Arrogant TfL ignored us, say Hampstead residents

HAMPSTEAD residents are furious with Transport for London after the local government body went ahead with major bus diversions despite being offered an alternative plan.

In response to roadworks taking place in Pond Street, outside the Royal Free Hospital, TfL has diverted three bus services – the C11, 46 and 168 – away from South End Green, even though an alternative route suggested by residents was endorsed by Camden Council.

Pam Gilby, of Constantine Street, said: “The three buses were no longer going to South End Green and I suggested that it was unreasonable to lose three services. Why couldn’t at least one of them go down Downshire Hill? I pointed out the difficulty for elderly people who need to use the post office or the bank.”

Amjad Butragueno, chairman of the Hampstead Heath Business Forum, said: “I think TfL is such an arrogant company. A lot of elderly people live around here. We don’t have a post office and what if they need to get to Belsize Park or Hampstead?”

The diversions affect each route in one direction, forcing residents to take two buses to reach Belsize Park, Hampstead or Brent Cross. Residents are angry about TfL’s failure to consult with them before making the changes.

Ms Gilby added: “There was no signage along the routes of these buses. There was no warning at all. I think TfL is just dragging its feet, hoping the work will get finished and it will all go away.”

Hampstead councillor Chris Knight said: “When these roadworks came up TfL just took it upon themselves to design the route. Local opinion wasn’t given much of a say.

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“They didn’t even mark all the bus stops as closed, so people were left just waiting there. They have just taken an arrogant and high-handed attitude. TfL needs to start listening.”

Two weeks ago, TfL representative Graham Stump visited the area with the council’s environment boss Cllr Sue Vincent and council officer Brian Foxton, who recommended the Downshire Hill route.

Christine Mackee, principal transport planner for Camden Council, said: “Camden has had discussions with TfL about relocating some of the diverted routes to Downshire Hill, but unfortunately TfL has not agreed to our proposals, due to their concerns about head to head confrontations between buses and other vehicles that were previously experienced on that road during the Heath Street project.

“TfL subsequently undertook a risk assessment and decided that is unsafe to allow their buses to use Downshire Hill.”

But TfL has blamed the council, saying it could not reroute the buses because the council would not suspend all of the parking bays.

In an email to Ms Gilby, Mr Stump said: “We asked the council to suspend all of the parking bays but they were only able to suspend some of them. When we have used that road before we had problems with vehicles coming at each other head to head due to the width of the road, and to have buses with passengers on board reversing along a public road is unacceptable.

“Also, double deck buses have a problem with a large overhanging tree from a resident’s property which they won’t cut.”

The diversions run until the works on Pond Street are completed in May.