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Follow the red brick road

Even on the Isle of Dogs, which was de-designated last October, there is still a flurry of LDDC-backed work going on. Contractors are rushing to complete vital infrastructure work before the highways are handed back to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

LDDC term contractor McNicholas plc is busy tearing up the infamous red brick roads and relaying them with black top.

The red brick roads, according to LDDC head of highway operations Bob Blyth, were dreamt up by an architect back when LDDC started its work on the island in the early 1980s. As well as giving the islands enterprise zone a strong sense of identity, they were also meant to recreate the feel of cobble stones.

Blyth recalls his initial scepticism but admits that their performance confounded his expectations. They were good for repairs. You could lift up some blocks and then replace them without leaving a visible patch.

However, they are now at the end of their useful life. Rapidly rising traffic volumes and axle loadings, coupled with a slowly declining skid resistance, means it is finally time to switch to asphalt.

At South Quay, where the IRA bomb exploded two years ago, work is still going on to repair not only the wrecked office buildings but also the roads. Immediately after the blast a team headed by Blyth was responsible for a real military operation to prop a viaduct over Marsh Wall road and get the DLR up and running. The problem was that this was where the main services ran under the street. They are being dug out now, explains Blyth.

Street lighting is also being upgraded and drainage improved. Tower Hamlets wants the network in pristine condition, says Blyth.

LBTH will not adopt the roads until July. In the interim the Commission for New Towns will supervise completion of the works.

In the meantime, Blyth has to decide what to do with the thousands of red bricks. Ive considered selling them as souvenirs of Docklands, he jokes.

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