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The Torrington-Tavistock traffic trial was no failure

23 November, 2017

• CONCERNING the letter (Failure of traffic trial, November 9), having attended much of the recent public inquiry into the trial of one-way working in Tavistock Place, I was surprised at the assertion of the Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group’s Nicky Coates that it has been a failure.

There seem to have been three main objectives of this trial. First, to reduce traffic in Torrington Place and Byng Place, which are both crossed daily by thousands of students on foot.

Traffic count figures show there to have been a 30 per cent reduction in vehicle numbers through those two streets during the trial – hardly a failure.

Then Camden was faced with the need to bring the very popular cycle lane on Tavistock Place and Torrington Place up to current London standards for width and segregation.

This was achieved during the trial by the simple expedient of converting the redundant west-bound traffic lane into a cycle lane. No expensive and disruptive engineering work, just a simple, elegant solution. No failure, there, I suggest.

Finally it was hoped that there would be a reduction in traffic flow over the wider area of the “Bloomsbury Box”, the area contained within Euston Road – Theobalds Road, Gower Street, Gray’s Inn Road.

Again, traffic flow data show a 7 per cent reduction of traffic within the box, while counts from the area including the boundary roads show only a fall of 0.7 per cent.

In other words, while traffic through the area as a whole hasn’t changed much, vehicles using the streets in the box have fallen in number significantly. This seems to imply a shift of traffic to the main road network, which is where it should be. I don’t see much sign of failure in that either.

Of course, there are some down sides. In particular, two new “rat-runs” have been created, one which passes the The Royal National Institute of Blind People headquarters. Even though the vehicle numbers are not very high, some remedial action is needed.

The second one cuts up from Southampton Row, round Russell Square, up Bedford Way, Tavistock Square and into Endsleigh Gardens.

Further reductions to the traffic in the box could be achieved by stemming that route, perhaps by removing the left filter into Bloomsbury Place from Southampton Row.

An additional downside of the trial, raised at the inquiry, is the difficulty it introduces of entry and exit from taxis of severely disabled people requiring access to the Imperial Hotel.

Personally, I am surprised that a hotel offering accommodation packages for disabled people and their carers should still, in this day and age, depend upon the public highway for its access.

I would expect to find a proper loading and unloading covered bay to be available within the curtilage of the site. Seems a bit downmarket to me, still to depend on the pavement.

So, Ms Coates, not an unmitigated success, but certainly no “failure”, as you would have us believe. Let us hope that the inquiry inspector is able to see past the trees of the objections raised by the trial’s opponents to the wood of a successful and cheap traffic trial.

Hadley Street, NW1


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