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'Bus gate' ban to bar through traffic brings chaos to Wapping on Day 1

PUBLISHED: 18:00 13 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:19 14 November 2019

The only indication that there's a bus gate ahead... on the side of the road. Picture: Andrew Wood

The only indication that there's a bus gate ahead... on the side of the road. Picture: Andrew Wood

Andrew Wood

The first day of the controversial 'bus gate' restrictions stopping through traffic using Wapping has caused chaos and confusion today.

Dawn traffic build-up along Wapping High Street on Day 1 of the bus gate. Picture: Andrew WoodDawn traffic build-up along Wapping High Street on Day 1 of the bus gate. Picture: Andrew Wood

Furious residents including those who initially backed the scheme are protesting that they are not being except from the ban which effectively cuts off the two halves of Wapping.

Even taxis and delivery vans calling at addresses are barred from going through the 'gateway' in Wapping High Street during the prescribed hours.

Drivers who miss the sign at the side of the road get caught on camera that dishes out £130 automatic fines in the post.

But they will only get warning notices from Tower Hamlets Council for the first fortnight before the fines kick in.

Approaching the spot in Wapping High Street  just east of the Town of Ramsgate pub where drivers come across the 'invisible' bus gate. Picture: Andrew WoodApproaching the spot in Wapping High Street just east of the Town of Ramsgate pub where drivers come across the 'invisible' bus gate. Picture: Andrew Wood

Tower Hamlets opposition councillor Andre Wood arrived at 8am to see the chaos unfold when the bus gate slammed shut to motorists.

"There is no clear mark showing where the bus gate is," he told the East London Advertiser.

"The bus gate isn't obvious, so people still drive through. There is no barrier or road markings. The bus gate is invisible, but there is a camera on a pole that snaps number plates."

The council didn't even contacted the taxi trade to warn cabbies, he discovered. It was the cab trade that contacted town hall last month.

The camera on a pole ready to snap number plates to dish out £130 automatic fines. Picture: Andrew WoodThe camera on a pole ready to snap number plates to dish out £130 automatic fines. Picture: Andrew Wood

"A majority of residents like the bus gate idea," Cllr Wood adds. "But not if it prevents them driving though their own neighbourhood. East and west Wapping are now cut off from one another. Car-owners are having to drive up to The Highway which is always congested, adding to the pollution."

Cllr Wood received complaints today from many residents about the restriction.

One tweeted: "There remains the inexcusable blanket ban on residents' vehicles. We don't drive for the sheer fun of it, but because we have no choice. The council might like to listen to our views for a change."

Another, Chris, tweeted: "I walked passed the bus gate at 9am and saw a procession of two vans, two taxis and three cars go straight through, clearly oblivious to the ban, all within a 30 seconds.

Even the council's own bin lorries are barred! Picture: Andrew WoodEven the council's own bin lorries are barred! Picture: Andrew Wood

"The queue to get onto The Highway from Vaughan Way was just as bad as usual."

Unsuspecting drivers heading west towards Tower Bridge and the City were being advised by residents who were out and about at dawn that the 'gate' was operating. They had to try and make a U-turn in the narrow, cobbled street where there is nowhere to turn round.

The Love Wapping website reported: "Inadequate warning signs are partially responsible, as well as the simple fact that there is no 'bus gate' as such.

"If drivers can't see anything that looks like a 'bus gate', then they won't realise there is one."

On the side of the road... the only indication that there's a bus gate ahead. Picture: Andrew WoodOn the side of the road... the only indication that there's a bus gate ahead. Picture: Andrew Wood

The bus gate between Sampson Street and Knighton Street operates weekdays as early as 5.30am for five hours till 10.30am and again 4-7pm with no exemptions other than buses and cycles. Taxis and motorbikes which normally use London bus lanes are also prohibited. Even the council's own refuse contractors like Veola are banned.

Cllr Wood is taking up the bus gate chaos issue at the council's meeting tonight "(Nov-13) at the town hall in a call to make the trial scheme "community friendly". But it will "take time for the changes to bed in", the council admits, and for motorists to become aware of the new layout.

A town hall spokesperson said: "The 'bus gate' is to improve air quality and road safety. The proposals do not include exemptions for residents or taxis that would undermine its aim."

The scheme is only a trial, according to the mayor, and is being looked at again in May. Letters were posted in August and leaflets sent this month to 7,000 addresses in the area—but not to the local press.

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