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Key London transport schemes go off the rails

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Transport for London (TfL) has thrown the future of two of the capital’s key design-led projects into doubt.
The AJ has discovered that both John McAslan + Partner’s Oxford Street tram proposals and the much-heralded bus shelter design competition have hit the buffers.

Last December it was revealed McAslan had been asked by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone to draw up a feasibility study for the reintroduction of trams along the shopping strip, and its subsequent pedestrianisation (AJ 13.12.07).

However the new Mayor, Boris Johnson, has poured cold water on the proposals after he asked for a pan-London review of all the tram schemes currently on the drawing board.

The news has been welcomed by Westminster City Council, which has never supported the plan. Speaking about Livingstone’s proposals back in 2006, Westminster leader Simon Milton – who has now joined Johnson’s mayoral team – said: ‘Westminster proposed a tram scheme 20 years ago, but was beaten by the costs and the logistics; there was nowhere else for the traffic to go. The position hasn’t changed today. It has got worse.’

TfL insists that despite Johnson’s decision, the scheme has not died. A spokesman said: ‘This is a temporary situation pending the review.’ McAslan was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, the TfL-run contest to find a new design to replace London’s 12,500 bus shelters – hailed by Design for London boss Peter Bishop ‘as the chance to design a new icon’ – has failed to come up with a winner.

According to the competition jury, which included Bishop, Richard Rogers and Deyan Sudjic, none of the nine shortlisted proposals, which included work by Ian Ritchie Architects and Conran & Partners, were good enough to be taken forward.

TfL has now gone back to the drawing board in its bid to find a new design – a search started when its original, ‘hi-tech’ replacement by product designer Lacock Gullam came in for heavy criticism and was eventually ditched.

Speaking about the failure to find a winner, a TfL spokesperson said: ‘While some of the entries were interesting, the judging panel did not feel that any of the designs met all our needs in terms of aesthetics, economics and practicality.’

A disappointed Ian Ritchie said: ‘I find it very surprising of the nine competing schemes they didn’t find one that had something that could be considered any good.’
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