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MP slams plans to demolish Arup Associates’ Vauxhall bus station

Vauxhall Bus Station by Arup Associates
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Labour MP Kate Hoey has hit out at plans to flatten Arup Associates’ 10-year-old Vauxhall bus station 

The £4.5 million ‘ski-jump’ building was first threatened with demolition in 2011 when a contest was launched to design a new ‘linear walkway’ across the site.

Those plans were later abandoned and in 2013 Lambeth Council drafted in Terry Farrell to look at creating a new high street around the busy transport interchange south of The Thames.

Now the local authority and Transport for London (TfL) are consulting on a detailed scheme to replace the gyratory and the landmark bus station with a two-way flow of traffic, which they claim will be safer.

The ambitious project would see the distinctive stainless steel shelter demolished and the bus stops moved to a new high street layout. 

But in a House of Commons debate Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey said the bus station should not be bulldozed. She told the house: ‘The whole scheme is so ridiculous. [When the bus station was opened] it was immediately hailed by architects and public transport users as inspired.

Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian’s architectural correspondent, said that it was “a trumpet blast”, but that what made it “so special is the fact that it is localised… the Vauxhall bus station does show what can be done as public transport in London is taken increasingly seriously… it points to a new ambition, however crudely expressed by politicians, to make London’s public transport system among the finest in the world.”’’

She continued: ‘The bus station is entirely functional, and appreciated by its users from all over London, and especially by the residents of Vauxhall, who remember the time before it was built.’

Our Vauxhall

Our Vauxhall

Community group Our Vauxhall’s alternative plans drawn up by DSDHA

Meanwhile local community group Our Vauxhall has mooted alternative plans for the site which it says provide a ‘viable alternative to Transport for London’s proposals’.

Drawn up by architect DSDHA, this rival, community-led scheme aims to create a new public space while keeping the Arup Associates-designed bus station. 

The practice says its proposals for the area will complete the green route between Battersea and Nine Elms by linking Vauxhall Park with Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Commenting on the alternative scheme, Hoey added: ‘I am confident that in a straight competition Our Vauxhall’s plans would outperform TfL’s on a range of measures, including overall road safety and total distance travelled. They would also be much cheaper and quicker to implement and avoid some of the issues raised.

‘The community’s solution for Vauxhall shows that it is possible to retain the existing bus station structure by modifying certain entrances and exits and to get rid of the gyratory system.’

Speaking to The Evening Standard, Alan Bristow, director of road space management at TfL, said: ‘Londoners told us very clearly that they wanted to see an end to the intimidating one-way road system at Vauxhall. To bring in a two-way system, the current station has to be removed but that will also allow us to create new public spaces and speed up bus journeys as they will no longer need to navigate the gyratory.’

The consultation on the TfL plans closes on Sunday (17 January).

Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for Jobs and Growth at Lambeth Council on why the authority wants to redevelop the bus station site

For many years I’ve been campaigning for a better Vauxhall: a place that is nice to live, where people want to come to work and boost our local economy, and where families choose to visit or friends meet. For too long Vauxhall has been missing out as people stop only to catch another bus, tube or train. In the meantime pedestrians battle to cross the dangerous, noisy gyratory and cyclists risk their lives.

Now, TfL is consulting on an option which enables Vauxhall to be the thriving riverside town centre we want it to be. This represents a £50 million investment and could mean work starts in 2018.

Despite some short-term pain and disruption, I think it’s obvious that removing the Vauxhall Cross gyratory will make Vauxhall better and that most local residents and businesses agree – no one wants a six-lane motorway with thousands of cars and lorries speeding through their town centre, especially given the growth of this area as a business district.

It’s better for pedestrians. Traffic will be slower and the number of lanes will be reduced. Eight extra crossings will make it easier to get around whether you are from Wyvil and want to enjoy Vauxhall City Farm or go from Ashmole Estate where I live to the River.

Thanks to suggestions from Kennington Oval Vauxhall Forum (KOVF) we have been able to push TfL to close an extra lane of traffic on South Lambeth Road and reclaim it for wider pavements. There will be a new ‘interchange square’ without traffic linking bus stops, the tube and the overground station. Albert Embankment will be widened and planted for a much nicer public space in a much safer way. 

The bus stops will remain together, which was something local councillors and communities were concerned about in the early days. This has been achieved by TfL and many of the bus routes will have shorter journeys. You can check out what your regular route will look like online.

It’s also better for cyclists. Segregated cycle lanes on South Lambeth Road and Wandsworth Road would reduce conflict with pedestrians. It also adds cycling routes from and to CS5 from South Lambeth Road down Miles Street, and added to the slowed traffic and introduction of two-way working, Vauxhall will no longer be a death-trap for cyclists.

Of course there are many for whom it doesn’t go far enough, or compromises on their specific issue or their specific geography. I know some who would love to see cars removed entirely, or for their side of the gyratory to be closed at the expense of more lanes on the other sides.

But as a local Councillor representing the whole of Oval and Vauxhall, the need to balance out and accommodate as many needs as possible has to be my goal. And ultimately it is TfL’s scheme and they are the ones who are going to have to implement it and ensure that such significant changes to the inner ring road do not adversely impact on the wider London road network. No one wants gridlock.

I would urge all residents, employees and those who visit Vauxhall to have their say filling out the consultation questions.

Of course change is incremental: it happens over time and at different paces. My Labour colleagues and I will certainly be fighting for more improvements going forward as well as making sure that the implementation of this scheme is done in the right way and provides what is promised.  We will be pushing TfL hard on a few things:

  • Making sure the junctions and crossings really work for pedestrians, especially around the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and where Parry Street meets South Lambeth Road.
  • Making sure local roads aren’t negatively impacted by extra traffic and that they don’t become rat runs. TfL will need to continually monitor and put necessary measures in place to prevent this.
  • Revisiting, when the time is right, the removal of the Kennington Lane and Harleyford Road one-way system.
  • Providing a better bus station with modern, state of the art facilities - look out for the detailed proposals later in the year. 

Finally, we are committed to ensuring that the phasing and timing of construction is planned and communicated with residents, commuters, workers and businesses to minimise disruption.

For now, getting this scheme approved and seeing some very positive things happening in Vauxhall is one I will be proud to fight for.

 

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