Above: Map showing the re-alignment of the main streets around Lewisham DLR Station. ORANGE lines show where the original road boundaries were. The YELLOW areas are newly created pedestrian areas mainly reclaimed from the roads.
On 3 December 1999 the southern extension of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened with a terminus at Lewisham DLR Station, right next to Lewisham Station (for normal railway trains). The end of the DLR railway beside the existing railway station was a good choice for those wishing to interchange with the railway services but it was some distance to walk to reach the Lewisham Centre – a covered shopping mall. The distance to walk from the DLR to the Lewisham Centre was not really a problem. The real problem was that the walking route required pedestrians to negotiate very busy roads, a nightmare roundabout and a very noisy route past a wasteland of derelict shops and old offices.
Almost as soon as the DLR became operational, the Planning Department at Lewisham Council started to hatch a brilliant plan. The trouble was that the roads around were really busy and the planners knew it would take time to achieve their goal. In fact it has taken about 16 years so far. The interesting feature is that the major part of the pedestrian route – from the DLR to the shopping centre – has just reached the final stage. The landscape needs to be tidied up and new footpaths need to be laid out but the major obstacle of re-routing all the traffic has just been completed within the last few weeks.
If the traffic is still moving through this busy traffic junction, how can the pedestrians have an easier route? The brilliance is in the removal of the roundabout. The streams of traffic now pass mainly on one side or the other of the land on which the DLR station and the shopping centre are sited. Walking out of the main entrance of the DLR station, pedestrians wishing to walk to the shopping centre only have to cross two narrow roads (which have had considerable ‘traffic calming’ applied to them) instead of negotiating the busy roundabout and several dual-carriageways.
The map at the top of the article is in transition but it is all the better for being in that state because it shows ‘what was’ as well as ‘what is’. On the map, the ORANGE lines show where the busy roads used to be (up until about five years ago). The roads shown in GREY are the new layout. Because it has not been completely levelled, the old roundabout is still shown on the map but that will be swept away and all the YELLOW areas will be reclaimed for pedestrian routes and additional shops and offices. In a sense Lewisham Council is killing two birds with one stone. They have made the area more pedestrian-friendly but at the same time they have made traffic access a little more difficult (which is happening in many parts of London and indeed all over Britain).
You may be wondering why the DLR Station was not sited near the shopping centre in the first place. That, of course, would have been the ideal solution. Look again at the map and notice that just south of Lewisham Station is the confluence of two rivers – the River Ravensbourne and the smaller River Quaggy. Parts of those two rivers already flow under the roads and the railway lines. To bring the DLR further south to the shopping centre is almost impossible. If it had remained on its viaduct it would have been obstructed by the existing railway viaducts. If it was brought down to ground level it would block all the roads. If it was put underground it would have to run well below the two rivers and in any case the cost of tunnelling for the amount of use would not have been justified. With the route made more user-friendly, a short walk for pedestrians from the DLR to the shopping centre provides good exercise. The alterations to the street layout will mean that this part of Lewisham will never be the same again!