North Greenwich fatal bus crash – why was 10mph bus speed limit lifted?

Guest post by Dave Holladay:

There are a few questions to get answers to concerning the fatal crash on the North Greenwich Busway, just before daylight broke on 4th January.

The road arrangements here are confusing.

Bus Crash N Greenwich Bing 2011 -7

A dual carriageway? No: two bidirectional roads side by side, with insufficient visual clues to tell pedestrian which way to look.

What looks like a dual carriageway, is in fact a conventional road and a parallel bus-only road which carries almost all the bus services heading in and out of the North Greenwich Interchange.  That can mean a pretty intensive stream of buses going through, as seen from the ‘wall of red’ with white roofed buses stacked back nose to tail after the crash.

westparkside

Buses and pedestrians are bad news – per vehicle per year buses have the highest pedestrian hit rate for any class of vehicle. Now that isn’t really surprising, as to run a viable bus service you have to put buses where the pedestrians are, and then you invite them to walk up to the bus to get on board, but it does highlight the need for added vigilance when operating buses, and due diligence being paid the the way bus routes are planned in every sense.

Bus stations are a focus for this with services concentrated in to one place, but recognising the potential for increased hazards, and a boosted risk of serious collisions, the Health & Safety Commission (who oversees bus stations as these are not public roads), expect the operators and owners to have clear arrangements to manage safety. This usually means a speed limit of 5 or 10 mph, and a layout that excludes pedestrian activity for the space where the buses operate, and has arrangements for pedestrians to cross, where this is necessary.

20160101_104014_24008476212_o

If 10mph limit was set at Greenwich busway, it implies that it was deemed to be as risky as a busy bus station.

The position with the North Greenwich busway is unclear, but it may well be appropriate that H&SC investigates this fatal crash under HSAWA 1974 (as a Section 3 issue) rather than TfL or LB Greenwich (as RTA 1988 Section 39 demands that they MUST investigate crashes and take action on safety as appropriate).  Mention of past incidents and crashes, suggest that IF the relevant roads authority had been compliant with the albeit badly flawed Section 39, there would be a paper trail of other reports and (Section 39.3.b&c and Section 39.2.a(i)&(ii)) action proposed to improve road safety and promote an appropriate safety campaign). This is I reckon especially relevant for a busway from observation of the way that bus lanes and a recently completed busway (in Glasgow) are often carrying buses travelling at 30mph (because they can) whilst the surrounding traffic in cars and on foot is moving at a much slower tempo, often, with a bus lane, just inches away. 

What has emerged is that the roads in this area have confusing and potentially non compliant signage, and pedestrian crossing works commenced with the development c 2007 have never been completed. Additionally a 10mph speed limit where pedestrian activity, crossing the busway in the vicinity of the bus stops just before John Harrison Way was signed and in place in 2008, but the signs were neatly removed from all 4 poles in 2014, leaving the busway with a completely inappropriate 30mph speed limit.

Vision_Zero_-_Greenwich_busway_10mph

2007 – 10mph roundels

Bus Crash N Greenwich  Google Jun 2015-1

2015 – Roundels have disappeared; poles still there – What is the speed limit?

A non compliant design of ‘pseudo’ pedestrian crossing (of the busway) is visible on the 2008 pictures, complete with LOOK BOTH WAYS road markings, but like the 10mph speed limit – not completed on both sides of the busway and not a trace by 2014.

Bus Crash N Greenwich  Google Jul 2008-2

Bus Crash N Greenwich  Google Jun 2015-2

2015 – No pedestrian crossings in spite of the triangular signs still there

A detailed review of the pictures reveals non-standard(and non compliant?) use of various road signs (per the Traffic Signs Manual (TSRGD Chapters 3,4,5), and every off placing of signs warning pedestrians to LOOK BOTH WAYS when crossing the busway at John Harrison Way but turned to face the drivers using West Parkside and the busway, and including signs saying this before crossing West Parkside.

Bus Crash N Greenwich 8(1)

Bus Crash N Greenwich 6

Signs not in the line of sight of pedestrians

Isn’t there meant to be a safety audit of this? Where is the original, and, presuming that the 10 mph speed limit signs were erected with facility for enforcement, where is the original Traffic Regulation Order for this, and where is the paperwork which, presumably voided the 10 mph speed limit here and saw the signs all neatly removed?

In March 2015 the Parliamentary Committee on Transport Safety (PACTS) concluded that a structure of crash investigation and regulation that delivers such low casualty figures for air, rail and marine transport would deliver a major reduction in our roads casualty tolls and called for a highways version of RAIB/AAIB/MAIB as a key starting point. Some vision of what this means can be seen from RAIB reports where road vehicles are involved and in the absence of a regulator with a comprehensive and robust remit, letters were sent to DfT, Roads Authorities and vehicle operators recommending action to deliver safer road design and management, and vehicle design and operation. At Croydon (2008) one measure – reducing the risk of passengers being sent through the upper deck windows in a bus crash was a call to DfT and Bus Operators, at Oxshott (2010) 4 recommendations to DfT and Surrey CC on managing the risks of large vehicles crashing off bridges on to trains. So what has been delivered?

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3 comments

  1. Briefly noted in the reports was a serious injury collision AT THE SAME PLACE IN THE SAME SEQUENCE where the victim finished up under the bus behind the front wheels. This was on 12th November 2015, just 8 weeks before the fatal crash. In April 2012, another fatal crash between a bus and pedestrian – also in the same sequence, took place on the Bugsby’s Way/Busway cross-roads under 1Km away.

    The 2 victims at John Harrison Way were both on journeys between Greenwich Millennium Village, and the local school, a route which as now been made more direct by the completion of 2 zebra crossings, finishing the abandoned work in the 2008 photograph, and completing a crossing of West Parkside. The Traffic Order (which provides the legal powers to prosecute drivers who fail to stop) was rushed through in January, along with a traffic order to apply a 20mph speed limit throughout the length of the busway (dated 26 January – 3 weeks after the fatal crash and 11 weeks after the crash which should have prompted the action.

    The crossing signs at John Harrison Way have been turned to be more effective but the wrong signs remain for West Parkside, and other signs remain broken, or smothered by trees, and the crossing point South of the bus stops remains poorly marked with no warning signs.

    The zebra crossing warning signs are also in the wrong place – after the crossing rather than in advance, however the abandoned poles for the old speed limit signs are ideally placed for re-use as the warning signs for a zebra crossing.

    Finally some guerilla road safety action might get to turn the warning signs for the South crossing point through 180 degrees, to actually make then useful!

    Be aware that the inquest into the death on 4th January has required a Rule 28 report – which was hotly resisted by TfL’s legal representative. This aims to produce guidance for the prevention of future deaths – maybe a thorough safety audit with all the signage overhauled, and changed for the correct signs where required.

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  2. I mentioned this piece to a Transport Focus board member, who then sent me details of a near identical collision on the Glasgow Fastlink busway where again the crossing of 3 separate carriageways 2 with uni-directional traffic flows, puts a pedestrian at the busway crossing looking away from the buses driving closest to them as they turn to cross the road – recognised as bad practice in any road or rail crossing arrangements for pedestrian traffic

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