Wapping residents take to the streets to sort bus gate chaos

The streets of Wapping where calm this morning – until local residents told oblivious drivers that the High Street bus gate was now in operation and they could be hit with a £130 fine.

Inadequate warning signs and a lack of any official presence by Tower Hamlets Council were partially responsible as well as the very simple fact that there is no ‘bus gate’ as such.

Vehicles turning around in High Street after being warned of bus gate by Wapping residents

Bus gate? What bus gate?

So if drivers aren’t warned of a new bus gate in operation and can’t see anything that looks like a bus gate then, guess what, they will not realise there is one.

LW and various other bus gate geeks were out and about from around 8am this morning but all seemed quiet.

Vehicles of all types drove through the bus gate because they were completely unaware of its existence.

Cllr. Andrew Wood observes the Wapping bus gate in action.

A councillor to be relied on

Cllr. Andrew Wood, councillor for Canary Wharf, was the only person from the Council we could see on scene at Wapping High Street observing what was going on and talking to residents.

Our local councillors were nowhere to be seen. But at least they are consistent.

Andrew Wood had to point out to LW where the bus gate monitoring camera was (see photos) as it is not obvious.

It was not until just before 9am when several residents came out and flagged down unsuspecting drivers just before they hit the bus gate, telling them what was going on and advising them to turn round.

Vehicles turning around in High Street after being warned of bus gate by Wapping residents

Which they promptly did.

Signs? What signs?

As a result Wapping High Street was blocked for some time as there is no space to easily do a u-turn. And unless signs are posted at a point to provide warning before drivers hit the gate then this chaos will continue.

Even the crew of a MPS traffic car were unsure if they would be ticketed if they drove through the gate and so parked up for a while before turning round to be on the safe side.

Is Wapping bus gate in operation in the evenings or not?

Cllr. Wood has told us that he found three Council officers in the area after we left the scene and has managed to get answers to his and residents questions – see his tweet at bottom of this page and please read the full thread.

For the first couple of weeks drivers will just be sent warning notices rather than demands for the £130 fines incurred by driving through the bus gate when it is in operation.

A sign is not a sign if it is covered.

Many thanks to the Wapping residents who took matters into their own hands and made drivers aware of what was going on.

LW Comment

There was not much traffic disruption in Wapping this morning because few people realised the bus gate was operating.

If drivers heading west towards Tower Bridge are given adequate warning that the bus gate is operating then they will want to (a) stop and (b) turn around.

Which is where the problems happen. Because there is nowhere for them to turn around. It’s Wapping High Street.

Wapping residents (middle of road) warn approaching traffic of bus gate operation.

There also seem to be no warning signs on The Highway to stop people driving into Wapping which seems daft as residents have been told that the main goal of the gate was to stop drivers using Wapping as a rat run.

Council continues to ignore residents views

In addition there remains the inexcusable blanket ban on all vehicles including those of residents.

On the whole Wapping residents don’t drive in E1W for the sheer fun of it, they drive because they have no other choice.

Tower Hamlets Council might like to try listening to residents views for a change but we think that is very unlikely to happen.

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6 thoughts on “Wapping residents take to the streets to sort bus gate chaos

  1. Just what the doctor ordered and just in time. To our local counsel:

    Thank you for your commitment with respect to the Wapping Bus Gate. Wapping had become a traffic nightmare, essentially serving as overflow to the Highway, and had become a very unsafe place to walk, cycle and drive, with commuters often in a hurry, speeding, and causing general congestion and chaos during morning and evening peak travel times.

    I am a Wapping resident, and home owner, and am most grateful and supportive of this traffic calming initiative and look forward to the calmer and more livable neighborhood that will result when the Wapping Bus Gate becomes fully operational, signed and ticketed, and when drivers have had the opportunity to become aware of the restrictions.

    Keep it up! More livable, walkable, cycleable and friendly neighborhoods are exactly what we need and are looking for. Thanks for taking our interests into consideration and for following through with this initiative.

  2. LW Note: This comment has been been edited.

    There is clearly no justification for the rat run through Wapping being allowed to continue and action is long overdue.

    There is a case for some exceptions for Wapping residents, if that is their will, and it should be easily implementable with the ANPR system.

    One of the main pollution sources in Wapping is Diesel Black Cabs. Each and every Black cab approaching from the East cuts through Wapping, empty. To grant them an exception would increase their traffic. It would be giving them their own Super Highway through Wapping. If anything, the less polluting Uber cars should be granted exception.
    I dont think that there should be exceptions for any taxis at all . The taxi system can still function perfectly well with the bus gate functioning as is now,

    I am therefore very disappointed with, and suspicious about, the wording of the LBTH petition for exceptions.
    The petition is, that exceptions should be granted for residents and taxis. The two items are lumped together as the same thing.

    These are clearly totally different issues and should be seperate petitions.
    One would suspect that someone has a vested interest in quietly slipping in the taxi exemption as the wish of the residents, who of course would like personal exemptions. “Most ” of the Wapping residents cannot afford Black Cabs.

    Somebody at LBTH should be held accountable for the wording of the petition. There is no logical or analytical justification for lumping the two items together.

    Any comments on the petition wording from our councillors??????

    1. Regarding the “Petition to allow Residents vehicles and Taxis access through the Wapping Bus Gate during operating times” posted on the Tower Hamlets Council website


      My understanding is that anyone can submit a petition to the council. There is a mechanism for doing so on their website. so, whilst accepting you may be right, it still seems more likely that one of the 74% of respondents who agreed that Taxis should be exempt from the “Busgate” took the time to write the petition. I totally agree that local resident vehicle access and Taxis are two separate issues. As someone with severely reduced mobility, I would be happy to accept no local vehicle access, just as long as I can get a licensed taxi to and from my place of work every day.

      I’m not certain there is any evidence to suggest that “One of the main pollution sources in Wapping is Diesel Black Cabs” I live on Wapping High Street and like most Wapping residents want to see it stopped being used as a rat run, but ultimately this is happening because of a recent change in traffic management policy restricting commercial vehicle access through the Rotherhithe Tunnel, effectively forcing all commercial traffic along The Highway and East Smithfield so inevitably Wapping High Street is now being used to circumvent the resultant gridlock on the Highway.

      Having stood on the corner of Wapping Lane and Wapping High Street for the best part of an hour yesterday morning at around 07.30 I would say that at least 60% of the traffic heading east was light commercial with the occasional coach or heavy vehicle. Around 30%-35% private vehicles including Priuses, which I assume were mostly Ubers, with one Taxi (black cab) approx. every 15/20 mins.

      To stop black cab access to Wapping High Street on the basis they emit diesel fumes, would mean imposing different rules and regulations in Wapping to the rest of London. My understanding is that there are plans to “green” the taxi trade including the use of new hybrid electrics, which are being seen more and more now. Black cabs are currently exempt from ULEZ and the main reason given for this is that they have wheelchair access, and as such provide a convenient form of transport for disabled people, or those like myself with mobility issues, albeit at a cost.

      Yes, I would love to cycle to work, but unfortunately in my case that’s just not an option. It might help attract greener taxi services to Wapping if Tower Hamlets were to install an electric vehicle charging point. Just a thought.
      It would be interesting to see if you get a response from our local councillors, my experience is that they are pretty much in lockstep with each other on policy issues, being largely from the same political party. My direct e mail to two of our local Councillors has yet to receive the favour of a response

  3. I’m all for it. Cycling to work was a joy, the huge queue of traffic snaking down from the highway to Waitrose is now gone making it much safer getting up. Can only be good news for the school too

    Fully agree on the signage however, and requirements needed to stop cars turning off the highway to drive through, but it’s quite evident people were using it as a rat run given the traffic going back up there. Once the idea is known better, cars will stay on the highway. Will get better

  4. Just received a Circular e mail from TH Council, Under Share Views on Liveable Streets it states: We’re aiming to improve air quality and road safety in Bethnal Green, Bow and Wapping by discouraging traffic from outside the area from cutting through residential roads. A consultation on proposals for Bethnal Green closes on 25 November. We’re publishing proposals for Wapping on Monday 18 November. So further changes afoot then ? ? I wonder if there will be another consultation process, where residents’ views are totally ignored.

  5. Clearly the Bus Gate is poorly sign posted. When I passed it (walked) at around 9am I saw a procession of 2 transit vans (one with French number plates, good luck TH on sending them a fine) , 2 taxi’s and 3 cars all go straight through the Bus Gate, clearly oblivious. That was within a 30 second period (I did not stay to watch). In addition the vehicle queue to the Highway at the Vaughan Way junction was just as bad as usual (again 9am ish). If in fact the intention of the Bus Gate is to reduce congestion and pollution as opposed to generate revenue, better signage is needed. I did explicitly write to TH about suggesting turning points on WHS and they just said this was not necessary.

    Perhaps the Bus gate should make a loud “Ker-ching” each time someone passes and TH trousers 130 quid.

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