A light-controlled crossing on Tottenham Court Road has become a collision hot spot after three pedestrians were seriously injured after being struck by buses in almost identical circumstances.
Since April emergency services and collision investigators have attended the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Torrington Place on three separate occasions.
On the morning of Tuesday 11 June a man in his 30s and a southbound number 24 bus operated by Metroline collided; a week later on Tuesday 18 June in what appears to be nearly identical circumstances a second pedestrian and a southbound bus operated by Arriva collided; and then on Monday 2 September a female student from SOAS University of London was knocked down by a southbound bus also operated by Arriva.
Since the 1960s traffic had been restricted to one way northbound along Tottenham Court Road but from April this year buses have been running in both directions as part of a £35m project to transform the Tottenham Court Road area, which Camden Council says has benefited cyclists and pedestrians.
Similar collisions have occurred on Baker Street, also recently changed to two-way, which prompted London Assembly member Caroline Russell to ask TfL to lower the speed limit to 10 mph for buses operating on such streets.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan responded saying: “Trying to impose lower speeds for buses along these roads would not be likely to enhance safety. In fact, making buses go slower than other vehicles might have the opposite effect, encouraging overtaking and putting road users at risk.
“In the case of the [June] collisions in Tottenham Court Road, the vehicles involved were travelling at around 10mph, and the severity of injuries was thankfully relatively low. Bus operators also briefed drivers about the road layout changes and undertook a bus test before the road opened,” he said.
The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association has called on Camden Council and Transport for London to review the layout of the junction and to immediately bring in a 10mph speed limit for all vehicles, not just buses, to reduce road danger.
However, Fitzrovia News understands that a 10mph limit needs the approval of central government, which can be a long and frustrating process.
Campaigners for improved bus safety have been scathing of Mayor Sadiq Khan who they accuse of dragging his feet with regard to improving bus safety.
Tom Kearney, who was lucky to survive after being hit by a bus on Oxford Street, says Sadiq Khan has “been stalling on bus safety since he became Mayor in 2016.”
In August bus drivers supported by the Unite trade union held a protest at London City Hall in pursuit of better working conditions.
Their campaign is backed by a report by Loughborough University, commissioned by the Mayor and released in August, which stated that drivers have to deal with a very poor working environment.
The report stated that 21 percent of drivers surveyed said they have to fight sleepiness at least two to three times a week, and 36 percent of them had a “close call” due to fatigue in the previous 12 months.
Councillor Adam Harrison, cabinet member for a sustainable Camden, said: “We are working with the Police and TfL to better understand these collisions and what our appropriate next steps should be.
“An independent road safety audit undertaken at this location did not find any issue with the layout of the junction and we have put in place a range of measures to ensure people are aware of the switch to two-way working.
“As well as communicating with businesses and householders about the changes to the road layout, we installed life-sized signs of people advising pedestrians to look both ways, along the entire length of the road ahead of the traffic change and for eight weeks afterward. We also employed stewards along the road for the first week after the traffic change, to advise pedestrians. Posters were placed in tube stations and announcements made for bus passengers and tube users, as well as direct emails to Oyster Card holders who make journeys in the area.
“Our campaign continues to advise people to use the pedestrian crossings as the safest way to cross and to look both ways, with posters still up locally, signage at all crossings and look both ways painted permanently on the road,” he said.
Editorial note: The author of this news story is a trustee of Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association and made a deputation to the Culture and Environment Scrutiny Committee about the West End Project on 10 September 2019.