‘We are very keen to catch up’: Newham Council chiefs give green light to safer social distancing plans
PUBLISHED: 17:20 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:20 15 June 2020
Measures aimed at making social distancing safer for cyclists and pedestrians have been approved by the council.
Newham Council’s cabinet chiefs gave its green transport plans, which include widening walkways and introducing cycle lanes, a thumbs-up at an online meeting on Thursday, June 11.
Cllr James Asser said: “We are starting from further back [compared to other boroughs] but are very keen to catch up and to run as hard as we can to do that.”
He added short term measures would be followed by more plans, but the situation surrounding the impact of the virus on transport was “fast moving” and “fluid”.
The local authority’s transport chief explained that TfL has taken a “huge hit” with passenger numbers down because people avoided trains and buses during the pandemic.
However, less than half of Newham households have access to a car which means those without would either walk or cycle to work or school. The borough has also seen some of the worst air pollution levels in the country.
Principal transport planner, Murray Woodburn, said: “It’s not just about the environment. In this particular case it’s a matter of social fairness.
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“People displaced from public transport have no other option than to walk or cycle, which is why we have to support that now.”
Cllr Asser, welcoming the plans, said years of work have been contracted into a small period of time.
The thumbs up was also given to the council’s submitting bids to funding pots worth a combined £70million made available by TfL and the government.
Cabinet chiefs were told that most bids have yet to be assessed with “a number of boroughs” still to submit.
This comes after Covid-19 prompted TfL to press pause on green initiative payouts including £5m earmarked for Newham.
Asked when TfL would unlock those millions, Mr Murray said TfL believes some money might be available after September.
Newham is in talks with the Department for Education and schools on rolling out healthy school streets measures which aim to reclaim streets outside school gates.
On top of that, the borough is working with neighbouring Redbridge and Waltham Forest, councillors heard.
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