Tottenham Court Road's two-way look

IMG 6690fi - Tottenham Court Road's two-way look

Easter 2019 saw the main London road (northbound direction only for decades) revert to two way though the southbound lane is mainly for buses. Other traffic heading south must use Gower Street as usual (its also been made two way.) With the ongoing demonstrations in Central London, its difficult to see the benefits if any of the new Tottenham Court Road two way system. Traffic’s probably doubly quiet at the moment… It was good to see the buses being able to use the road southbound, although it must be pointed out the scheme is by all means not complete.

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New signs and signals by Warren Street tube banning turns into Tottenham Court Road except for buses.

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Hooray! Clap your hands and stamp your feet cos its a bus doing a left hand turn into the new Tottenham Court Road contraflow bus lane!

The West End Project is Camden Council’s £35 million scheme to deliver exciting improvements to the heart of Camden’s busy West End. Work is now underway to transform the areas around Tottenham Court Road, Gower Street, Bloomsbury Street, Princes Circus and St Giles, helping the area to continue to grow and flourish. Major changes include Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street/Bloomsbury Street becoming two way to traffic, reducing congestion and air pollution and speeding up bus routes.

Source: Camden West End Project

The plans were for a total ban on all taxis, cars, and lorries, although what I saw was all traffic being allowed in the area (with the exception of the contra-flow bus lanes.) It seems the full restrictions will not be implemented until the completion of the entire project in early 2020.

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From 20th April 2019 – ‘new road layout in operation.’

There are no permanent bus stops in either direction – only temporary ones. Those that served the northbound bus routes have been removed and awaiting the completion of replacement shelters. There are none yet for the southbound direction and the stops are simply denoted by temporary signs.

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Handouts reminding people of the new two-way layout.

There were signs out in force advising people to keep a look out for two way traffic and stewards were in attendance, much like when the two way routeing at Baker Street began a couple of months ago. (I don’t have a report on that although I did cover it. There’s one at Diamond Geezer’s blog. There were hand outs for that too although I got my leaflet from the tube rather than a steward!)

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Plenty of other work yet to be done before the scheme is complete. The roadside cabinet at left marks the old edge of the road.

Of the two new contra-flow roads (Baker Street and Tottenham Court Road) the latter is more convivial and has far more space for pedestrians. From where things currently stands it looks like Tottenham Court Road will be the more superior scheme of the two and people will no doubt appreciate it more when the entire West End Project is complete.

There has been huge opposition to this scheme – mainly in terms of the new road schemes (just as there has been at Baker Street) and loads has been written in the local newspapers on these (Camden New Journal, Ham & High, and West End Extra) with many different parties (locals, taxi drivers, cyclists, all airing their concerns) thus there has been quite a bit of opposition. No doubt it will take time for people to get used to the idea that traffic now flows both ways on these important Central London roads.

Its nothing new of course, both these main arteries once had two way flows, this is going back a long time. The new one way scheme at Tottenham Court Road was opened on 1st May 1961 which means its nearly sixty years since this road last saw two way traffic!

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Until today, (20th April) its not been possible to see Tottenham Court Road in two-way format from the Telecom (ex Post Office) Tower!

These two way conversions are nothing new, if one remembers far back enough, Piccadilly used to be one way too! It was converted about the same time as Tottenham Court Road. On 6th May 1973 the first attempt at reversing the notion that all main London roads should be one way, a dedicated bus only lane westbound on Piccadilly, opened.

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Sheesh! They’re building a bus lane right in front of Eros! Piccadilly Circus 1973.

It garnered so much opposition and flew in the face of what London had come to accept – that one way schemes were the answer to its traffic woes. What made many angry was the GLC proposed a one way bus lane right across the front of the Statue of Eros in order to provide a continuous link between Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly.

And because that became the first fly-in-your-face kind of contra-flow traffic scheme, many people were caught out by it and it resulted in a number of deaths. There were calls for it to be scrapped. However it stayed and people soon came to accept one way streets aren’t always uni-directional.

In terms of other contra-flow schemes the other recent one to be opened has been that from the top end of Drake Street (by Red Lion Square) to New Oxford Street. Its a bit of a quirky one because half the bus routes have to use the old route (via High Holborn) and half the new route (via Theobalds Road and Bloomsbury Way) in the westbound direction so I’m a little mixed as to the success of this one, apart from the fact that people can change buses at the common shared stops in New Oxford Street.

Let’s not forget it was worse when right turns were banned and people had to take a series of turns down side streets in order to achieve a right hand turn! All those have now gone I dont think there is a single reverse right hand turn in London anymore. If anyone were to try and bring these back no-one would be happy lol!

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One of Putney’s buses nearing the end of its run on the 14.

One thing I noticed is that drivers from Putney seemed uncertain as to which route they should use in order to take up duty when working back south with some using Grafton Way and others Torrington Place. The latter’s clearly very novel in terms of regular use by London’s red buses! Its not totally off kelter however as nearby Store Street was used as a bus turning route (instead of Oxford Circus) for a number of years for both the 8, 55 and 242. I would think Grafton Way is the official route for taking up southbound duties on the 14.

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One of Potter Bar’s red buses at the temporary bus stop by Goodge Street tube – all the stops in this road are being replaced.

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390 heading south complete with Pets 2 all over advert. Note the cut-out guy with his sign ‘Look both ways.’

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Surprised driver enters the former northbound lane – only its now southbound and a bus is heading her way. Quick reverse please!

The usual stance with these projects is to make the pedestrians are more user friendly, in effect creating a kind of linear piazza whilst narrowing down the roadway itself considerably. As this was Easter weekend plus the demonstrations being held in Central London, it was too early to see what sort of effect these changes would have on the traffic flows.

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Tottenham Court Road northbound by Heals. Its quite evident how much narrower it has become.

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The northbound part of Tottenham Court Road is rather wider. I think this is because its always a pinch point here (with traffic coming off side roads too) thus the planners have bestowed extra width so as not to compromise the traffic flows too much.

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Another view of the northern section, with new bus stop shelter being built.

The bus shelters are clearly of a different kind. They are brand new which is a surprise and they are of a different style, one that I have not seen before. The roof is a completely different to earlier styles. In contrast the conversion of Baker Street to two-way involved the re-use of bus stops from elsewhere on the network!

Here at Tottenham Court Road however its new bus stops. Clearly the different councils (Camden and Westminster) have a different approach to these new road schemes. It seems Camden’s more generous by providing new bus stops. I am sure when the Tottenham Court Road scheme is finished it will be much more exciting than the one at Baker Street!

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2 Responses to “Tottenham Court Road's two-way look

  • John Gristwood
    3 months ago

    It is foolish, dangerous & confusing for drivers & pedestrians, totally unnecessary and unwelcome to revert Tottenham Court Road & Gower Street, W1, to forms of two-way traffic. I’m not in acceptance of the rationality behind the West End Project.
    Myself and all the fellow Londoners, Tourists, & business people whom I’ve communicated with were perfectly content with one-way traffic arrangement on those two roads.
    One way traffic on roads is undeniably the most efficient & safe road scheme to get traffic in a major City moving freely.
    I use buses in Central London 3-5 times per week. The one-way systems on Gower Street & Tottenham Court Road, W1, at no time caused me difficulty or inconvenience when travelling around that area on Buses.
    Please revert these two roads to one-way traffic before we experience injuries & fatalities amongst drivers & pedestrians. People are very easily confused when dealing with London roads. One-way systems pose far less demand on people’s intellect than two-way systems.

  • I disagree. The priority on these roads should be pedestrian safety and a more pleasant environment, not “getting traffic flowing freely”. The early signs are that this is being achieved by the project.

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