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Disabled drivers promised ‘you’ll be exempt from Wapping bus gate ban’ — but no-one else

PUBLISHED: 13:35 28 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:48 28 August 2020

Only warning drivers got when they arrived at Wapping High Street to find bus gate ban before having to turn back onto The Highway. Picture: Andrew Wood

Only warning drivers got when they arrived at Wapping High Street to find bus gate ban before having to turn back onto The Highway. Picture: Andrew Wood

Andrew Wood

Disabled drivers living in Wapping who have blue badges on their cars are to be exempt from the controvesial rush-hour bus gate restrictions in the High Street.

Traffic queues built up to get back onto The Highway when bus gate began in Wapping. Picture: Andrew WoodTraffic queues built up to get back onto The Highway when bus gate began in Wapping. Picture: Andrew Wood

New measures are being brought in by Tower Hamlets Council for badge holders in the area to register and be allowed to drive through.

The bus gate with its automatic number-plate recognition technology to catch drivers passing through caused a storm of protest when it was introduced in November on a trial basis.

Traffic jams brought Wapping High Street to a standstill on the first day with critics pointing out that traffic would be thrown back onto the already congested Highway between Limehouse and Tower Hill.

The bus gate still doesn’t appear on maps, including Google Streetview, so unaware driver have no clue that they’ll come up against it until they turn up. Then they have the problem of trying to turn round in the narrow, cobbled street to make a long detour back onto The Highway.

Mayor Biggs... Bus gate Mayor Biggs... Bus gate "has reduced the rat-running traffic". Picture: Mike Brooke

But the council says the restriction is already working, with traffic reduced by a third.

“It has reduced the rat-running traffic,” mayor John Biggs said. “We’ll continue looking at the traffic counts and work will begin to make roads quieter.

“We’ll soon be introducing measures to allow access through the gateway for residents with disabilities.”

Details of blue badge exemptions are being set out in the coming weeks for those in the E1W postal area to register, but no-one else.

Cllr Andrew Wood told mayor... Cllr Andrew Wood told mayor... "Not everyone can use public transport." Picture: Mike Brooke

The bus gate has automatic number-plate recognition cameras to catch out any drivers passing through at peak times on weekdays as early as 5.30am until 10.30am and again from 4 to 7pm, who then get slapped with a £130 fine.

Tower Hamlets councillor Andrew Wood witnessed the chaos on the first day last November when the bus gate slammed shut to motorists.

He addressed the full council later that day are warned the mayor: “All your solutions (to stop through traffic) have done is cause huge traffic jams on The Highway instead. Not everyone can use public transport.”

Cllr Wood received complaints from residents. One tweeted: “We don’t drive for the sheer fun of it, but because have no choice. The council might like to listen to our views for a change.”

Even Google Streetview doesn't show Wapping's  'bus gate'... so drivers get no warning ahead. Picture: GoggleEven Google Streetview doesn't show Wapping's 'bus gate'... so drivers get no warning ahead. Picture: Goggle

The mayor told him such schemes “take a while to settle down”. There are no exemptions other than buses and pedal cycles. Even motorcycles and taxis normally allowed to use bus lanes across London are barred.

The bus gate has affected The Highway, the council found, with westbound journeys towards Tower Hill increased by nearly two minutes.

But the reduction in through traffic in Wapping itself may not be entirely due to the bus gate, the town hall admits. Some traffic has been affected by roadworks and the impact of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in recent months.


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