down from 30 buses an hour at peak times to 28. Up the hill, no changes are planned to the 53, 54, 380 or 422.
Where’s my bus from Woolwich Road to Lewisham gone?
TfL suggests you change buses at Greenwich Ikea, but the proposed 129 service from there to Greenwich and Lewisham will be cut to a bus every 12 minutes – less frequent than the current 180. There are also fears of widespread traffic congestion when the Ikea store opens in late 2018, around the time these changes are due to take effect.
Taking a 177 to Greenwich town centre and changing there for a 129 or 199 will be a more sensible – but still fiddly – option. Those who want to change to other buses in Lewisham will lose out by having to pay another fare. TfL wants to expand its Hopper fare so it offers unlimited bus changes in an hour rather than just two – there is no date for this yet.
If you’re one of them, be sure to fill in the consultation and tell your local representatives what you think.
There will be no change to the 54 or 380 services to Lewisham, while there is a half-hourly National Rail service from Charlton to Lewisham.
Squeezed finances at TfL – but questions over modelling
Technical notes supplied by TfL indicate that it expects demand for bus travel between Greenwich and Woolwich – including Charlton – to drop after Crossrail services begin in December 2018. It also expects demand to drop along Charlton Road, although there is no cut planned for services there.
It is not made clear how TfL has reached this conclusion, although it could reflect some journeys from Woolwich to places such as New Cross and Peckham switching from bus to Crossrail and London Overground.
While the new “hopper” fare – which enables people to take two buses within an hour for the price of one fare – reduces the impact of the latest truncation of the route, it will still inconvenience many passengers. Indeed, recent figures obtained by London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon show the 53 is the 10th most popular route for hopper fare users – these passengers won’t be able to take a third bus to finish their journey. (It’s worth asking the bus driver for a transfer ticket if this affects you.)
Wednesday update: Did you go to this? Let us know in the comments below what you thought…
Most fair-minded observers would agree that Greenwich Council’s recent history of engagement with the public isn’t brilliant – the saga of the Charlton skatepark, a potentially good thing but made more difficult because it was imposed on people without discussion, being the perfect example.
We’ve tried to do our bit to improve matters here by carrying updates from Charlton councillor Gary Parker. Now the council’s holding public meetings – the first for about a decade – in parts of the borough to get views on local areas and how they could be improved.
They’re called Better Together, and the Woolwich & Charlton event is on Tuesday 20 September at Charlton House. If you’re around during the day, you can come to drop-in sessions from 2-6pm, and there’s a formal meeting from 7pm to 8.30pm. You don’t need to sign up in advance.
The meeting covers most of Charlton as well as Woolwich – Charlton, Kidbrooke with Hornfair, Woolwich Common and Woolwich Riverside wards. (An event covering Peninsula ward was held on Monday in Greenwich.)
What to bring up? Current gripes include the state of the streets from litter – in November, a council scrutiny panel will discuss “particular challenges in maintaining the state of the environment in Plumstead and Charlton” – to general maintenance, it could be road safety (have the 20mph zones worked?), reviving the fortunes of Charlton Village or fathoming out what the hell is going on at Charlton Lido.
Of course, the council can’t do everything – but raising an issue here might start a ball rolling.