We’ve had two deaths on the A12 in the past three weeks: let’s try to avoid more. A bit further south of the tragic Bow roundabout, there is another fatal accident waiting to happen.
Anyone who drives that road regularly, particularly northbound from the Blackwall Tunnel will know what I’m talking about: the most illogical set of traffic lights in Britain. The A12 Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach is the one of the capital’s busiest and most accident-delayed roads. There are tailbacks every day in both directions near the tunnel entrance. The road is three lanes in both directions.
So the brains at TfL have come up with the ingenious idea of placing new traffic lights – the first ones you will see driving south from the Redbridge roundabout eight miles away – right by Lochnagar Street about half a mile from the tunnel.
Yes, that’s a set of traffic lights on what is essentially an urban motorway. Here’s the lights on red looking south:
These lights allow traffic to turn into Lochnagar Street in the east: left into that street if you’re going south, and right if you have been driving north. So what’s in Lochnagar Street? Well, this:
ie scrap yards and a no-through road that leads into a small housing development that can already be accessed from Newham. The lights have apparently been put there to allow future residents from Newham better access to the A12.
I stood there, as you do on a foggy Monday, watching the traffic flow. How often do you suppose those lights on the sometimes congested, sometimes fast-flowing A12 change to red?
Once. Every. Minute.
Yes, the flow of traffic on the A12 is stopped every minute to let, on most occasions, a single car either turn into or out of Lochnagar Street.
But that’s not the worst of it.
As you drive north from the tunnel or from the slip-road from East India Dock Road 300 yards away, there have always been three lanes of traffic. There still is. And as you’d expect, those in the fast lane tend to out their foot down.
But now the problem is this: just as they’re accelerating, they suddenly realise – because there is no prior warning anywhere – they are rapidly approaching a red light in what has now become a right-hand-turn only lane.
Since 99.99 per cent of those drivers do not want to visit a scrap yard, they brake very suddenly, indicate left and try to squeeze into the middle lane where there is fast-flowing traffic. I watched that happen time and time again today. One car swerved to avoid an accident. And that was in the space of just 20 minutes.
I also saw motorists realising they couldn’t get back into the middle lane and accept they’d have to turn right: they would wait for the green light, turn into Lochnagar Street, do a U-turn and then wait by the red light for the turn back onto the A12. Cursing all the while as they did so.
If a high speed accident hasn’t already happened at that junction, I’m fairly sure that without any change of plan by TfL there will be one soon.
London Assembly member John Biggs is also taking up this issue and has already met TfL. His warning was not heeded last time; let’s hope they now listen to any concerns.