Bridge and road closures causing new rat runs across west London

By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter

Another set of residential streets have become “new rat runs” amid overflowing traffic in Fulham.

Residents in the block of unsuspecting side streets, just west of Wandsworth Bridge Road in Sands End, have been hit by tailbacks for the past month.

The problems have coincided with Hammersmith and Fulham council rolling out an experimental traffic reduction scheme, itself intended to stop rat running.

Locals also blame maintenance works now being carried out on Wandsworth Bridge, which has reduced southbound traffic to just one lane.

The ongoing closures of Hammersmith Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge are also thought to be driving up congestion, as Londoners look for alternative routes to cross the Thames.

Under the council’s SW6 Traffic Reduction Scheme, unregistered vehicles receive fines for driving past automatic-number-plate-recognition (ANPR) cameras.

The cameras are in a small number of residential streets on the east side of Wandsworth Bridge Road that suffered from rat running.

Since its launch in July, the council said the scheme has caused a “huge reduction” in rat running, and said the problems mostly stem from the reduced capacity on Wandsworth Bridge, which is due to last until October.

Referred to locally as the “Toast Rack”, the list of newly-suffering streets includes: Settrington Road, Beltran Road, Narborough Street, Ashcombe Street and Friston Street.

Tina Roscoe, 56, an architect living in Narborough Street, said: “All the added air pollution from Wandsworth Bridge Road has been giving me a cough, because it comes through the window into the house.

“The traffic is all through the day. And a lot of drivers don’t care, they are blaring music from their cars. It’s horrible.”

Ruth Westcott, who moved to Narborough Street in December, said: “I think it’s stupid that the council would do this with Covid going on, and with Hammersmith Bridge closed and road works on Wandsworth Bridge.”

An elderly couple in Beltran Road said: “Settrington Road now has a problem with rat running that it didn’t used to. We worry something could really go wrong because there’s a lot of frustrated people driving.”

A man from Settrington Road said: “You can see there’s now a big tail back to the south of this road because of all the people rat running on to Wandsworth Bridge Road.

“It takes absolutely ages to drive anywhere.”

Martin Jones of Narborough Street said: “The bridge is causing a knock back. I sympathise with the need for the ANPR scheme, I wish we had one here.”

The council has also been accused by the SW6 Traffic campaign of neglecting to collect new data on road-use in the Toast Rack streets in order to measure effects of the recent changes.

An Hammersmith and Fulham council spokeswoman said: “The SW6 Traffic Reduction Scheme launched in July has brought a huge reduction in rat-running by out of borough residents.

“However a triple whammy of bridge closures – the partial closure of Wandsworth Bridge, the significant and unexpected full closure of Vauxhall Bridge, and the knock-on effect of the closure of Hammersmith Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists, forcing more people to drive – has significantly increased traffic congestion in the area.

“Our data and live traffic cameras show that this has particularly affected residents in Wandsworth Bridge Road and several streets to the west. We have great sympathy with their plight and look forward to Wandsworth Bridge returning to four lanes in October and to Vauxhall Bridge reopening later this year.

“The problems that residents are facing stem from the gridlock of traffic on the south of the river at the Wandsworth roundabout – not from the new traffic reduction scheme. The capacity of the bridge has reduced from 4,500 vehicles per hour to 2,000 vehicles per hour.”

The spokeswoman also said the council could install an ANPR traffic reduction scheme to the Toast Rack streets.

“We are looking actively at what can be done to reduce the impact of the bridge closures on residents. We are also reviewing the learning from the new scheme as it beds down,” they said.

“We have received several suggestions from residents which include: extending the traffic reduction scheme to the west of Wandsworth Bridge Road (WBR), bringing in a right-hand turn from New Kings Road into WBR, reopening Imperial Road for southbound traffic, and introducing advisory boxes to improve the flow of cross traffic on WBR. We look forward to discussing these and further options in detail with residents.”

Pictured top: Settrington Road in Fulham


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